Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 8, 2000
Giving birth the pro-life way
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Laura Rodgers' sixth child is due the middle of May and she is discovering the more kids she has the less she knows about giving birth.
After her second and third children, she thought she had the labour part under control. The usual labour pains were there for her fourth, but it was nothing she couldn't handle.
It wasn't until her fifth child that the meaning of complicated labour was unleashed on Rodgers. She had developed high blood pressure, her labour was induced and "they had all sorts of things I had never heard of." She was given a catheter and medication that only left her doped up and even more tired.
The stress of the birth overwhelmed her and her husband and shadowed the joy they should have reserved for their new daughter.
"I never wanted to go through that again," Rodgers said.
Rodgers' doula, Mary Elliot, is out to ensure this birth will be smoother.
As a doula, Elliot will provide support, emotional and physical, during Rodgers' labour. She will also serve as an advocate for the Rodgers at the hospital and a liaison between the parents and the physician and hospital staff when needed.
Doula, an ancient Greek word, is a birth assistant who provides continuous support during a woman's pregnancy.
The practice, similar to that of a midwife, except doulas are not trained to birth babies at home, has existed for hundreds of years. Elliot sees it as a growing trend because it shines a positive light on what can be a traumatic experience.
Elliot, a homeschooling mother of five children, took the 25-hour doula training course at Grant MacEwan Community College two years ago and soon after started her business Labor of Love. Since that time, she has helped to birth almost 40 babies, averaging two to three a month.
Elliot's role is to make every childbirth the most rewarding and positive experience, no matter what complications arise. This is something that is part of her mission statement as a doula and as a Catholic.
Her company is listed under midwifery in the Yellow Pages, which has prompted some women to call her up seeking advice on abortion.
"Being Catholic and practising my faith, I'm very pro-life," said Elliot, a parishioner at St. Emerence in Riviere Qui Barre. "When people call me up about things like that, it gives me a chance to talk to them about it, to plant that seed for them . . . that life is valuable.
"We need to be open to life . . . if parents have a positive birth experience, they are much more able to accept life and be open to it."
Elliot is also a good advocate for large families.
"When I have couples who say 'This is number two, that's it, we're not having anymore,' I say 'I have a wonderful family, I love spending time with my kids.'
"We didn't have five kids all at once. They come in increments, you have that time to adjust. Five is just one more than four, four is just one more than three, three is just one more than two. It doesn't seem so big if you look at it that way."
Some couples have called Elliot the moment they found out they were pregnant, while some have waited a week before their due date to enlist her services. Most clients, however, call her up in their third trimester.
Elliot's initial meeting with a parent involves setting out a birth plan. She helps them to set goals on what they would like to experience during the birth of their child. This is stapled to the mother's medical chart and is available at the hospital when she goes into labour.
When Elliot's beeper goes off and a mother is calling her because she's going into labour, Elliot puts on her shoes and coat, grabs her equipment, which includes a giant blue birthing ball and heads out the door. Sitting on the birthing ball, rather than a chair or lying down, usually gives mothers in labour added comfort, Elliot said.
Some mothers will stay in their own homes during labour, then go to the hospital at the last minute to give birth.
"They want to be somewhere where they're comfortable," Elliot said. "And that's their own house."
At the hospital, Elliot acts as the couple's eyes and ears, helping the parents to ask medical questions if required. She looks for signs of possible complications and tries to keep the mother comfortable.
"Most of the nursing staff at hospitals are extremely good, but they're also very busy," Elliot said.
Having a doula allows mothers in labour to rely on nurses only for clinical support, such as administering medication, and not for labour or emotional support.
"Women in labour are in a very vulnerable state," Elliot said. "They usually rely on a nurse during labour, who might go off shift. The mother will get someone new whom she has to get comfortable with again."
For this reason Elliot encourages the mother to rely on her husband and their doula for labour support.
"(Doulas) do not have shift changes," said Elliot who once had a client in labour for two days. "We're there until it's over."
Elliot tries to assure parents her role as a doula should not and does not replace the support offered by expecting fathers. She not only helps expectant mothers know the ins and outs of child labour, but also the fathers.
"We in no way replace fathers and we don't even try," Elliot said. "Oftentimes we see fathers stand back and not do anything. That's because he doesn't know what to do."
Amanda Ulan had her first child 11 months ago with the help of Elliot. She was in labour for four days and eventually delivered the baby via caesarean. Having Elliot at her bedside took some of the pressure off her husband.
"I think every husband should have a doula," said Ulan, who lives on an acreage near Sherwood Park. "Because my husband was so involved and (Elliot) wasn't, it made it easier for her to see what was going on. She was our thinker.
"It's a time when you're thinking with your emotions rather than logically. It's good to have someone like (Elliot) around to think logically for you. I probably would have thrown the towel in much earlier if I didn't have her there."
Overall, it made what could have been a difficult birth much more bearable for she and her husband, said Ulan, who is expecting her second child in November.
"When my husband was feeling overwhelmed by it (Elliot) was there to take over. I think he enjoyed the occasion much more because she was there. We kind of think of her as our guardian angel."
Most parents, Elliot said, want a natural, non-medical birth, which means no drugs and prodding medical equipment. They want as little medical intervention as possible.
"We don't look at (giving birth) as a medical (procedure)," she said. "We look at it as being a normal physiological process.
"We look less on the medical part of it . . . it's a natural part of life. (Women) know how to birth a baby and a baby knows how to get out."
For more information on doulas contact Mary Elliot at 418-0000.