By Ms. Kristen Marquez (IMCOM)February 25, 2009
HEIDELBERG, Germany -- When Laura Moore realized her husband would be deployed during the birth of their second child, she was apprehensive, to say the least.
But Angela Torres, an Army spouse and birth doula in Heidelberg, was here to help.
Laura and her husband, 1st Lt. Adam Moore, a platoon leader in the 51st Transportation Battalion, arrived in Germany in May 2007, and then in July daughter Avelyn was born - two weeks after the arrival of their household goods. Adam deployed in June 2008 and has not yet met daughter Amelia, who was born three months after he left.
"We were really nervous knowing he'd be gone the whole first year of her life and everything, but we figured so many military families do it and make it work, so we would, too," Laura said.
A neighbor of Laura's knew Torres through Lamaze classes, and suggested Laura give her a call. Laura admits she had never really heard of a doula before, but called Torres to explore the possibility of not being completely alone for the pregnancy and birth.
"Once I met Angela and decided that she was going to be available, I can't tell you how relieved I was just to know that someone was going to be there," she said.
Though she had one daughter already, she knew that not having her husband here would make this birth a much different experience.
"I didn't honestly know quite how I would be with my husband gone, if I'd be more nervous and things like that, and I knew she knew all the better ways to relax and could really help my focus zero in," Laura said.
A birth doula provides information, comfort and simple reassurance before, during and after birth through physical and emotional support for the mother. A doula does not perform medical tasks, but rather stays by the mother's side and facilitates communication and comfort, as well as nurtures and protects the woman's memory of her birth experience.
"It can be a very complex relationship, but at the same time it's very natural," Torres said. "It's almost an instant friendship."
A doula will be available to the mother from the time they decide to work together until after the baby is born. Torres provides some home visits if needed, unlimited phone and e-mail contact for the mother, and two weeks before the baby's due date, goes on-call 24 hours a day.
Torres decided to become a birth doula after attending a prenatal yoga class while living in Bloomington, Ind. She and the class's instructor, also a doula, had such a great connection that she decided she wanted the woman at her son's upcoming birth.
"She was at my birth and she did wonderful things for me," she said.
Torres said it wasn't until she arrived in Germany and saw many pregnant women with deployed husbands that she decided maybe she should become a doula herself.
While Torres is available for women even if their husbands are here, she has a special place in her heart for women with deployed husbands. That's why she helps with a program called Operation Special Delivery, which pairs those women with doulas on a volunteer basis.
Laura admits that being alone was a scary thought for her, but knowing Torres would be available really helped ease her nerves.
"It takes a huge stress off your mind," she said. "I'm not familiar with medicine and doctors; I've only had one baby before this, and especially if you've had no babies. It's this completely overwhelming experience that's just huge and can be really daunting. So to know you have someone that will be by your side is just remarkable really."
Even though the deployed lieutenant at first didn't know what a doula was, once Laura explained it, she thinks it was a huge help for Adam.
"I know he was really comforted knowing someone would be with me," she said. "He was obviously nervous about not being able to be there, and so it really helped him knowing that Angela would be there."
Torres said as a doula, she simply does whatever is needed.
"That's kind of my role as a doula - you fill in where you're needed," she said. "During the labor, I can help her find positions that are good for her in the laboring process. The worst thing you can do is be on your back. That causes the most damage. It causes the most pain. You are working against gravity and not with gravity."
For Torres, there might not be a better way to spend a day than helping another woman deliver a healthy, beautiful baby.
"It's an honor for me for someone to say, 'will you please come to my birth,' and it's an honor for a woman to look at me after she's had her baby and say 'thank you,'" Torres said. "It is such a profoundly life-changing experience, and to help somebody at a time when they need that unconditional support, it means everything."
For more information on Operation Special Delivery, log on to www.operationspecialdelivery.com. The service is available all over the world for women with deployed or severely injured husbands as well as those who have lost family members in the war.
To contact Torres, log on to her Web site at www.beauchoix.com.
(Editor's Note: Kristen Marquez writes for the USAG Baden-Wuerttemberg newspaper, the Herald Post.)