And Baby Makes Four? Having a Doula for your Second Birth

I'm often in conversation with moms. On the playground, at the library, or at a music class, and when my status as a doula is mentioned, I get such a varied response on women's experiences with having a doula. Some swear that they couldn't have done without one, and will again for another labour, while others say they had one for the 'unknown' aspects of birth, but feel capable of going at it alone for any subsequent children. I'm impressed by the moms who are confident enough in themselves to fearlessly consider their next birth. Whether it's because they managed to have the birth they envisioned, or that there was no unnecessary intervention to change their opinion, having a strong sense of positivity surrounding your second (or third) birth can have a huge impact on your overall experience.

However, today I feel in the mood to champion the case of having a doula at your birth, even if it's not your first time having a baby. Relatives are found of telling families pregnant with their second child that this next baby will be the antithesis of the first one, that "no two children are ever the same." And we acknowledge the truth of their words most often. Parents whose first child was extra sensitive and often needing to be held find that their second child is strong-willed and independent. Those whose first babies were good natured and easy to soothe find that their second baby is the one that always needs another song, or an specific routine to calm them.

It turns out that, like children, no two births are ever the same. Women find early in their pregnancies that the symptoms of carrying a second child can be very different from their first, and that even the way they carry the baby feels new. And given the fact that a mom planning for a second baby most likely has a busy toddler in tow, it stands to reason that a doula's expertise may help lessen the load that a woman has to shoulder as she becomes a new(again) mother to a newborn.

As a doula, I see births regularly, and have yet to see two that were alike. Even if you feel like a seasoned pro by the time your due date with your second baby rolls around, consider how a doula can enhance your birth experience a second time around.

We can:

- provide prenatal support tailored to your needs, including breastfeeding children of different ages

- offer age-appropriate teaching tools for your toddler or child to welcome their new sibling

- network with other local birth professionals and resources you may need, including postpartum support or childcare

- focus entirely on your needs throughout your labour and birth

- assist your partner in supporting you through a new birth experience

- support early breastfeeding and bonding

- increase postpartum visits, and include childcare within the scope of postnatal support, giving you time to nurture yourself and your new baby

Parents are quick to point out the differences between having one child, and having two. Fewer photos, less one-on-one time, the harried schedule of a newborn and a child - it seems so easy to say that you've been there and done that. But I've also heard many moms say that they wish they had been offered more help the second time around. The excitement of having your first child is shared by your entire family and your circle of friends, neighbours, and coworkers. However, when you find yourself in the thick of new parenthood a second time around, often within three years of the first time, the lack of support can be a frustrating entry into the world of two (or more) children. Of course the excitement is still there; what isn't, sometimes, is the trays of home-cooked meals, and the offers to hold the baby while you shower and take a nap.

It's true - you have been there, and you've got the experience and all the baby gear to prove it. But investing in a doula for the birth of your next child is an easy way to steer this new direction of birth into a positive trend of parenting multiple children. The selfless attitude that has put your first child's needs before your own can sometimes make nurturing yourself seems like an indulgence. The simple truth is that moms who feel nurtured and taken care of themselves are often the best carers of their own children. When you've got a little one running around and another on the way, a doula can be a great way of meeting your unique needs and ensuring that your second birth and early postnatal weeks are calm and nurturing for your entire family.