It’s 5 AM, the day before D-Day (Delivery Day, in this case).  I’m lying in bed and, unsurprisingly, not feeling so hot, when my phone vibrates on the bedside table.

“From what you describe, it looks like this could be the beginnings of it!  Try to sleep a bit and call me as soon as you wake up!” reads the message on the screen.  I sigh with relief, thankful beyond words for this woman’s constant support.

This woman is my doula, or my birth partner (though birth partners come in many shapes, sizes, and titles).  I loved my birth partner so much that whenever a friend gets pregnant, the first thing I recommend is that she find one for herself.

Birth partners, in general, are the best.  Technically, when I gave birth to my son, I had three birth partners (because I was blessed to have my husband and my mother with me as well). But here I’ll focus my soapbox mainly on the benefits of having a doula.

While I had two birth partners already, I am still so glad we hired a doula as well.  In fact, since neither my husband nor I knew anything about pregnancy and childbirth going into it, I often thought of her as more of a birth partner for both of us.

First, there’s the pregnancy doula.

She’s an incredibly sweet and caring individual. Our doula served as a fountain of practical wisdom for us during pregnancy, and boy, did we drink from that fountain often.

My husband and I met with our doula four or five times in the prenatal stage when we discussed all the things we could expect during pregnancy and the birthing experience.  She also gave us her phone number and instructed us to call or text any time we had questions or concerns between meetings.  That meant me texting her at least once a week with questions about what vitamins wouldn’t make me vomit or how much tuna fish pregnant women could eat and on and on.

Needless to say, she’s a very patient woman.

Unlike experienced friends or search engines, my doula wasn’t trying to scare me or make me impatient for delivery during the pregnancy stage. Instead, she encouraged an educated sense of calm and a peaceful sense of joy.  (Which was often a full-time job in itself.)

The early stages of having a doula justified hiring her because she got us through many days of anxiety and irrational concern.  Looking back, I should have baked her a cake or something.

Then came the birthing experience.

While a huge part of a doula’s job is coaching laboring mothers on that magical day (or days, in many cases), I was more thankful for the way in which our doula prepared us for what would actually happen.

It’s certainly important to be informed about what will happen at the hospital during and after birth. There are many ways to get this information, and my husband and I were well-versed in all of them. We participated in the whole gamut of birthing preparatory activities, dutifully attending all prenatal appointments, signing up for every birthing class that was offered, reading loads of books, talking to our parent-friends, and even downloading all of the pregnancy apps.

But the birthing information that our doula offered us was without a doubt the most helpful information we received the entire time we were preparing for the big day.

Our doula taught us about all of the important decisions we would need to make when it came to the birth and our new baby (who knew there were so many?).  She gave us the information we needed  and then encouraged us to take our time in thoughtfully considering each one.  Finally, on the big day, our doula knew what we wanted and then served as an advocate for those desires.  All of this was extremely important to us because, as it turned out, giving birth is a little distracting, and moms and dads can easily forget how they want things to go or what is important to them.  For us, working for what we wanted looked like creating a calming environment for our birth with dim lights and soft sounds.  Our doula was on top of those things, so we didn’t need to be.

Finally comes the postpartum doula.

She is gracious and dedicated.  After birth, we met with our doula several times to talk about my transition into motherhood and any questions or concerns that arose along the way.  That was great for me because I had what seemed like millions, but even for those more experienced mothers, doulas have their place.  They are often most helpful in their tendency to just be there for new mothers, listening to silly stories or poring over new baby photos.  I can even more confidently encourage my friends to hire doulas now because, well, I’m still in contact with my doula today!

It is because of all of this that I say, before you start crib-shopping, start shopping for a birth partner!  (Especially given how much my son hates his crib, I can definitely say that I made the right the choice.)