When describing what a doula is, I frequently hear others say that doulas “mother the mother”. While I really like that description, it does not fully resonate with me. (Let’s just say my mother and I had a complicated relationship!) So, for those like me who are carrying mama-baggage (or if that relationship was absent), I’d like to offer slightly different vocabulary. Try thinking of a doula as one who gives thoughtful care and kind attention to the laboring woman…a doula is someone who “nurtures the mother”.
What benefits are there to being nurtured in labor?
Rachael and Jill have provided some insight here and here as to what that might entail on a physical level. This can involve a wide range of duties from helping the mother stay nourished via food and water to helping her to the bathroom to applying heat or counterpressure during contractions to fanning her while she pushes. We will do-ula just about whatever it takes to maximize the woman’s physical comfort levels in labor! (Little doula humor there!)
“The things that she did that stand out are give me a hair tie when mine broke, she brought me a nutritional shake, and she also made sure I got to eat right after he was born.”**
“She was there with a trash can when I lost my dinner and coolly told us it was normal and a good sign.”
“She applied counterpressure to my sacrum the ENTIRE time I pushed…it was a much-appreciated alleviation to all the pressure I was feeling!”
Women who hire doulas report increased levels of emotional satisfaction in their childbirth experience. Doulas do not come into births with their own agendas (or at least, they shouldn’t!). Our agenda is YOUR agenda. We are here to encourage YOU in making the choices that feel best for your unique family. We are here to build YOU up, so you feel strengthened in facing the important (and sometimes difficult) work ahead of you. We are here to assist YOU in having a birth experience that you can reflect back on with peace. Isn’t it comforting to know there is someone whose sole concern is YOU?
“She helped me emotionally unpack my first birth (when preparing for my second).”
“My first birth was an emergency section and I had no idea what was going on. It would have been less terrifying with someone there who knew what was going on and could focus on me.”
“She was beyond supportive and helped me feel like I had somebody on my side.”
The Biggest Benefit = Continuous Labor Support
Many women mistakenly believe their healthcare provider or nurse will be with them throughout most of their labor. While I have witnessed nurses on a slower night being able to stay with one laboring woman for a good chunk of her labor, unfortunately, it is just not realistic for a hospital setting. On most nights, the nurses have multiple patients to keep track of and attend to. Nurses are AMAZING and WONDERFUL and BRILLIANT people! But, they are just that…people with human limitations. We cannot ask impossible physical feats of them, like bilocation amongst patient rooms.
If you’d like to enjoy the perks of having someone with you every step of the way, a doula is your best bet! As a loyal companion, your doula is charged with the privilege of walking alongside you for the duration of your pregnancy and childbirth journey. For some of the trek, she might provide a listening ear or a hand to hold. At other points in the adventure, she might physically hold you up as you wonder whether you will crack under the strain this particular contraction. Still more, she may simply remind you of just how stunning you are as you ride out one more wave of labor contractions.
As your doula, we will not shy away from the mountain peaks you might encounter in your birth. We cannot scale them for you, but we are here to cheer you on EVERY step of the way. A steady friend, a trustworthy confidante, a warm ally — we are here for you throughout the entire process.
“I thought it was great just to have someone I KNEW I could trust in that vulnerable space of birthing…having that consistent, trustworthy presence was probably the #1 for me.”
“I knew no one could do it for me….it was MY work to be done. But, it was like having a cheerleader meshed with a loving friend to keep me company along the way.”
Doulas as Part of a Birth Team
So, who WILL be with you then throughout your labor process? Perhaps a partner, or a family member, or even a close friend. It is good and beautiful and awesome to be surrounded by people who love you in the challenging moments of life! However, expecting loved ones to also wear a doula hat is not fair to them or you.
“Can’t my partner be my doula?”
In American birthing history, you can see how the pendulum has swung from one extreme to another. A few generations ago, fathers were expected to stay out of the “women’s work” and wait until he was informed that his son or daughter had arrived. Picture the black and white videos of a well-dressed man in a suit, pacing the lobby floor while smoking a cigarette. Nowadays? Well folks, we have swung clear the other direction. Too often, partners are expected to DO ALL THE THINGS for the laboring woman, simultaneously anticipating her every need and being armed with an array of knowledge of how to help her in every moment. What a heavy burden and unfair expectation!
Can your partner support you? Absolutely! Can your partner be your doula? That is a lot to ask of someone who is also getting ready to welcome a new life into the world and transition into parenthood. One big benefit of a doula is having a trained, compassionate professional working in tandem with your partner (who knows you intimately) to best meet your birthing needs. Linked by the common purpose of nurturing YOU, doulas and partners compliment one another beautifully in the process.
“…everything she said to me was gold. It was empowering and allowed my husband the luxury of being a part of the birth of his son! There is also something encouraging about having a woman there that understands the work you’re doing.”
“Can’t my mother/sister/best friend be my doula?”
The answer to this question is similar to the previous one. Can a family member or loved one support you? Without a doubt! Can that same person act as your doula? Again, that is a tall order to give someone who is emotionally invested in YOU, your health and your happiness to an incomparable degree. If a tense situation arises in labor, a doula does not have the same attachment to you that your family and loved ones do. Thus, we are less likely to feel rattled, defensive, threatened or scared; we are more likely to assist in constructive ways with a clear head. We are there to help your entire birth team navigate circumstances as they arise and support you without our own emotions getting in the way.
So, it seems the real question now is…why NOT hire a doula?
**All quotes in this post were taken from local Chambana moms when asked about their birthing experiences with a doula.
by Shannon Morber