Ms. Ervin dimmed the lights, walked Ms. Cooper around the hospital three times, then had her bouncing on a birthing ball and inhaling peppermint essential oil fragrances from a towel.
When Ms. Cooper was five centimeters dilated, her mother prayed for the baby via FaceTime, as requested. Ms. Cooper held on as long as she could before shouting the code word she and Ms. Ervin had come up with, “cookies,” to ask for an epidural.
Then it came time to push. Ms. Ervin was rubbing the back of Dushawn Blakely, Ms. Cooper’s partner and the father of her children, while holding Ms. Cooper’s leg. A baby girl, Denim, was born on Oct. 10 at 9:49 p.m., weighing 7 pounds, to the soundtrack of Ms. Cooper’s favorite gospel song, Kirk Franklin’s “Melodies From Heaven,” just as planned.
A close call with pre-eclampsia
Since the doula program started in St. Louis, the women have helped expectant mothers through more than 50 births. The program so far reports that 88 percent of the births have been without complications, 56 percent of mothers participated in two prenatal doula visits, and 88 percent of them began breastfeeding. All reported reduced stress.
At least one credits the doula program with saving her life.
Kodi Washington, 30, experienced intense swelling in her feet after the birth of her second child last March. The doctors told her that it was normal and should subside in 10 days, and that she should drink water, elevate her feet, and avoid fried food. When it hurt for her to stand up, she sent a picture to her doula, Ms. Givens, who was alarmed and urged her to go to the hospital.
Ms. Givens’s fears were confirmed. Ms. Washington was admitted with postpartum pre-eclampsia and dangerously high blood pressure and spent three days in treatment.