Cheshire Doulas Celebrate 20 Years Supporting Parents in Labor
There came a moment in Kristen Wilson’s labor when she was perched on the edge of a chair.
“I didn’t want to sit down. I didn’t want to get out of the birthing tub in the first place!” remembers Wilson. She’d been stuck at a nine-centimeter dilation for six hours. Her nurse-midwife at Cheshire counseled Wilson to try to relax to dilate the final centimeter.
“I was moaning and pacing, but Janet, my doula, she got me to sit down, and she began to rub my shins and calves.” A certified doula is a highly trained and dedicated volunteer who provides birthing parents with continuous physical, emotional and informational support during labor.
The doulas have partnered with the certified nurse midwife-led labor and delivery teams at Cheshire for 20 years, enhancing the high-quality care they provide by supporting a deeply meaningful patient experience. Some of the volunteers are staff from other areas of the medical center, others are professionals within the community. All share a passion for giving mothers the best birthing experience possible.
Wilson can’t remember how long the moment lasted. “It felt like two minutes, but who knows? What I remember is that I relaxed. I was in a different space with the pain because everything quieted, I quieted.” Wilson was now at 10 centimeters. With the help of Janet and Wilson's spouse, Sarah, she finally gave birth.
“A lot of times in labor, you need two people helping you move. The nurses are amazing, but shift changes happen, so if you have a long labor, you’ll see a few different people. Having a doula stay with you the entire time, hauling you around, helping you, is incredible,” Wilson says.
Janet provided the couple's second experience with a doula. About five years ago, when Sarah was pregnant with twins, Cheshire Doula Coordinator Marilyn Buck guided them through a long, medically complex labor. Buck provides certification and ongoing training for the group.
“When it’s your first time, it can be hard to differentiate between what you think is the right thing to do and what a medical professional says,” notes Kristen. “So having someone who is knowledgeable and understanding, and supportive of your priorities, really helps you navigate the process.”
What’s remarkable to Sarah is that the doula services are free and many of the volunteers have been working with the labor and delivery team for over a decade—some the full 20 years. “We are incredibly lucky to have doulas available, particularly on-call. My doula was the constant, calm voice telling me I knew how to do it, even when I didn’t think I could.”