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  • Shelley Viola

Heart of a Servant

I said to Julie, “I hope I can do this”. She replied, “we will take it one contraction at a time. We will breathe through each one together.” At that moment the pressures and fear of what lay ahead were gone. I knew then that I could do it, because she would be there with me. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Our story begins five years ago. After several rounds of testing and medications, a very experienced urologist at the Henry Ford Fertility clinic near Detroit Michigan delivered the devastating news. He turned to my husband and said “you will not any father children”. We were paralyzed by grief. After a move to Pennsylvania from Michigan, a friend introduced us to Functional Medicine. In January of 2020, we met with a Functional Medicine doctor certified by the Functional Medicine Institute, which is now part of the Cleveland Clinic. For six months we followed a very strict diet and supplement plan specifically designed for my husband. At the end of the six months, the FM doctor reviewed the results and informed us there had only been slight changes in my husband’s hormone levels.

However, God had other plans. At the end of June, I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. I was overcome with joy. We knew we wanted to have a natural birth but were fearful that because of my age we would be forced to use conventional medicine practices. Our chiropractor recommended the Labor Of Love Doula program and suggested that we give Julie Thompson a call. I had only heard the term, “Doula” once before and didn’t really understand what a Doula did or why we would need one. We didn’t feel we should birth at home, so why would we need a doula?

The word doula comes from a Greek word for female servant. After meeting with Julie, this is exactly how I would describe Julie’s heart. She has a heart of a servant. It also became clear that she would be our experienced helper and advocate to guide us through the pregnancy, labor and breastfeeding. Having a baby has been compared to running a marathon. When I first heard this, I was terrified thinking there is no way I can run a marathon. I would compare pregnancy and labor to a challenging very long hike. It’s filled with moments of exhaustion but also moments of exhilaration. Would you venture out alone on a nine month long hike without a guide? Certainly not without a map or without talking to some one who has experienced the trail. Having a doula is like having a your own personal pregnancy, labor and breastfeeding guide.

During labor and upon arriving at the hospital after the necessary testing and getting a room. Julie sprung to action. Her existing relationship with the staff and knowledge of the maternity area at Warren General was essential.

As each contraction came on, she was on my right side breathing with me. My husband was on my left side. Julie made sure that I didn’t stay in one position for too long. If she had not been there, I wouldn’t have moved. It took everything in me to not just lay on my back in pain.

Later in the delivery during the “pushing phase”, Julie was at my head. During each push, she slipped her arm under my head and helped me roll into the push. When I said “I need water,” she appeared with the straw for me to sip water. She changed the cold wash cloth on my neck when I said “I am so hot”. At one point I reached for my husband’s hand and realized he was holding my leg. So I reached up with my other hand and Julie took it. It was the comfort I needed at that moment. The entire team was so encouraging. Just when I thought, I am not sure how much more I can endure, I pushed and our baby girl was born. As they placed her on my chest and my husband said, “Shelley we have a baby.. it’s a girl”.

Statistically speaking everything about our baby’s conception and birth was not possible. From the doctor’s proclamation that my husband would never father children, to the doctors warnings about my age, to a gestational diabetes diagnosis, we continually saw the miracle of God’s hand upon us. I am 43 years old and delivered my first child completely naturally, even after being diagnosed gestational diabetes. We strongly believe that He used His servants to help us. I am completely in awe of His power, strength and love for us.

~Shelley Viola

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