Reference for Sarah Vine
Sienna Sophia Rose
St Michael’s Hospital Bristol
Mark and I wanted a doula during the second pregnancy largely because of our experience of labour first time around. Our first born is our son Joshua, who arrived nearly 4 years ago at St Michael’s Hospital, Bristol after a very long, arduous and exhausting labour, which lasted around 72 hours, the last 24 of which were in hospital. I had read widely on the subject of pregnancy and childbirth but with hindsight I think I was really totally unprepared for what was about to come. Mark and I were largely left to cope alone throughout that labour, both at home and in hospital. For pain relief I managed mostly on gas and air but towards the end I became too exhausted to cope with the pain and opted for an epidural, which was a welcome relief. I couldn’t feel any sensation to push and it was as though Joshua was stuck (unfortunately he had a very large head) and finally he was delivered in the operating theatre by forceps. It was all a rather lonely traumatic experience and I hadn’t connected at all with Mark, who I think found it distressing to watch and didn’t know how to relate or to advocate on my behalf. I felt rather ‘out of control’ both in terms of what my body was doing but also in the way I encountered the staff who dealt with me while I was labouring.
When I discovered I was pregnant again I hoped for a very different experience of labour, and I therefore wanted Sarah to be my doula. Sarah was someone I knew through a mutual friend. I found I liked and trusted her, she had gone through childbirth, had very positive views about it and was very well educated on the subject. Sarah had lots of practical advice concerning pregnancy and birth, she was supportive and listened, she helped Mark and me revisit and deal with all of the difficulties and disappointments from our previous experience of childbirth. She encouraged us, lent us excellent books and she had a knack of putting us at ease with appropriate humour. She helped us formulate a birth plan, gave us information on birthing positions, pain relief and supported and encouraged my wish for Mark to ‘catch’ our new baby. She drew up an incredibly helpful list of practical things Mark could do to help both before and while I was in labour and therefore be actively involved. She came up with solutions to childcare issues, she even helped to organise my surprise baby shower and knitted the cutest little hat for our baby. So, due to Sarah’s input, as my belly grew ever larger and the due date drew nearer Mark and I found ourselves anticipating the labour itself with a great sense of expectation, celebration and joy, rather than dread and foreboding.
I was overdue by 14 days with Joshua and the same happened with Sienna. As I began panicking that history would repeat itself Sarah was reassuring and encouraging throughout, coming with us to the hospital for scans and an ‘external version’ that fortunately didn’t have to go ahead because Sienna had turned herself round. At long last on 5 April my waters spontaneously broke and 30 minutes later the contractions started and built fairly rapidly. Mark phoned Sarah and we were in regular text and phone contact with her during the first couple of hours. She helped us remain focused and gave advice about timing the contractions/eating/rest phoning the hospital and so on.
The labour progressed quickly and about three hours after my waters had broken the three of us piled into the car and headed for the hospital. She carried our bags, my exercise ball, held my hand when Mark wasn’t able to, spoke words of comfort, encouragement and reassurance, hung back when I was consumed by a contraction with Mark supporting me, came up with helpful suggestions just when I needed it, fetched cold water to drink and drew the focus to the baby, talking about how well the baby was doing, how we would be holding it really soon. At the pushing stage she asked me if I wanted to turn over rather than be on my back, which was just what I needed to hear. I managed to push Sienna out and Mark caught her and passed her up underneath me and into my arms. She presented us with a birthday card for Sienna and, although I wasn’t aware at the time, Sarah took beautiful photos of Sienna’s first moments for us, encouraged us in the choice of name we had picked out, and even took away my white blood-stained blouse to wash. She was wonderful. A few days after the birth Sarah visited us at home to see how we were doing and brought a box full of girls’ baby clothes and presented us with her typed account of the birth and the timing of phone calls/texts etc. She even brought a gift for Joshua.
The pregnancy and birth of Sienna was an incredible experience for us and was without doubt so positive because of Sarah’s involvement, she really was outstanding. She was so thoughtful, knowledgeable and encouraging and we would absolutely and very highly recommend her to anyone seeking the assistance of a birth partner or doula.