Philippa Rumsey – My experience of having a doula (March 2003)
Setting the scene
It was in March 2003 that I first phoned Cambridge Doula Services. The voice on the answer phone sounded a lot more positive and enthusiastic than I was feeling on that memorable day. Our daughter Eleanor, 3yrs, had tested every ounce of patience and inspiration I had during the 4 months since her brother, Matthew, was born in November 2002. We had witnessed all sorts of behaviour/reaction from Eleanor towards her baby brother, both positive and negative, and I had tried hard to remain optimistic each day as I attempted to build good relations between us all.
My physical state was weak; I had carried Matthew to 42 weeks of pregnancy, he was 9lb 6oz at birth, I’d had an emergency caesarian and was successfully breast feeding my beautiful bouncing boy so that he looked like twice his age!!. My emotional state was fragile; mothering 2 children whilst my husband continued to work long hours in London and overseas, feeling half human from lack of sleep yet having to face the daily challenge of life with a toddler and baby. Those of you raising children at the moment will relate to this physical state, it is surprising how soon one can forget this exhausting phase, nature plays wonderful tricks on us!! Having suffered with Post Natal Depression before I was able to identify the signs of this horrid illness recurring and knew we needed help.
My parents had helped us enormously during the first 6 weeks of Matthew’s arrival whilst I made a slow recovery from the caesarian however, they live 2 hours away and we felt they had already given a lion’s share of support. Likewise, my in-laws who live locally had given us much practical help in the initial months and they were often overseas enjoying their well deserved retirement, so we felt reluctant to turn to them during this crisis phase.
Cue: Linda from Lindoula Services
Appearance: Cheerful smile, Positive/down to earth aura, Relaxed and professional manner, Wearing gorgeous pink lipstick , after only 4 months as a mother of 2 children, existing in a haphazard state I couldn’t remember what it felt like to look so groomed!! Linda explained her background to us, she trained as an NNEB in the 70’s , worked as a nanny and in various jobs . After the birth of her 2 children she worked in an Infant school as a teachers assistant for many years then left in 2000 to set up Cambridge Doulas.
My experience of having a doula
Linda agreed to take us on as a new family to support, this immediately helped us feel a little optimistic about the future weeks. She was already working for 3 or 4 families doing odd mornings and afternoons so initially we were able to employ her for each available space she had during the forthcoming week . After that we employed her on a weekly basis deciding exact days and times each Friday for the following week.
As each week passed my enjoyment and fondness for Linda and her impartial advice and support grew. My parents gallantly took Eleanor to stay with them during Linda’s first week which left the house strangely quiet but wonderful !! It was great to have Linda’s support during the shift from breast to bottle feeding which I discovered has a technique all of its own.
Linda worked with us for 4 months . It was an eventful time, dear Matthew spent 3 days in Addenbrookes with pneumonia/broncholitis at the end of Linda’s first week. We had sat in A&E together with my poorly babe watching him coughing and gasping for breath. Without Linda’s practical approach and humour at that time I’m sure I would have been admitted to Addenbrookes myself with nervous exhaustion. By the end of June after returning from our first family holiday, which had been a great success, our family unit was ticking along well . The usual day to day trials of life with two children were still there but my ability to cope had improved. Looking back I now realise my recovery was due to a combination of things; Linda’s support, medication, the kindness of friends & family and of course my husband whose understanding of my PND was endless.
I have reflected on this crisis period in my life in recent months and realise how blessed I am to have a partner with such insight into depression and the dedication to keep our family unit going. I feel strongly, more than ever now, that parents should be more supported during early parenthood having been through such a challenging time ourselves. Having a doula to help was certainly not an inexpensive option, if only there were more resources to provide support, such as a doula can give, during the sometimes challenging time of early parenthood I’ m sure family life would benefit.