I’ve been hosting an internal debate recently with two opposing sides of my mind doing their best to confound me. One side says, “Yes, definitely get a doula for your upcoming birth!” and the other side says, “What are you, a wuss? What do you need a doula for?”
For those unfamiliar with the wonderful world of pregnancy, doulas are people who are trained to help women while they’re giving birth. They’re not medical professionals, more like, professional supporters. They encourage you, massage you if necessary, help relay your needs to the hospital staff, etc.
For my first pregnancy, I had a doula – I was terrified, and didn’t know if my mom would be able to fly in from the States, so there was no question about it. (Even though I have many kind family members living in Israel who offered to be with me during the birth, I knew I’d only feel comfortable with my mom. Or a vague stranger, like a doula. It’s just the way I am.) My doula was great – she calmed me, helped me breathe through the contractions and followed up post-partum to see how I was doing.
Unfortunately, she’s unavailable for my second birth.
(Actually, I had booked her for the birth, but she called me three days ago with a family emergency that necessitated her flying to the States. So I found myself, only days before my due date, doula-less.)
If she was available, I wouldn’t be holding this debate, but starting from scratch has caused me to rethink things and ask the million dollar question – is a doula something I really need?
The part of me that says yes does so because even though it’s my second birth, each time is different, plus my mom definitely won’t be here, plus it’s just better to be safe than sorry at a time of extreme vulnerability.
The other part of me feels like “better safe than sorry” is not a good enough reason to spend over 1000 NIS (yes, doulas cost between 1000-2000 NIS a pop, no pun intended). This other part of me feels like my confidence has been under-minded by a society that tells me that I’m not capable of giving birth without a thousand people cheering me on (my husband will be by my side plus nurses plus midwives). It feels that I’ve been sold the MasterCard Mentality – the idea that the only way I can attain my goal is to spend money.
I call this the MasterCard Mentality because of those commercials, you know, the ones in which an all-knowing narrator lists prices for different items, then ends with some sappy cliché like, “Peace of mind? Priceless.” (And then hits you with, “There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard.”)
(I chose this commercial only because there’s a baby in it)
Yes, Peace of Mind is certainly priceless.
But will a doula guarantee that?
Who knows??? There are a thousand and one factors that affect a birth, all contributing or detracting from a woman’s Peace of Mind. And therefore, maybe I don’t need a doula. Maybe my confidence has been stripped because doulas are in-style, so I’ve been made to feel like they must be necessary. Maybe I’m just being a spoiled American who has confused luxury with necessity. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
This is how the debate has been raging, sometimes calmer, sometimes stormier, depending on the time of night I lay awake in bed thinking about it. (I have the same debate about epidurals, but that’s for another post.)
And as the debate raged on (for all of the three days that I’ve found myself in this predicament), I had a sudden thought –
What’s wrong with me?
Giving birth is probably THE most important experience in a woman’s life. EACH birth is important – and I’m debating having extra additional support because I’m afraid of acting spoiled? Because I don’t want to spend money? Because I want to be superwoman?
That can’t be right.
The gemara says that if a blind woman is giving birth on Shabbat, and she asks you to turn on the light on because it will make her feel better, you do it. Gasp. Yes, you violate Shabbat even though, practically, it makes no difference to the laboring woman, because in her head it does make a difference. And we do everything we can to ease a laboring woman’s situation. (Disclaimer: Talk to your rabbi before actually doing this.)
So I need to get over this lump sum of money that a doula will cost, this idea that I’m pampering myself and being sold something because, hey – maybe I am being sold something – something very expensive – but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. Giving birth is hard! So if I can get extra support, I should. And hey – I have the gemara to back me up.
Postscript: Between the time I began writing this article and the time I posted it, I hired a doula, an absolutely lovely woman who I will feel privileged to have at my birth.
But even though I’ve made my decision, I am still suspicious of myself that I am using the gemara as validation for being spoiled. Even though my doula’s price is at the lower end of the spectrum. Even though my husband has told me multiple times that Peace of Mind is worth it, and I shouldn’t worry about it. But I do worry, since that’s just what I do, but I ease my conscience by telling myself that for the third birth, I’ll be an expert, and surely I won’t want/need a doula then.