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the newbie: Do I Want a Doula?

I’m grateful to you guys for the words of belly love on my last post, “Does this pregnancy make me look fat?” Your comments definitely made me feel less alone, and they also helped me focus on the two “H” words that kept coming up “happy and healthy”—thanks for the perspective.

This week, I’m attending the final class in the six-week birth class I’m taking, and I have something to admit: I’m terrified of giving birth. I guess that’s a normal feeling, but after hearing from my midwife this week (week 35!) that “the baby’s head has dropped,” I’ve started thinking about my uterus being “locked and loaded” for delivery. Ack!

I’m delivering in a hospital, but I’m considering having a doula by my side, because I’m the type of person who’ll want to know what’s going on minute-to-minute, and because I want someone who’s seen the birth process a LOT to reassure me that what I’m going through is normal. But I worry about stepping on the nurses’ toes, or feeling like I just want it to be me and my husband in the delivery room because, you know, having a baby is kind of a private thing.

I’m also not going by a strict “birth plan” or anything especially specific, and I’m definitely planning on going with the flow in terms of an epidural (my guess is that I’ll want one). So I don’t need the doula as a natural childbirth coach, necessarily, but I just think I might feel more comfortable with an expert by my side (in addition to my husband, whom I’m sure will be super supportive and who has promised not to bring his iPad).

But on the issue of “needing” a doula, I’m torn. So I wonder:

Does anyone have an experience—positive or negative—with a doula or birth coach that they’d like to share? Is it an unnecessary expense, or a helpful and reassuring part of the first-baby process?