Call the Doula
Ever heard of the 5-1-1 rule? It's to help you remember that you're in active labor when contractions that are 5 minutes apart (from the start of one to the start of the next one), lasting one minute long, and have been that way for an hour. Usually, it's a great guide for knowing when to head out to the hospital for a first-time mom. Or, a way to know if you're in "active" labor, the stage where you're actually dilating your cervix, and things get more serious.
Ok, now you know it, forget about it. The problem is, it doesn't always apply to women who have fast, or "precipitous" labors, or who have had a baby before (multiparous women). Things might go slower or faster than expected, as childbirth generally tends to throw the unexpected at you. If they're slower, you could still be in early labor. Even if you're definitely in active labor, it's still not a guarantee that you'll have the baby in the next X amount of hours, Some women can be in active labor for days, and still have normal births. On the other hand, some women have unexpectedly quick labors and can end up birthing on the way to their destination (it's not common, but yes, it happens.) Don't believe me?
But never fear! Your doula is here! So, when to call her?
Call your doula when you feel pain. Call your doula after a doctor's visit. Call your doula when something weird drops in the toilet.
As a doula, I want to be there at the first "should we call...?", and be on the phone, there to help my clients make those subtle decisions on things like "is this weird?" all the way to, "Is it time to go to the hospital yet?" or "should we call the midwife yet?" Most of the time, I can give you the go-ahead to go back to bed, or to chill and take a bath. Most of the time this will be the case, since prodromal labor can feel a lot like labor, but can also go on for weeks. And early labor can go on for a while too. It's important to keep in mind that for early labor, a nap or a bath is usually the prescription, as long as you're only uncomfortable, and not in serious distress yet (I know, I'm using really specific terms here). That's because if you flip on the lights, stop the flow of melatonin and oxytocin, and panic about packing your hospital bag, it can stop or slow any labor that might have been happening.
Or, I might be letting you know that it's time to take action. And if you're too frantic about packing that hospital bag (which, ya know, pack beforehand if you can), I can time contractions over the phone for you, and sometimes be able to tell if it's time to go just by listening. Better yet, you can tell me when you need me. Mother's intuition trumps my intuition, so if you suddenly feel like you need doula support, I'll be glad I was already in contact with you, getting my own bag packed.
So, just call your doula. Like, whenever things happen. Unless it's the middle of the night and it's not labor. #callthedoula #edbirth