I would like to take a quick moment to say thank you. Thank you 2020, you have completely and totally turned our world upside down. Without you I would have never had the wonderful experience of hand sanitizer stinging my chapped and over washed hands. I would not know the joy and relief of grabbing the last 4 pack of toilet paper off the Walmart shelf. I have always wondered what it was like for the family in the Shining trapped together for months on end in the Overlook Hotel, slowly and steadily going insane. But now because of you 2020 I no longer have to wonder, I know.
Chances are if you're pregnant and reading this you might be thinking something along the lines of “you think you got problems lady? Try being pregnant during this. Try juggling the normal anxieties that come with growing life inside you and ever changing hospital policies. Try losing your deposit on a birth photographer because you can now only have one person at your birth. Try explaining that new policy to your mom or your sister. Your biggest problem is the lack of toilet paper? I wish that was the only thing I was worrying about.”
Yep, 2020 has made a lot of things harder for a lot of people, especially if you're pregnant. Most hospitals in the United States now only allow the laboring person 1 visitor during labor. Most of the time that person can’t leave and can’t show any signs of being ill including cough or fever. With stricter than ever hospital policies and anxiety at a new high, some of you might be wondering what support options are out there. Some of you might have even heard something about “virtual doulas”. But what is a virtual doula and how does something like that even work? Well never fear! Kayte is here to help break it down for you!
What is a virtual doula?
A virtual doula is a doula who is available to you over the phone or a video call but not physically in the room with you during your birth. And virtual doulas aren’t a new thing! They have always been an option for people who might not have a doula available in their geographic area or might not be able to afford a traditional doula service.
What is the point of a doula who is not in the room with me?
Most people think the bulk of a doulas job happens in the room during the birth. They have this picture in their head of a long haired hippy lady rubbing another womans back as she give birth in a kiddie pool in the back yard as someone else plays the recorder...and I’m not going to tell you that that hasn’t happened to someone...but it certainly hasn’t happened to me. The truth is most of my work as a doula is about being a resource of information for couples. I talk to people about hospital policies. I help sort through feelings and anxieties. I talk couples through emergency inductions. I explain what they might expect during a c-section. I remind people of their rights during birth, and I help make space for them to make a decision for themselves. Of course it helps being in the room! Of course I think a woman has a right to have the labor support that she wants during birth and a doula can be a valuable part of that team! But the part of my job that I just described is very important and can be done over the phone.
So what should I expect when I hire a virtual doula?
Every doula is different. Even here in our little collective our packages will vary from doula to doula. However, I feel like the package I offer for my virtual services is pretty standard so for the sake of simplicity we’ll use mine as an example. My virtual package starts with the doula interview. This is normally a phone or video call that only last about 30 minutes or so. After I’m hired I’m available for questions or quick conversations via phone or text throughout the whole pregnancy. I also do two birth plan visits normally over video chat. During the visits I try to answer some of your questions in a more in depth way. We also go over your birth plan and a variety of comfort measures that you and your support person can physically use at your birth can. We also have a variety of online childbirth classes that you can take to build your "tool box" for your birth. You will receive a copy of our amazing client workbook, Supporting Arms, that you and your partner can utilize as well. I go on call at 37 weeks. What this normally means is at 37 weeks you can call me at any time or day or night and tell me it's time to get to the birth location and I will get in my car and go. What “going on call” means when you are a virtual doula is that you can call me anytime day or night to help talk you through labor, talk about options during birth, help you decide if it's time to go to the hospital or not, etc. You can call me once and I will stay on the phone with you for the whole labor OR you can call me and talk to me for a few minutes, hang up, and call me again 15 minutes later. I am happy to come labor with you at your home if you'd like and then offer support by phone when you decide you are ready to head to you birth location. After pregnancy I do one postpartum visit over the phone to talk about the birth, how you’ve been feeling and any other questions you might have.
The world looks a little different right now. We’ve all had to make changes and adjust our expectations, but support and education are still available to you! Feel free to contact any of our doulas about offering virtual support for you at your birth and while you’re at it, talk to our instructors about our amazing virtual classes! Just because the world is different doesn’t mean that we are alone and just because we can’t physically be there to hold your hand that doesn’t mean we won’t be there to support you in any way we can.
Hi, I’m Caryn Allen, one of your Utah Birth Boot Camp Instructors. I was born and raised in the Saint Louis, Missouri area but have called Utah my home for the last seven years. I am the youngest of six children, having five older brothers, five beautiful sisters-in-law, and sixteen nieces and nephews. My husband and I met when he came to Missouri to do summer sales, and what started out as a summer romance turned into 12 years of marriage, 5 moves in 3 states, 4 children, 1 dog, and loads of fun. I have been teaching piano lessons off and on for eleven years, and consistently for the last six years. I enjoy sewing, crocheting, movie watching, board and card games, Dungeons and Dragons, and a good camping trip.
My journey to birth work started just after our first child was born over 11 years ago. We went into that birth without any experience or education, and my only wish was to avoid an epidural. My mother had my five brothers naturally either in the hospital or birth center, and decided to try an epidural when I was born. She recounted the experience as being cold, sterile, and disconnected, feeling like she wasn’t really a participant in the experience. I decided I didn’t want that, but that was the only choice I had made about my birth beforehand. I didn’t know I had options, and as such, I was pressured into things I likely wouldn’t have accepted with full informed consent. After our daughter was born, I was relieved it was over but also felt dissatisfied with the experience. I’m not sure where the idea came from that birth should be a satisfying experience, but I knew I wanted things to be different next time.
I started soaking up everything I could get my hands on--books, blogs, news articles, and movies--to try and figure out how to make my birth experience better. As I was learning so many things, I decided I wanted to become a doula to help other women have great birth experiences. I became pregnant with our second child and completed my doula certification through another organization before she was born. Her birth was notably different. We made sure to have a good birth team there with us, including my skilled mother-in-law and a good friend of mine (Hollie, now another BBCI) who had also just completed her doula training. That alone, having a good birth team, made a world of difference. They saw to my every need before I knew I even needed it so that I could just focus on being in the labor zone. I had zero interventions. Just me, my baby, and my birth team. After she was born I knew I could conquer anything! I felt on top of the world! I knew then, that I wanted to become a childbirth educator and help expecting parents know their options.
Not long after her birth I trained as an educator with another organization and taught one round of classes before I became pregnant again. Unfortunately that pregnancy ended in an early miscarriage, and I decided that the on-call life and the demand of teaching was too much for me during that phase of my life. I decided to take a hiatus from birth work until we were done having children. Within six months I was pregnant again with our third child and I knew from the beginning that this birth was going to be different. I just wasn’t prepared for how different it really was going to be.
We had planned to have this baby in the hospital again, mostly for financial reasons, though I was really hoping to have a home birth at some point. As the weeks wore on, I kept getting this feeling that birthing in the hospital was not the right choice for this baby. We took steps to interview a few local home birth midwives, and I loved all of them. We received a final recommendation from my husband’s aunt and uncle, and after meeting with her I knew she was the right choice for us. As soon as we officially switched to her care that feeling changed from one of anxiety to one of peace. We excitedly started preparing for our first home birth.
I practiced meditating in all sorts of ways almost every single night before bed, and it got to the point that all it took was to hear the first song on my labor playlist and I was immediately in the zone. I went to my 40 week appointment (on my due date) and we discovered that our little guy had turned not only breech, but footling breech. My midwife tired moxibustion which made him wiggle around a lot, but he stayed breech. She sent me home with her slant board and a list of exercises to do to encourage him to turn head down, and I was prepared to call the chiropractor first thing in the morning. I knew this was the reason we were supposed to birth at home and not in a hospital.
However, I went into labor that night. To make a long story short, our son was born at home in a pool in our bedroom, footling breech, and delivered by my husband because labor happened so quickly that by the time we decided to call the midwife, it was too late. She arrived merely 1-2 minutes after he was born. (While I don’t recommend having an unassisted breech baby at home, I will say that all the things we had learned and practiced leading up to this moment really helped us stay calm and be in control of the situation. My husband is incredibly intuitive and after describing to my midwife how he helped deliver the baby, she said he’d done everything right.) It was a whirlwind of events, but we knew everything was going to be okay. We look back on that experience both with utter shock and also true amazement.
We had one more son born 3 years later, also at home. This birth was unlike any of the others in that I only ever felt the contractions in my cervix. Not in the back or belly, just in the cervix. To add insult to injury, when my contractions started they were already a minute and a half to two minutes long. It was, by far, the hardest labor I’ve experienced because none of my usual comfort measures were working. The birth pool felt nice, but didn’t help me relax. Counter pressure didn’t do anything for me because those areas weren’t hurting. I found a little bit of relief sitting on the toilet, but that, too, was short-lived. I really questioned whether I was capable of finishing this labor out because it was so hard and fast from the very beginning. With the encouragement of two midwives, my husband, my doula (Hollie again!), and our then-8 year old daughter, I mustered every ounce of courage and energy I had to finally birth my largest baby at 9 pounds 4 ounces. I’m not sure why this labor was so hard, but it left me feeling like I never wanted to do that again! There is some disappointment there because I really wish my last birth experience had been memorable for more positive reasons, but I have come to terms with it and am enjoying this next phase of life (except potty training, I’m not enjoying that right now at all!).
Now that we’re through having our own children and the youngest is nearing his third birthday, I’m excited to take the leap back into birth work again. I passionately believe that knowledge is power, and with that power comes the potential for truly wonderful birthing experiences! Teaching has always been a passion of mine (my earliest memory of wanting to be a teacher was in fifth grade!), and I’m excited to be teaching such a beautifully professional and comprehensive curriculum!