As a military wife, Lynsey Haynes didn't think much of the time she helped a fellow "military mama" through childbirth. Afterward, she recalls, "the nurses came around [and] they said, ‘Oh my gosh, you were so amazing. Were you her doula?’ And I was like what is a doula?”
It was then that Haynes made the decision to finally get certified and start guiding mothers through the ins and outs of pregnancy as a professional doula. But her focus wasn’t on just any mother. Coming from a military family herself — her grandfather served in the marines for 30 years and her husband is currently active duty — Haynes found it best fit that she help the mothers who need extra support: those who may not have the opportunity to be with their partners when that joyous day comes.
“My family comes from a line of traditional midwives, so before I even knew what a doula was I was pretty much already one,” Haynes tells Romper via phone from a hospital on the west coast right after helping a mother give birth.
“It’s hard [for military wives] because you have to start over all the time and kind of reestablish a home base and a support base and familiarizing yourself with the different hospitals and their rules. It just really poses special challenges that, pretty much, not many other people understand unless you're military. [You’re] trying to find and understand the doctors and it’s different at each hospital and there are different rules and policies and procedures. Recreating a job everywhere I go every couple of years is hard.”
The reason why I think it’s so important to have a good support system particularly for military families is because oxytocin is the key to having a baby and if you don’t feel safe, if you don’t feel loved and protected, your labor will literally slow down and/or stop.
Before evening taking pregnancy into account, the life of a military wife is far from an easy one. Readjusting to a new home life is challenging enough, but the stress of expecting a child, perhaps even your firstborn, can be tremendously overwhelming.
“You have a higher level of stress and a higher level of things you need to take into consideration.”
Because of this, as she explains in her episode in season 2 of Romper's The Doula Diaries, Haynes believes that military wives need an extra strong support system during pregnancy and labor provided by doulas like her.
“The reason why I think it’s so important to have a good support system particularly for military families is because oxytocin is the key to having a baby and if you don’t feel safe, if you don’t feel loved and protected, your labor will literally slow down and/or stop because it is our instinct to try and [do this] in safe environment. So if don’t know anyone, if you don’t have a support, then it's even more important to have someone who is consistent who you can trust.”
Oxytocin, also known as the “hormone of love,” stimulates contractions during labor, increasing them as the baby gets closer to being delivered. But under stressful situations in which the mother is uncomfortable or feels unsafe, oxytocin levels can decrease, prolonging labor and thus increasing hours of pain, as noted in a 2003 Journal of Perinatal Education paper on the stress response during labor. This is precisely why it’s vital that military wives, especially those who are separated from their partners, develop a tight-knit relationship with doulas like Haynes. Although hospital personnel are present and willing to assist at a moment’s notice, they’re unable to fill the place of a doula.
“When you labor for 12 hours or more, [the nurses and hospital staff] are changing every shift, so you can’t really develop a relationship as well as when you have a doula, someone who can support you during the pregnancy, during the birth and afterward as well,” Haynes said.
At the same time, in addition to the support and understanding provided, doulas like Haynes who specialize in helping military wives know the special resources that are sometimes available to them and can recommend those to their clients.
“For example, one of my family members, her husband was gone and deployed, and I was saying, ‘Oh, you can contact this place and they should be able to fly him in. And this place will fly you in for free if you say this.’ So he was able to come for the birth of his baby.”
Overall, without doulas like Haynes, military wives can feel burdened with the anxiety of going through childbirth alone. But thankfully, by building up this sturdy support system, their pregnancy journey is far less stressful and much more full of bliss.
“Being a military wife myself, I know how much more support that we need, and so I’m able to give back to those who normally wouldn’t be able to have that support. It’s always so rewarding.”
Watch Doula Diaries, Episode 1 below, and visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for the next three episodes, launching every Monday starting November 26.