Hi and welcome to my blog!
My name is Jenny Putnam and I’m currently in the process of becoming a DONA-certified birth doula. This journey has been a very long time in the making and I’d like to share how and why I found myself here.
My interest in supporting women in labor and childbirth goes back many years to when I was living in California in the mid-1990s. At the time I was close friends with a woman who was expecting her first child. My friend, who was convinced that her husband was going to pass out during their first five minutes in the delivery room (he did an amazing job during the birth, by the way!), asked me to act as an additional labor companion. I was thrilled and immediately said yes. At their request I attended childbirth classes with them, working together on comfort measures and coping techniques. As the baby’s due date approached I think I was nearly as excited as the expectant parents! The call to meet them at the hospital came in the middle of the night and I met them at the door of Labor & Delivery just as my friend’s water broke. I spent the next twelve hours supporting both mom and dad as my friend labored and gave birth without an epidural (she later told me it was the extra support that I had provided that had helped her to avoid pain medication) or any other medical interventions.
After the birth, I went home, sat on my couch and cried for over an hour. The entire experience had been incredibly powerful and uplifting. It literally changed my life and I began looking into becoming a midwife. This was during the early years of the movement to improve childbirth culture and I had never heard the word doula. Unfortunately, at that point in my life returning to school for a years-long program of study in midwifery just wasn’t going to work for a number of reasons, so I put aside the dream of working as a perinatal health professional, and continued my career as a graphic designer.
Fast forward to 2005 – now married, living in the Boston area and expecting a baby of my own, my husband and I went about preparing for birth. We attended classes at the hospital where we intended to give birth, read the popular books, talked with friends and family about their experiences. By this time I knew doulas existed, but gave no real thought to hiring one for my baby’s birth. “We’ve got this,” I thought. “There’s no need to include a stranger in our birth plans.” It wasn’t until we found ourselves in the birthing suite faced with questions for which I realized we had no answers that I began to understand how critical the support of a trained professional really is. We thought we’d educated ourselves, that we knew everything to expect, that the two of us alone could navigate the intricacies of childbirth and make all the ‘right’ decisions for us. Our son was born vaginally, healthy, with no complications for him or me, but my experience of his birth immediately left me feeling frustrated and unhappy with my choices. I felt like his birth was something that happened to me, not an event in which I was an active participant.
These two completely different births nearly a decade apart helped bring me to a place where I found it increasingly difficult to ignore my longstanding desire to help laboring women and their partners, to provide the informational, emotional and physical support necessary for an empowering and joyful birth experience. Though it still took a few years for me to finally find the path, once I had learned about DONA and their mission to ‘provide a doula for every woman who wants one,” I knew I’d found my calling at last.