You pee on a stick and see two lines. Congratulations, you're pregnant!
After telling your partner, and maybe some close family and friends (or maybe you want to tell everyone you know), there are a number of things you begin to do.
You Google “pregnancy due date calculator” and figure out your estimated due date.
You call your doctor or midwife’s office to schedule your first appointment.
You start to look for a doula. What? In the first trimester?!
It’s not as crazy an idea as you may think.
Here's why you may want to hire a doula in your first trimester:
1. The doula you want may not be available later in your pregnancy.
There is no “right” time to book your doula; it’s a very personal decision. Sometimes you don’t even learn what a doula is or how one can help you in birth until later in your pregnancy.
But if you know you are interested in doula support, you may want to start your search earlier rather than later. If you find a doula you really connect with and want to support you, communicating with her before she is booked for your birth month or before she makes vacation plans can ensure that she is available for your estimated due date.
Note that birth work has its ebbs and flows; some months I find myself fully booked with births and other months I have no births booked at all. So even if you are approaching your estimated due date and still want to hire a doula, you will likely find one available for your birth. It just may not be the one you thought you would hire.
2. A doula can help you find the right care provider.
Many people automatically contact the doctor or midwife they see for their yearly pap smear and begin prenatal care with that provider. Sometimes it becomes clear that your current care provider’s philosophy about birth doesn’t quite align with your own. Or you may decide that the hospital or facility where they catch babies doesn’t offer the amenities or experience you want for your birth.
Your doula is familiar with a wide variety of care providers in your area. Want to switch from an OB/GYN to a home birth midwife? Your doula can give you a list of options to investigate. Know you want a hospital birth but aren’t sure which doctor to choose? Or you find out later in pregnancy that you need to transfer care from a midwife to a physician?
Your doula can offer care provider suggestions who may be a good fit for your birth preferences and your personality. She can also outline the features and limitations of the different hospitals in your area, to help you narrow down your decision.
3. Your doula works for you the moment you hire her.
Early pregnancy is fraught with its own unique challenges: morning sickness (that really should be called all-day or any-time-of-day sickness), constipation, feeling bloated, exhaustion, and food aversions to name a few. Your doula can suggest helpful things to try, alternative practitioners who may be of help, or she might suggest that you speak to your care provider if the issue is medical in nature.
Your doula can sympathize with you, listen to your concerns with compassion and understanding, and reassure you that what you are experiencing is normal. Sometimes you just need to vent a little, or get some outside perspective; your doula is there to provide that emotional support.
4. The more established your relationship, the better your doula may be able to help you.
When my clients hire me closer to their estimated due dates, we may have time for only one prenatal visit before their birth. When clients hire me earlier in pregnancy, we have time to have two spaced-out, comprehensive visits.
Not only am I learning about their birth preferences and helping them sort through their options for labor, but I’m also getting to know my clients. I learn how they interact with each other, and identify their chief concerns and wishes. I get to know their sense of humor, what makes them unique, what motivates them, and how they show concern for their partner.
All of this experience and interaction informs how I serve them in labor. And because I get to know them better, I may suggest certain things in labor over others. My support in labor is more tailored to their individual needs.
Getting to know my clients helps me help them, and having more time to do this is a great advantage.
Trigger warning: Miscarriage
Sometimes in early pregnancy, there is a loss. According to ACOG (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists), early pregnancy loss occurs in about 10% of known pregnancies. Approximately 80% of miscarriages occur in the first trimester.
Some clients would prefer to wait until the second trimester, when the chance of miscarriage decreases significantly, or even later, until they begin to think about hiring a doula. This is a valid, understandable choice. The choice to hire a doula in early pregnancy or wait until later on is highly personal and totally up to the expecting couple.
If you do hire your doula in early pregnancy and experience a loss, you can turn to your doula for resources on what to expect and how to cope. The vast majority of doulas will refund to you your deposit, even if your deposit is non-refundable (you can ask your doula before hiring her what is her policy on refunds due to loss). She can offer you support and information on any medical procedures you can expect. She can direct you to resources in your area or refer you to a specially trained bereavement doula who can better support you through this difficult time.
Your doula can give you much more than labor support. She is there for you throughout your pregnancy, helping you navigate your way through a time of great change, uncertainty, and ultimately, of great joy.
I am a certified labor (birth) doula and postpartum doula serving clients in Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Nampa, and the Greater Treasure Valley.
Are you newly pregnant and interested in doula support now?
Trigger Warning: Miscarriage, Infant Loss
Everybody has their “stuff” to deal with. People you know well, people you casually know, strangers all around you, they all are working through something difficult in their lives at one time or another. For some, that source of pain is the loss of a pregnancy or of an infant.
People who have experienced this type of loss don’t always share it, even with those close to them. When they do share their grief, they are sometimes met with responses that unintentionally add to their suffering.
Well-meaning people say hurtful things because they don’t know what else to say, or they think that rationalizing the loss will somehow lessen suffering (it can’t). Often, they are trying to minimize their own discomfort about the loss. And sometimes they ignore it, or avoid talking about it, which can be just as painful for the grieving person as saying the wrong thing.
If you are aware that someone you know has suffered a miscarriage, given birth to a stillborn baby, or lost an infant during or shortly after birth, avoid saying iterations of the following:
Any attempt to rationalize their loss is destructive. It ignores and minimizes their emotions, hopes and dreams for the pregnancy, and their very real attachment to their baby.
So what should you say to someone who has experienced a loss?
First of all, there are no perfect words. Nothing you say or do will take away their pain. This is hard for some people to accept, especially if you are a person who is a “doer” or a “fixer.”
Second, all your words need to do is convey love and connection. A simple phrase like, “I’m so sorry” is enough to let someone know you care. You could also say, “I feel so sad for your pain” or “I love you and am here for you.”
They will hear the same messages from different people and your words will not be unique. That is okay. Again, the point is not to take away their pain (you can’t). The point is to express to them that you care. Validate the emotions they feel, and don’t try to explain them away.
Third, take an action, even a small one. A hand-written card, or a call or text days, weeks, or even months after their loss can bring comfort. Remembering to reach out around the baby’s due date, or on the anniversary of the day the baby was born or died honors the fact that their baby was real not just to them, but to the rest of the world, too.
Don’t be afraid of reigniting their pain by reaching out weeks or months later. They haven’t forgotten, and those anniversary dates can be especially difficult.
If you are very close to the person, you might offer to accompany them to a medical procedure, or help them make funeral arrangements. (Don’t just show up at the hospital or at their home— be sure to make sure your presence is wanted at any particular time.) Don’t take offense if they refuse your offer; allow them the space to make their own decisions on the type of support they need.
Other ways to help: start a meal train for them, offer to help with older children or pets, or run requested errands.
The website stillbirthday has a list of ways to provide support here: https://stillbirthday.wordpress.com/familyfriends/
Some other points to keep in mind:
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. If you or someone you know needs support after a loss, please contact me for help in finding the resources you may need.
I've worked in the forest, in the lab, and in an office cubicle. My favorite and most passionate work has been alongside clients as they reach inside to find their innermost strength, and give birth to their babies. Each birth is an honor to witness.