“A doula is a non-medical person who assists a woman before, during, and/or after childbirth, as well as her spouse and/or family, by providing physical assistance and emotional support.”
Above is the Wikipedia definition of a doula. What does it mean? Let’s break it down….
Doulas do not do anything medical; therefore, I, as your doula, would not replace your Doctor, midwife or nurses. However, I am available to you throughout your pregnancy before you are in labor in the form of calls, texts and emails, if you have questions. For example, if you left your doctor’s appointment after hearing you were “at a one, thirty percent, and negative one,” and you were not sure about the specific meaning of those terms, I can help. I can answer your questions, if possible, or I will provide you with trusted research on the topic, or refer you back to your doctor if the topic is beyond my scope of practice. If you feel like you might be in early labor, or if you are unsure, you should call me. If you have discharge that you are unsure about, or contractions that are questionable, you could call me and talk it out. As your doula, I may be able to reassure you, or I may refer you to your care provider. If it sounds like labor is on the horizon, I will start getting ready. I will call my sitters to let them know that I may need them soon. I will make sure my car is loaded up with my doula bag and a fully inflated birth ball, as well as my other supplies. All of these items are ready so that I can grab them and be out the door. Not to make it sound like an emergency, but my goal is always to get to you as quickly as I can once you call and tell me you need my assistance. I can come to your house in early labor and work with you and your partner there and then follow you and your partner to the hospital when you are ready, or simply meet you at the hospital.
As a doula, I am educated in labor, childbirth and much more.
Reading is a new doula’s first order of business. I spend a good chunk of my time reading, reading, reading, and reading! Doulas read so many books while just starting out and this serves three purposes. The first is to educate us. The second is to help us decide if birth work is our calling. Lastly, the reading helps us find out if we can function being on call for birth, being self-employed, and devoting ourselves to serving women and their partners in one of their most intimate times.
My reading list is substantial. The list includes topics on your body, giving birth, baby positions in utero and how they affect delivery, labor positions, how labor affects the baby, hormones involved in labor, breastfeeding, bottle feeding, and so much more. I am also knowledgeable on how each intervention in labor affects the process of labor. I learn birth positioning and comfort measures, how to support an unmedicated mom or a mom with a full epidural, and everything in between. I have studied Cesarean birth and I can support families through a Cesarean, either planned or emergency. I have knowledge of acupressure comfort measures, and relaxation techniques, I have many skills and life experiences that contribute to my role as a doula. If you are interested in any other specific topics having to do with pregnancy, labor, and birth, please feel free to ask.
A doula gives support at a very crucial time.
Having the proper support in labor is crucial. When a woman I have been helping for hours tells me that she could not have achieved her goal of an unmedicated birth without me by her side, it reminds me of my first unmedicated labor and delivery. I could not have done it without the proper support as well. No matter what birth goals you have in mind, no matter your circumstances, having the proper support from all of your birth team is key.
What does it look like to have a doula?
As a doula, I meet with the mother and her partner, if possible, a few times while she is pregnant. The initial consultation is usually free. Its purpose is to get to know each other. I want to hear about her pregnancy and their combined goals for delivery. I will tell them about my services and if we all vibe well, I will offer and explain a contract and my fees for their birth. We can work out payment plans, if need be, but I do require an initial deposit, usually $100.00, and a signed contract before a client is fully booked and their date can be reserved in my calendar. After the first consultation, there will be the prenatal visits. We meet twice, if possible, which includes the first to help you get your birth preferences in mind and the second to talk about labor and delivery. If you are a first time mom, the visits look a little different from moms who have delivered before. If you have been pregnant before, I will ask to hear about your previous pregnancy as well as the current pregnancy. I want to know what your previous delivery entailed, including what you want to keep the same as last time or what you would like to do differently. My goal is to help you to have your birth, your way. For example, if you tell me you really want a water birth but your hospital only allows you to labor in the water and get out for the delivery, we can discuss that and we can look at different hospitals or talk about adjusting your preferences. If water was your way of delivering easier last time, you could try to deliver while squatting in the bed, rather than laying back.
My job in the birth room would then be to work with the nurses and your partner to help you out of the tub, onto the bed and ask if you still want the squat bar for pushing. I would also help you get into position, if that still is the case. In short, I take your preferences and do my best to help you apply those preferences to your birth experience so you can focus on having a calm peaceful birth. I don't leave your side except for bathroom breaks, I don't work in shifts or clock out after a number of hours, this is extremely helpful as the nurses will rotate shifts and even the most through of nurses cannot detail every aspect of your labor thus far to the incoming nurses I serve to bridge that gap. All the nurses I have encountered are incredibly grateful when I come to them with information about my client’s wishes they might not have been told before. They want you to have your birth your way too and its easier for them if someone is available to act as the go-between. I am also another set of hands in the room to help them, which means instead of taking 2 nurses off the floor to help change your position if you've had an epidural I can act as that second person freeing other nurses to help someone else.
That dynamic serves well when its time to deliver too. The nurse can help serve the doctor or midwife, they relay information you and I have told them about your wishes to the care provider and your partner and I serve you. The nurse doesn't have to remember to do both in what can be a hectic time. Nurses have an enormous job, many tasks to complete over their shift and other patients to support. In my experience, the nurses I have worked with are able to relax and focus on their job, when they are confident moms emotional and non-medical physical needs are being met in the room.
Helping women through their journey of bringing life into this world is my dream job. I have such a passion for birth and a passion for women to realize just how amazing their bodies are by helping them experience just how wonderful birth can be! Painful, scary, and dramatic are terms people use to describe birth. The truth is that giving birth under the proper circumstances, when you are close with your partner and with a care team that respects you, is one of the most wonderful experiences on the planet. I wish more women knew that. It is my mission to help as many women as I can realize just how wonderful they and their bodies are.
(*Doulas are a wonderful help to your partner as well. Look for that as a topic on a future blog post!)