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The Melanie Rose Birth Blog

Why I Decided to Become a Doula: My Journey into Supporting Birthing People

Updated: Mar 20

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and nothing in this birth blog should be taken as medical advice. This blog is for informational and entertainment purposes only.

Welcome to the Melanie Rose Birth Blog! My name is Melanie Rose Velez, face of Melanie Rose Birth Services LLC. If you follow me on social media, you may be familiar with the story that is about to follow, except this is the unabridged version, the version that was not cut down to fit into a limited amount of Instagram slides.

Now, WHY did I decide to become a doula (and childbirth educator)? To begin with, I've been obsessed with pregnancy and birth for as long as I can remember. I always knew it was a special and powerful life experience that I, myself, couldn't wait for.

Fast-forward to my thirties, and I'm now a mom of three boys, my last one born in May of 2022. I initially began looking into becoming a doula of some sort after my last son was born, because I knew he was likely going to be my last baby and I wanted to remain in the world of pregnancy and birth in some capacity.

Here's the kicker. Let's backtrack a few years, starting with my first pregnancy. I did not take childbirth education classes, nor did I hire a doula for my birth or postpartum period. I thought birth classes were something that OBGYNs used to make you take, but not anymore. I also thought that childbirth education classes only taught you how to breathe while pushing, and that's it (thanks, '90s Film Industry!). I also turned my nose up at the idea of hiring a doula, because, crunchy though I am at times, I thought that doulas were for the crunchiest of crunchy moms, and, frankly, a frivolous investment.

I wound up with an emergency C-section, before which not a single thing was explained to me as they were suddenly prepping me for the OR, having me drink anti-nausea meds, and quickly sign waivers. I had received an epidural, and I had realized during all of this that it was beginning to wear off. I tried to tell the hospital staff while also trying to find out why I was headed for surgery... BUT, nobody listened to me until I was on the table and shrieked at the pain of the first incision, resulting in them putting me under general anesthesia (which is a very rare occurence, even in an emergency c-section).

My first baby, my first son, was born big and healthy, and I was left gray and unconscious in recovery while everyone I knew saw him before I did. How did this happen? One - ONE - family member somehow convinced the medical team on staff that evening that I had, in fact, already met my son, and that they should let in visitors. They let in the visitors, and that's how I was one of the last people to meet my baby. Eventually they rolled him up in his cot next to me in recovery, but not even close enough for me to clearly see him. In fact, I had to ask somebody, probably my husband, to find my glasses for me. My first thoughts were, "Is he alive?" and, "He looks like a doll."

Here's the next kicker. Experiencing this did somehow not immediately drive me to birthwork. I just thought this was all a totally normal experience. It was ultimately labeled as, "failure to progress," and I accepted it because not one part of my story seemed to bother anyone at my meager postpartum checkups. That was just my birth experience, my birth story, and I just get to be traumatized. Cool.

Fast-forward just a little bit, and I had two VBACs, the first one unplanned! I had my repeat c-section scheduled, because my OBGYN said I had to, and I went into labor the day before. I get to the hospital, expecting to have the c-section that I had meticulously planned for, and I was offered the option of a VBAC by the hospital staff! After being given all the information, risks, pros, cons, and time to think about it, I tried for the VBAC, succeeded, and it was an incredibly healing experience. I was also furious that I didn't prepare for a possible VBAC, because my OBGYN office told me that it was absolutely not on the table when I absolutely could have prepared for the possibility.

My third birth was another VBAC that was fairly uneventful (except for shoulder dystocia that was quickly and expertly resolved), and another very healing experience due to simply being treated like a human being. But still, no childbirth education, and not a doula in sight.

A lot of the differences here are largely due to the three different hospitals that I gave birth in, and maybe some luck due to the fact that my labors progressed on the faster side with my two VBACs. Though eye-opening, I still didn't quite immediately run to birthwork.

Fast-forward (yes, again) to a few months after my last son was born, and I longed to be immersed in pregnancy and birth again, without putting myself through it all again. Three seems to be what I can handle! So I start researching doula work. Sounds great and like the kind of service a lot of pregnant people would pay for. Oh, and there are birth doulas and postpartum doulas! But the nature of the work sounded too unpredictable for me as a mom of three small children, one of which was an infant. Then I came across childbirth education and becoming a Certified Childbirth Educator. That sounded a lot more predictable, doable virtually, and still very much up my birth-nerd-alley. So, I took a training with BEST and became a Certified Childbirth Educator. This is where things took a turn in the "why" part of my story.

Doing all the precertification work, everything starting piecing itself together in my mind. If I had done this for myself during my first pregnancy and taken childbirth education classes, I would have known my rights and my options in my model of prenatal care from the get-go. I would have known about informed consent. I would have known the snowball effect of routine and often unnecessary interventions in birth leading to blanket-labeled emergency c-sections. I would have known that hospitals want your baby out of you, and you out of labor and delivery as fast as possible, whether your body and baby need to work towards that goal a little more slowly or not. I would have known that a doula could have done some crowd control and made sure that I wasn't left in the mud after my first son was born, and maybe would have slowed down the hospital staff and stopped the snowball effect of interventions in the first place (or at the very least helped explain to me what was going on). A postpartum doula would have made sure that I sat my butt down instead of trying to do it all right away.

I also came to recognize my privilege in being a white cisgender female in a hetero-appearing marriage (bi-erasure! Bi-erasure everywhere!), because what's happening in the world of Black maternal health and queer and trans birth is enough to keep you up at night. Studying for my training and certification, for both my Childbirth Educator Certification and Birth Doula Certification, left me full of sadness, rage, and a deep compassion for pregnant people and a desire to start them off on the right foot and make sure to the best of my ability that they have as positive a birth and postpartum experience as possible. And that could look like a vaginal birth, a planned c-section, an unplanned c-section, medicated, unmedicated, in a hospital, at home -- whatever.

Your best birth is one that you feel prepared for based on your background, potential traumas, your preferences, your wishes, your medical conditions, and your level of flexibility in understanding that at the end of the day, birth and postpartum are still wildly unpredictable.

Naming your baby is necessary, gift registries and nurseries and baby showers are fun, but this - all of this - is what we should be focusing on. My lifelong obsession with birth has teamed up with a newfound mix of rage, sorrow, and compassion, and this why I decided to throw myself into birthwork.

Birth is magical and medical, and we should talk about it.

Doula and childbirth educator Melanie Rose Velez, out in nature, framed by the words, "Melanie Rose Birth Services LLC"

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