So for this post, I’m going to take you back to the basics. If you are reading this blog, chances are that you know that I am a doula but you may be asking, “ok great. now what the heck is that and what does a doula really do?” If you are indeed asking those questions, or even something similar, keep reading. If you’re not asking yourself those questions, keep reading, you just may learn something.
The work “doula” actually comes from the Greek word meaning “to serve”. Today, we use the word to describe (usually) a woman who is trained to serve another woman emotionally and physically during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. I am a labor doula meaning I am specifically trained to support a woman during childbirth. Part of that support involves education before the actual day as well as postpartum support.
So now you may be saying, “that sounds great but what does a doula really DO?” I can and will tell you what I do and I want to preface it by saying that every doula is different and every birth is different. What I do in one birth may or may not work in another birth for one reason or another so it’s important for all doulas to be versatile and to have a big “bag of trick”. A lot of my work as a doula is getting to know my clients, their thoughts and ideas about birth, their history and why they feel the way they do about certain things. Like I mentioned earlier, I do a good bit of education with my clients. Most, but not all of my clients have gone through my Hypnobabies class and even with that solid foundation, there is still a lot of information I share that is a little more specific to that couple and their needs. (sidenote- I’m using the term “couple” but by not means am I referring to just husband and wife. I love working with diverse couples and single moms too.) We do this education throughout a series of prenatal meetings. I like to have at least 2 meetings and more if time permits. In these meeting we really just get to know each other. I’m not there to tell that couple what they should and shouldn’t do but to educate them what they COULD do. I support the decisions made by that couple because after all, it’s their birth, not mine. We also talk about some of the things we may do in the birth, what that mom likes and what makes her feel good. I show her and her partner some things they can do before I get there and of course we talk about when they should call me.
After that, I’m on-call 2 weeks before mom’s guess date until the baby is born. That basically means that I’m available 24-7. I live, eat, breath and sleep with my phone and I’m always within a 1 hour driving distance. When we have all decided that it’s time for me to come, I like to meet the couple at their home so we can get into a good groove. I would love to tell you what I do from there but it is SO different from every birth! At one birth I may be supporting the birth partner and at the next, there may not be a birth partner. At this birth mom might really enjoy the birth ball and the the next, mom may absolutely love the rebozo. I like to incorporate energy work, aromatherapy, acupressure and massage and if that mom doesn’t like it, we move on. A doula does not preform medical tasks, they are there for physical and emotional support only. We find our rhythm until we decide that it’s time to move to the place of birth. Once we get there, we get back into that same rhythm or as close as we can get. From there, we keep doing what works until baby comes. I will stay as long as the couple needs me which usually ends up to be about 2-3 hours after the birth. When everyone gets settled and sleepy, I gracefully make my exit.
I stay available for the next week to 2 and in that time we do at least 1 postpartum meeting. This is one of my favorite times because I usually get to get me baby hugs and we (the birth team) get to process the birth. This can be such an empowering time for moms and partners and it’s so rewarding for me to see this new family ending one journey and starting on the next.
So now you know what I do but why do I do it? I do it because I love it but there are also so many benefits to having a doula, it’s almost crazy to not have one. Here are some of the statistics of having a doula at your birth:
-50% reduction in the cesarean rate
-25% shorter labor
-60% reduction in epidural requests
-40% reduction in oxytocin use
-30% reduction in analgesia use
-40% reduction in forceps deliver
All I can say is WOW!
So I now have you convinced that doulas are awesome but now, how do you find one? There are a few nationally certified organizations:DONA, CAPPA, and ALACE are a few of the bigger ones. This is a good place to start. Another good resource is your childbirth class. Your instructor should have a list of doulas that support your chosen method. (Don’t know which one to choose, we will cover that in another post.) I always recommend interviewing at least 3 different doulas and have no fear, most doulas do a free initial consultation. It’s a big decision and you want to make sure you choose someone you really mesh with and feel comfortable with. You can also talk to your friends to see if they have any recommendations. Just a quick note of caution, talk to your friend about their birth and see if that’s the kind of birth you want. If not, you may not want to go with their recommendation for an ob or doula… Just a thought. Once you have found a few, look at their credentials, ask them questions and then, go with your gut. Sometimes you just don’t need to know why, you just go with it.
I hope I’ve shed a bit of light on a new topic for you and if you have questions, please ASK!!! There is no such thing as a silly question.
Birth is a journey, not a destination.