Letter of Recommendation for Sarah Vine as a Doula
If you are reading this then you are most likely pregnant (congratulations!!!) and either considering hiring Sarah as your Doula or have already done so. If you are the latter, then I commend you on a grtet choice. If you are in the former category, I can only ask you to finish reading this letter and I’m sure you will come to the same conclusion that I did – that Sarah is a fantastic Doula. I have actually known Sarah for a couple of years as a friend. However I can honestly say that had she not trained as a doula, I would not have thought of having her attend my son’s birth.I would have had the same fabulous midwife friend who was my birthing partner at my daughter’s birth. I want any client or prospective client of Sarah’s to understand that it was Sarah’s training and her acquired skills as a Doula and not the fact that she happened to be a friend of mine that let me to the decision to hire her.
I need to backtrack a little bit so you are able to understand Sarah a bit better and some of the natural, personal qualities she has that make her such a fantastic Doula. Back in early 2005, I had a miscarriage. Although I have a lot of other close friends, it was Sarah who was first to call me on the telephone to see how my hospital appointment went. I cried as I told her the sad news and Sarah cried with me on the telephone. This is something I have never forgotten as nobody had ever done that before. It gave me some insight into the wonderful quality Sarah has of being able to empathise. She reached out to me and was always happy to listen to me as I poured out my grief.
When I got pregnant again I became very sick. I suffer from Hypremesis Gravidarum when pregnant. Sarah called me more than anyone else to check up on how I was doing and she regularly came over to visit. She was very understanding around my concerns that I would loose the baby again. I was during this time Sarah took the decision to train as a Doula, however it still had not occurred to me to hire her.
With my first child, my birth experience was an excruciatingly painful back-to-back labour which resulted in a long, tiring and drawn out affair with ultimately, far more medical intervention that I would have ever wished for. Needless to say, I was extremely keen that my second birth experience should, as far as possible, be the exact opposite of my first. After Sarah had told me about her homebirth, I decided that I too wanted a homebirth. For me, it was pretty scary considering my first labour and delivery. There would be no birthing pool and only gas and air for pain relief. It was around this time I decided to hire Sarah as my Doula. I had made my mind up that I wanted a homebirth with as little medical intervention as possible and Sarah would be just the person to advocate for me to ensure that my wishes were observed.
Preparation for the birth
As I have already said, Sarah was very supportive during the first half of my pregnancy. However, after I hired her and I entered the third trimester, Sarah’s support and encouragement went up a gear. Through regular phone calls and meetings, I learned about Optimal Foetal Positioning and she loaned me equipment to assist with this. She came over to meet with Andy (my husband) and me to discuss how I wanted the birth to go. I had some ideas around what I was keen to try and what I was desperate to avoid. Needless to say… top of the list was to have my homebirth, and what I absolutely did not want was to go into hospital. At Sarah’s suggestion, I had taken a few weeks to compile discussion points and so at the meeting, we were able to go through all my wishes in detail in a relaxed environment. We had much more time to go through my ideas and Sarah’s suggestions than I would have had at one of my regular midwife appointments. The meeting enabled Sarah to become completely aware of my wishes so that when I was in labour, she would be able to advocate for me should I be unable to for any reason. Sarah then typed up the outcome of the meeting for Andy and I to read through in our own time and make any amendments as necessary. I was able to compile ‘to do’ lists for Andy and Sarah for when I was in labour. Andy and I had decided prior to the meeting that we would ask Sarah to be my primary birth partner during labour and that Andy would take more of a background role.
One thing I particularly enjoyed was being able to attend the Bristol Homebirth Support Group. It was a great opportunity to meet other like minded people and to chat, swap stories, give and receive support. A few weeks before my EDD, Sarah came over to drop off some of her own birth supplies at my home. We were all set up for the big day (or night)….
On Sunday 22nd January, I went into pre-labour with contractions coming every 10 minutes. I called Sarah who came over and stayed for a while. Even though she came up with some great suggestions to really increase th e frequency and intensity of the contractions, they tailed off. After a few hours it became apparent that the baby would not be coming; it wasn’t baby time yet.
Just 3 days later, on Wednesday 25th of January 2006, I woke up at 9am and got up to take my daughter to a toddler group. As soon as I got up, I had contractions. They did not let up and lasted up to thirty seconds and were never more than five minutes apart. my husband wanted to call Sarah straight away but I was unsure as to whether this was really ‘it’ or not so I had told him not to call anyone util I was sure I was in labour. As I said earier, my first delivery ahd been a back labour that had resulted in epidural where I hadn’t felt anything so I wasn’t totally sure what labour with a baby in OFP felt like! Anyways, by half past nine, I was overruled and Andy called Sarah and then the midwife. He then dropped our daughter off at her grandparents’.
Amy, the first on-call midwife arrived around 10am followed by Sarah a few minutes later. Andy gave Sarah a quick handover e.g. I was 4cm dilated, how often the contractions were coming, how long they were lasting and that it was definitely Baby Day! Sarah took over as primary birth partner as arranged. I was keen for the midwife to stay in the background let Sarah work.
Sarah started by helping me fit and adjust the TENS machine. As the contractions got stronger, I found it increasingly difficult to work through the contractions whilst fiddling with the TENS so Sarah took that over. It was great because in a very short space of time, Sarah became in tune with what I needed and when. She was able to spot when a contraction was coming and changed the controls on the TENS accordingly. She was also able to offer me drinks, snacks and was great at encouraging me to keep going.
Sarah was also able to suggest new ways to manage the pain after the TENS had become less effective e.g. having a bath, using Andy to push against during contractions etc… I was keen to have and ‘active’ labour and Sarah’s ideas reflected that. We tried walking, swaying, even dancing to music in-between contractions but I had started to tire. someone suggested that I lie down on the sofa to rest. At first I was not keen because I didn’t want the contractions to tail off however I looked to Sarah for guidance and decided to have a lie down. When my contractions started to become less frequent, she suggested I get up again to see how I felt and she was right, I felt refreshed enough to try a more active labour again.
As in my first labour, I failed to progress past 6cm dilated and the gas and air was not working as effectively as it had been. I had been having contractions every 2 minutes for a couple of hours and each one had been lasting longer than a minute. When Amy re-examined me I was told I had not progressed any further since hse had examined me a couple of hours previously. I was given a choice… continue as I had been doing with gas and air and await the spontaneous rupture of membranes, transfer to hospital for pain relief, or have her break my waters to move things along. I chose the latter and immediately my contractions really increased in intensity. It was all I could do to roll off the sofa and kneel on the floor.
Up until now, Amy had really just been in the background occasionally taking my temperature and blood pressure and checking the baby’s heart rate, however as I entered Stage 2 (pushing) she took over from Sarah, and Trish the second on-call midwife arrived. At 3:12pm, just 45 minutes after my waters had been broken, my beautiful son Theodore Joseph James entered the world in my own living room. He weighed 8lbs 8oz and was 57cm long.
As I entered Stage 3 (delivery of the placenta) Amy helped me to try and deliver the placenta while Sarah took photos of my newborn son and Andy brought drinks and snacks. After a while, it became apparent that despite my best efforts of trying to deliver the placenta, it wouldn’t actually detach from the uterine wall. I would have to go into hospital after all. I was very sorry but I had not stopped bleeding and I had been warned in advance that if the placenta hadn’t detached and the bleeding hadn’t stopped, it would be the only option. The ambulance was called ahd Theo, Amy and I went in the ambulance while Andy and Sarah followed by car.
When I got to hospital, I was taken straight into theatre and Amy handed over my care to the hospital midwives and went home. It was really nice that even though she had left, there was some continuity of care as Andy, Sarah and Theo were waiting for me when I got out of theatre. I was put in a recovery room and Andy, Sarah and I chatted while Sarah made tea and wrote lists of things Andy needed to bring in for myself and Theo. Andy dropped Sarah back at her car around 9:30pm. She had been with me almost 12 hours.
As per my request, when Sarah got home she let my online and local friends know Theo had arrived safe and sound.
Following my release from hospital, Sarah came over with a leaflet of post partum exercises I could try using her birthing ball. She also came over with supplies of herbal tea for helping with milk production and dried fruits good for boosting iron. I had lost a lot of blood and had been prescribed iron pills which I steadfastly refused to take so dried fruit were a good alternative.
It is my honest belief that even though every pregnant lady has an assigned midwife (in the UK), for various reasons they are unable to give the continuity of care that a Doula can. Sarah was able to spend far more time with me than my midwife ever could, both during the pregnancy and post partum. Sharah was able to create a unique plan for me which was tailor made of my individual circumstances and wishes.
As I said at the start of this letter, had Sarah not trained as a Doula, I wouldn’t have thought of having her attend this birth. I would have had the same midwife friend who had done a fantastic job during my first labour and delivery. I can say without a doubt that Sarah was every bit as good as my previous birthing partner who has attended hundreds of births. When I look back at my second pregnancy and the birth in particular, I have nothing but happy memories. I cannot imagine a time will come where I don’t look bacy on my homje birth as one of my life’s proudest moments and greatest achievements. And due credit should be made to Sarah because she made all the difference.