I can recall the first time I ever heard the word doula. It was during TLC's A Baby Story, the narrator was explaining how the mother had a postpartum doula there to care for her and assist with questions in caring for the baby. I was obsessed with that show during my first two pregnancies. Although, I thought it was nice that this mother was able to have this type of support; I also remembered thinking that if I needed one my doctor would have mentioned this as an option and that this was probably a luxury not to be considered by students. Years later, I would learn that I was wrong about both assumptions.
Nonetheless, I caught glimpses of the word doula "woman caregiver" in action through the roles of other mothers, daughters, and sisters that I knew and loved. As a young new expectant mother, I knew that childbirth education class and a few books had only scratched the surface of what we would need to know in the days to come. I held in my heart ever so closely the wisdom that many mothers had journeyed this path before me and I trusted God to deliver me. It was in the middle of the night and we had been walking for hours throughout the hospital in the small town of Hannibal, Missouri. Unknown to us at the time, Kevin had broke his ankle during the seasons first basketball game and he didn't moan once as we slow danced in the hallways with each contraction. We were tired, but labor was steadily making progress and becoming more intense. Sherri Thomas (The coaches wife) looked like an angel walking into that room. A mother of two had come to do what others have done for centuries; simply hold space. She held my hand, she quietly observed and we talked. When the moment came for her to get her little ones off to school and herself to work; she left with a promise to return later. In the days to follow, Sherri coordinated home cooked meals to be brought to us. Coach Thomas and Sherri showed us so much loving guidance and support while we were away from our family.
Years later when we were preparing to give birth to our middle daughter we were surprisingly shocked with all the procedural differences between hospitals. I assumed that most hospitals allowed you to walk the halls to labor naturally. I assumed only monitoring would be necessary if something was wrong. We were home in the big city of Dallas, Tx and our expectations of how we would be able to move was totally thwarted. "You MUST remain on the bed." the labor and delivery nurse ordered. Our mother June and Kevin's sister Alicia were both there for support, but we felt completely blindsided by rejection of each request. What I would discover later, was that we were like most unsuspecting parents who had become entangled in maneuvering an unfamiliar system. Days later still confused, but grateful for holding a healthy baby; I made a promise to share how important it is to know your provider and the policies where they attend.
As family and friends began to plan their pregnancies, give birth and have questions about breastfeeding; I would listen and share for hours. It felt like I was gifting back all the motherhood basics that had been sweetly poured into me over the years. A few years after our third daughters birth, a training showed up on my feed. It was divine timing. I wanted more women to know that every family deserved a doula. Regardless of social economic status, student, age, race, religion, or sexual orientation; every family, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicines' joint statement says this about the effects of labor support “Increasing women’s access to nonmedical interventions during labor, such as continuous labor and delivery support, also has been shown to reduce cesarean birth rates.” As a trained labor doula, I have learned so much in assisting mothers and their families. Each birth so uniquely intertwined with a new lesson and wisdom gained. Our mission is to continue to educate, support, and encourage families to advocate for their choices confidently. This walk feels like an extraordinary life full of witnessing miracles, holding sacred space and reminding mothers of how powerfully amazing they truly are. May we all feel a sense of honor, joy and pride with the path we choose.
Love Talita Akana is a wife, mother, sister, and a friend. Over the years, she has shared guidance from the lessons she has learned. Grateful to be a vessel to assist others as a source of inspiration to touch another with what they learned to grow on their journey. This is Love.