To give you an idea of who you’re dealing with:
I always have a list.
My list has a list, and it’s color-coded.
I overpack. I pack for my husband because there’s no way he knows how many pairs of socks he actually needs. I have at least two back-up plans, and, yes, I am nervous that I have forgotten my emergency snack. You see, I worry. BUT, I try to be the most prepared worrier possible. That makes me a good worry wart, the kind you still want to hang out with because I probably brought an extra water bottle for you. Right?
When my husband and I decided we wanted to have a baby I was so excited!
I would tear up just thinking about being a mama, but my heart would race at the thought of all the unknowns. Pregnancy and babies are nothing BUT variables. My husband, Nick, reminded me to focus on the excitement and the preparation, and we decided to take a very “open hand” approach to pregnancy. If it happens, joy upon joy. If it doesn’t, it’s not meant to be right now. After a short time of preparing, praying, worrying, trying not to worry, worrying again, praying more, over-preparing… I peed on a stick, and our hopes became a reality. PREGNANT.
My husband and I are Americans, living an eight hour drive from both of our families. My husband travels almost on a weekly basis all over North America for work. We have been blessed with wonderful friends here in Toronto, many of them with children of their own. Now that I was pregnant, a new variable suddenly stole the show in my mind:
What if something happens?
What if I go into labor while Nick is travelling?
What will I do?
Here’s the thing: I first desired to have a doula so I could be prepared for this middle-of-the-night-my-husband-is-across-the-continent-holy-crap scenario. I wanted a doula because I was nervous. I wanted a doula because it would help me feel more prepared and equipped for the unknowns of pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
Well, I got not just one amazing doula; I got two!
Enter Carol Anne & Nicole,
our reliable, informed, encouraging,
trustworthy, caring and fun doulas!
After our first meeting, Nick and I immediately knew we wanted to work with them. Heck, I knew after my very first conversation over the phone with Carol Anne! It was after our first meeting that I began to realize that having a doula did not need to be just for the potential worst case scenarios, although it is great to feel more prepared. Having a doula can be for learning, comfort, and for a positive (not scary!) pregnancy and birth experience. That’s just what it was for us.
In the moments when I didn’t know what was going on with my changing body and hormones, Carol Anne and Nicole encouraged me to trust my instincts. I never felt embarrassed or scared to talk to them, and they always followed up with me and asked for updates. When my husband was out of the country for extended periods of time at the end of my pregnancy, they checked in on me. They were on high alert, and they knew my husband’s travel schedule. When they came over for our prenatal appointment, they laughed with us.
They told me what I actually needed in my ridiculously over-packed hospital bags.
They taught Nick methods to help me feel more comfortable during labor.
They didn’t preach at me when I said I may get an epidural.
They made me feel confident about not getting medically induced, despite Nick’s hectic schedule.
When Carol Anne and Nicole left our home after that prenatal appointment, Nick and I felt excited and ready for labor and delivery.
Labor (Labour) Day:
The day I went into labor, I had an extremely discouraging appointment with my doctor. It was March 20th, the day before my due date. Nick was finally back home for a few weeks after long trips away, and we were both anxiously hoping for our little girl to make her debut very soon. On March 17th, I had a distinct feeling that she was on her way. Not to sound too hippy-dippy, but I just felt different.
I waddled into that appointment ready to have all my whimsical mama-to-be instincts affirmed.
However, my doctor informed me that my body was not ready to budge. He scheduled an induction for forty-one weeks, and he sent me on my way.
I felt like I didn’t know my own body.
Honestly, I felt slightly embarrassed for having such high hopes. I texted Carol Anne and Nicole on the Labor Line, and I told them about my not-ready body. I told them about how discouraged I felt. I tossed my phone on the floor.
I cried, and I ate three bowls of cereal.
Then, I went to my chiropractor. My chiropractor did an acupuncture treatment that can help bring on labor.
Plot Twist: It worked!
Less than an hour later while out for lunch, I started contracting. Nick and I monitored my contractions for a couple hours from home before calling the Labor Line. I didn’t want to get too hopeful that this was the real deal. I started cleaning, grooming, packing last-minute items, praying, pacing, but I never felt worried. My contractions started gaining consistency and strength, and we called the Labor Line. I updated Nicole on the quick turn of events, and she affirmed that it sounded like this was the beginning of labor. March 20th was one huge roller coaster of a day, and I am so thankful that we had Nicole along for the ride.
I labored through the night and into the morning.
Nicole initially met us at the hospital, but I returned home after being informed that I was still only two centimeters dilated. Having Nicole with us as I continued to labor at home was extremely helpful and comforting. As soon as we got back to our place, she started making me pancakes (pregnant lady request!) to help me carb up ahead of the long night. However, before she could finish the batch, my contractions began to couple on each other. Nicole’s presence during this time was pivotal for me and Nick. While I contracted for two to three minutes at a time, Nicole would apply pressure on my lower back, allowing Nick to hold my hands and remind me to breathe. Without Nicole, we would not have known what was going on. WHY are my contractions lasting this long?! Nicole was able to give us peace of mind, as she had experienced other labors with these long contractions. When we returned to the hospital, Nicole persisted in physically and emotionally supporting me, working alongside our nurses, and reminding me that we would meet our little girl so soon.
Nicole was the teammate my husband needed in order to thoroughly support me through that very long night.
When it came time to push, Nick played music from Jock Jams, and we laughed and danced (I wiggled in my hospital bed). Nicole coached me on how to push effectively, and she even captured photos and videos for us on my phone during those final moments of labor. She was a familiar voice in a room full of strangers as we welcomed our sweet Eloise Katherine into the world.
Our first few days postpartum were extremely tough.
Breastfeeding did not happen how I had so deeply desired. This was one variable that I was completely unprepared for. Thankfully, Carol Anne and Nicole knew to be prepared for this. Carol Anne came over a couple days after we returned home to help us figure out our breast pump and to see if our issues with Eloise’s latch were resolvable. When I felt completely overwhelmed and exhausted in providing nourishment for our daughter, Carol Anne reminded us of our faith and strength as a couple. I will never forget when she called to check on us, and she said, “You will never be given more than you can handle.”
When Nicole came over for postpartum shifts, she gave me the freedom to prepare meals while she bottle fed Eloise and changed diapers. I was able to take the longest, most luxurious shower of my life while she folded laundry, took care of our baby, and washed dishes.
While we discussed how exhausted I was from my pumping and Eloise’s feeding schedules, she said what needed to be said: “You are free to do what you need to do to be a happy mother. You need to give yourself permission to do so.” Freedom? Happiness? Don’t just settle for exhausting, unsustainable parenting? Sounds crazy, but in those first couple weeks, I didn’t think freedom was for me anymore. We have been able to feed Eloise exclusively with my breastmilk so far, and I truly believe Carol Anne and Nicole’s support in those first, foggy days helped us do this. Carol Anne and Nicole helped the worrier in me take a backseat. They helped me put down my lists during this new, always-changing season of life.
When I felt overwhelmed by everything to do in taking care of our newborn, they reminded me to simply be Eloise’s mama and to trust my instincts.
Our experience in having them as our doulas reminds me that I don’t always need to prepare out of fear for the worst case scenarios. I need to prepare because it can make for the best case scenario. Carol Anne and Nicole’s teamwork and support will always be at the top of my “Do Not Forget” list when I reflect on this pregnancy, labor, and postpartum period.
Mary is a new mom living in downtown Toronto. She grew up in Ohio across the street from a boy named Nick. They got married in 2014, and they have lived together in Canada ever since. Mary and Nick welcomed their first child, Eloise, in March 2018. Mary studied Secondary English Language Arts Education at Miami University.
Upon graduation, she taught Seventh Grade Language Arts for a short time. She also taught English through an online platform to students living in China. You can typically find Mary doing yoga or pilates, strolling with Eloise by the lake, drinking coffee with her husband, reorganizing her closets, or eating unreasonable amounts sweet potatoes.