Updated: Apr 16, 2020
The role of a doula has been around in our civilization for centuries. I could go on and on about the origins of where a doula has come from but you have Google for that. What you really need to know is what is a Doula today, in our time and society? How does a
doula impact our birth stories? Will a doula truly make a major difference in my birth?
The Modern Doula
I have been a birth doula for going on about 2 years now. With over 70 births under my belt I have seen a lot, experienced more than I thought possible and gained a deeper understanding of a doula’s role in the birth world. “Doula” comes from a Greek origin meaning woman servant or slave. I don’t think my fellow doula sisters would identify well as a slave to their clients but we can come to agree that we serve our clients with our whole hearts.
Doula’s can be formally trained/certified or not. That decision is theirs. Experience and constant research is a part of the job and forms the doula through time. Our job is ever evolving as the information and understanding is forever changing. We may not be medical professionals but we take pride in our ability to keep up with the birth world’s growth and approach to women’s health and childbirth. I would even argue that we doulas sometimes do as much studying and research as a nurse or midwife at times in efforts to help not only our clients but ourselves understand each and every case scenario. Birth is unpredictable and ever changing. We have no way of controlling it or predicting it and that is the opposite of what western medicine is all about… In my opinion.
Nature has a beautiful way of testing our patience and resilience. That’s how we grow to understand it. Doula’s today work tirelessly to prepare the expecting parents for this incredible journey. Physically, emotionally and educationally. There are many different kinds of approaches to birth and how to prepare for it. Often I am asked by clients or others if doula’s only work with clients who intend on *insert birth method here*. The answer is simple. Doula’s are not supporting any specific method of birth or approach rather we are supporting the family making the decisions. Whether the family decides to birth at home, birth center, or hospital (or out in a field somewhere!) we are there beside them.
What Do Doula's Do
I have had the pleasure of meeting many different doula’s this last year. Doula work is as diverse as the cultures we live alongside. It really boils down to the kind of birth you want to have, the approach you want to take and the methods in which you want to utilize to get there. Pick your method or approach and there is a doula out there to match.
We can do many things to help you along this journey. The main things always listed are continuous emotional support, research/education, physical support, comfort measures and advocacy during labor.
However, what does it all mean?
Emotional support is dependent on the clients needs. How do they communicate and what do they respond to? What kind of language is preferred? Religious beliefs, lifestyle, and/or boundaries are all vital. In the early days of our relationship we do our best to get to know you. We meet with you a number of times before the estimated due dates to better understand who you are and what you need from us. We openly talk about your fears, concerns, desires and goals for this experience and offer as much support and knowledge we can to enhance your birth vision. Then, based off what we learn about you and your needs, we can better understand the kind of comfort measures you will most benefit from as well as do extra research for you if needed and accommodate your wishes for the remainder of our journey together. We don't replace partners but become a team, working together for a common goal.
Utilizing comfort measures has also proven to drastically improve birth outcomes. Comfort measures could mean a lot of different things such as, aromatherapy, massage, counter pressure, hot/cold therapy, meditation, breathing coaching, visualization, exercises and stretches, acupuncture (if doula is trained) and more..
When I hear clients talking about an advocate and how they see their advocate working them, I sometimes imagine a body guard looking intimidating with arms crossed, ready to knock anyone out that would dare alter birth wishes… LOL!
Let’s make things super clear hear, as doula’s we will not and should not ever speak FOR you, but we can give you the confidence and knowledge to become one hell of an advocate for yourself. Our presence next to you as you are going through labor will (and studies show this) give you comfort and confidence knowing you have someone in your corner support YOU and nothing or no one else.
Why Should You Hire A Doula?
I have given birth 3 times. All hospital births. 2 Water Births and 1 Traditional Bed birth. All 3 without pain medication but with Pitocin. Before becoming a doula, I was pretty happy with my birth stories and though everything had gone well. In retrospect they did!... under the circumstances. But after gaining all the knowledge I have now, I now know I could have had WAY MORE options for my births. I can’t help but think “would if” I would have known MORE about my options? I would have 1000% given birth with a doula at a birth center, no doubt about it. But I didn’t know and NO ONE at my clinic was going to tell me! A doula would have. So. Reason #1, there ya go!
It is also an unfortunate fact that we just don’t have the cherished support that expecting families used to have before modern medicine, and partners are often left feeling completely out of their element. The common story I hear is, “I’m just not very close with my family”, “My parents live out of state”, “My mother causes me anxiety, I don’t want her there”, "I don't know how to support my wife during labor", " I don't know how I will handle seeing her go through this." “ I just feel like my family won’t support my/our birth wishes and make me/us feel uncomfortable” … These are just a few that I hear ALL THE TIME. We are of a time that there have been so many different experiences with birth among the many generations of our families that we couldn’t possibly understand or agree with each other’s choices. As your doula, we are your sister, your friend, your companion through it all. From beginning to end, we are the familiar face among the constant change of nurses and OB's or Midwives on call. We become part of your family, even if it is just for a phase of time.