Lindsey Monroe admits that back before she had her now 3-year-old son, Oliver, her work was "180 degrees" from what it is today. But she was lacking passion in her corporate marketing and communications job, and after having Oliver, she says she felt even more lost in her professional life. As it turned out, Lindsey didn't have to look any further than her own childbirth experience to identify the right career track. Today, the 29-year-old mom is a trained professional doula in Forest Park, Illinois. She's also expecting her second son in November and her career has most definitely influenced how she's planning to bring him into the world. Although Oliver was delivered in a hospital, Lindsey's planning on a home birth this time around.
Lindsey talked to The Stir about her job as a caregiver to so many other women as they bring life into the world and how her career is shaping her birth plan this time around.
What inspired you to become a doula?
When Oliver was born, my husband and I were living in California and hired a doula, because we didn't have any family around. So that experience of hiring a doula and this road we went down and the type of birth we had just totally changed my experience. I went into motherhood feeling super-confident. I thought how different the start of motherhood could have looked for me had I not hired a doula, and that propelled me down this other professional path. I also got into doula work thinking I wanted to share my story of this amazing, unmedicated birth experience. I couldn't believe more people weren't talking about it.
How did you come to deciding that Oliver would be born at a hospital?
At the time, we didn't even think twice about having our baby in the hospital. It was a hospital birth with an OB/GYN and our doula, and we actually had a really lovely, unmedicated experience.
Why give birth at home this time?
We were actually really limited in the places that we could have our baby this time around, based on insurance. My husband works for the University of Chicago, so we would have to have our baby at that hospital, and I wasn't comfortable knowing that's a really research-based hospital, and they do birth from a really medical perspective. That's great if you're high risk or if you're okay going down that path, but I wasn't willing to take that risk. So, our other option was paying out-of-pocket to have a home birth. My first baby came pretty quickly, and we had this uneventful first birth, so making the decision to have a home birth, we feel confident and safe and prepared in that decision. And I have a husband who is on-board with it and feels comfortable with it, which I think is very important, to have someone who isn't fearful of a home birth.
So, who does a doula choose to be on her birth team when she's the one giving birth?
My midwife is through Gentle Birth Care, one of the most well-known certified midwife groups doing home birth in the Chicago area. They have built strong relationships with providers, so if there happened to be a complication, we could go to a hospital they're allowed to practice out of. My husband plays a huge role, and then we'll have my doula [also Lindsey's business partner], an assistant to the midwife -- kind of like a nurse would be at the hospital -- and our 3-year-old will take part in the experience, too. He'll be home, but we'll probably have my mom or my sister be here for him, so he can be a part of it at points that seem appropriate.
What are you looking forward to about having a home birth vs. your hospital experience?
Being in a really comfortable environment is what's so appealing about a home birth. Being surrounded by all these people who love and care about me, and it's not such a sterile environment. I feel like they truly know me as opposed to when Oliver was born. I had four or five OB/GYNs at the practice, all of whom were really great and pleasant every time we saw them, but I never felt personally connected to them, so I think I'm looking forward to just being surrounded by familiar faces in a comfortable place. In the hospital, while I had an unmedicated birth, it was kind of out of control. The way I envision this birth is much more peaceful and having a much more calm environment than the first time around.
How have your patients influenced how you're doing things this time around?
The first time around, it was more about acquiring knowledge -- why are so many women having cesareans, what's the benefit of not having an epidural, etc. This time around, I want to incorporate what I've seen women accomplish in a calm, beautiful way. I've seen women achieve that state of mind during hypnobirthing and really get into that space and achieve that. That's something I've seen happen, and I would love to get there myself.
In addition to hypnobirthing, what are some other techniques you've seen your patients use successfully that you're adopting?
My husband and I listen to the hypnobirthing CDs together at night, so he has an understanding of what state of mind I'm gonna try to achieve at the birth. So, it's about relaxation, letting go, visualizing. I'm a really active person. I ran a 10K at 6 months [with Oliver]. This time around, I'm doing more exercises that are about me and the baby. So I'm doing yoga and different types of positioning, where I envision the birth while I'm doing exercises. And I recently took a two-day retreat called Sacred Pregnancy for moms, all around creating sacred space for yourself. It was a way to just spend time with the fact that I'm pregnant again and life is so busy, and I'm running after a 3-year-old, but I really want to connect with this baby. I'm trying to connect more emotionally this time and just be present for the experience.
More from The Stir: Do I Need a Doula? 11 Good Reasons to Use One
Can you think of any drawbacks being a doula has had on your birth plan?
I have tried to take myself out of the professional birth world with this baby. It's kind of hard and impossible, but I just wanted our choices to be about us and our family. I do know based on my experience that birth doesn't always go as planned. I know a little bit more than I should in terms of some risks. For example, I took a workshop on shoulder dystocia (when the baby's shoulder is stuck in the birth canal), which leads me down this path of wondering, 'What would we do in that situation at home?' and asking 101 questions about shoulder dystocia for myself! It's important to be educated on the risks, but so is being able to step back. I'm scared that I won't be able to get outside of my own head and just allow myself to be this laboring mother and not [thinking], 'Oh, I wonder if I should get into this position right now, because this could really help me!'
What about your line of work will make this birth easier?
I have this built-in community of people who support us in this decision. I feel like there's this whole misconception of what home birth can be and people who work in the community understand it. Outside of the birth community, I feel like we do get judged for this decision. Also, I feel like I'm far less fearful of the experience now that I've seen birth in such a normal light. I've seen the different stages. With the birth of my first, there's this fear I carried around of what it was going to be like and whether I'd be able to handle it. I've released a lot of that from my own personal experience.
Image via Lindsey Monroe