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The Best of Both Worlds

Posted on January 25th, 2013 by | 1 views
Allie Sakowicz
Freelance Writer and DONA-trained birth doula
[email protected]

It's six o'clock on a rainy Thursday in June and I'm escorting a patient by wheelchair to the front entrance as part of my volunteer duties at the local hospital. As we roll down the newly mopped floors of the lobby, the soft music that usually plays is interrupted and replaced with several chords from “Rock-a-bye Baby,” which always plays when there is a baby born at our hospital. For most of the people that I work with, the short piece goes completely unnoticed and life moves on. But for me it brings a mixture of joy, sadness, and determination.

It all started when I was two. While most kids my age were learning how to talk or how to climb out of their crib, I was experimenting with stethoscopes and otoscopes. When I was nine, I decided I was interested in being an OB/GYN. I would wake up at 5:30am each weekday during middle school to sneak downstairs and watch birth shows on Discovery Health. Through viewing all of these episodes, I believed that medical intervention was completely necessary during all births. I thought that all of the drugs administered, c-sections preformed and constant monitoring were needed to have a good outcome. I also believed that anyone who chose not to give birth in a hospital was crazy. But I suppose there was one part of me, one tiny part, that wasn't convinced that this is what it took to have a healthy mom and baby. So I dug deeper.

My journey to becoming a doula began after I saw an episode of "Birth Day" where a family hired one to help them obtain their goal of a natural childbirth. Although I was fascinated with doulas, I felt that the goal was unattainable because of my age. I put the thought aside for many months, until I saw "The Business of Being Born." The movie, directed by Abby Epstein and produced by former talk show host Ricki Lake, looks at the controversy surrounding childbirth in the United States. It features footage of several homebirths (including Lake's, whose son enters the world in the bathtub of her Manhattan apartment). It also includes eye-opening statistics on the issues of having a baby in this country.

After seeing this incredible film, my opinions completely changed on birth. Instead of viewing it as "medical emergency," I realized that it was a natural process and although emergencies occur, it was not often enough to warrant the use of medical interventions that are routinely used nowadays under normal circumstances. Homebirth carries several risks, however, hospitals do as well. Why is it that we are so technologically advanced yet we have the second-worst infant mortality rate among all developed nations? And why have c-section rate risen 46% since 1996, according to the CDC? These are the questions that I wanted answered as I began my journey into becoming a birth doula.

I started working towards being a doula in the summer of 2008. The process to become DONA certified includes reading various books, writing an essay, attending classes and workshops and finally, supporting moms at their births and being evaluated. I have currently completed every step except attending births. It's not going to be easy to do at my age, but I'm determined to obtain my certification by the end of 2010.

I don't know where our obstetrics system will be twenty years down the road, but I do know exactly where I'll be: in the middle of a Labor & Delivery room, doing whatever it takes to usher a healthy baby into the world. I'm looking forward to learning from and working with the doula community as I progress with my DONA training so I can do everything I can to help make this birth natural.


Allie Sakowicz is a 15-year-old freelance writer from the Chicago area. She has had over 30 articles published in both regional and national magazines such as Odyssey Magazine, Scrubs Magazine and Chicago Parent. She is also a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps, and her assignments for them have included attending President Obama's Election Night and Super Tuesday parties, the premiere of "High School Musical 3" in Los Angeles, the Olympic Media Summit in Chicago and a rally for Sen. John McCain, among others. In addition to her writing, Allie is also a DONA-trained birth doula and is able to help women and specifically teenagers through their pregnancies providing physical and emotional support.

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