Doulas help pregnant mothers to have a positive birth experience. Read on to discover the knowledgeable and caring support you can get with a birthing doula by your side!
By Sara Shay of The Nutter Tree
I believe I have started this post for the fifth time now. I find my brain scattered with all the great things I can tell you about doulas! You can look here for what a doula is, and there are studies on how beneficial a doula is for having a successful birthing experience.
From the book Mothering The Mother, “Doula is a Greek word referring to an experienced woman who helps other women. The word has now come to mean a woman experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother before, during, and just after childbirth.”
Before, During and After Birth
Once you have found your doula she is available to you ALL the time. Because she doesn’t have multiple births to attend at the same time and only a handful of mothers at any given time in a year, you will receive much more attentive care. You will have personal care and thought, not just routine procedures.
In an email, text or phone call you can get those small, irritating questions answered–you know, the ones you forgot to ask at your last prenatal visit (or that one that only rarely comes up, but seems too small for an actual call into your doctor or midwife).
During labor your doula is always there. This allows your husband the peace of mind to be able to re-park the car, use the bathroom or take a quick nap–never leaving you on your own. Your doula can run out to get those things that may be taking the busy nurse a little too long to retrieve. She may also become the liaison between you and family stuck in the waiting room.
As a doula, I always stay a bit after baby has come, mostly to make sure baby and mom are getting a good start on breastfeeding. Just as before the birth, I can be reached for all those newborn baby questions that may come up! It’s also really nice to have a post-birth chat about how things went. We might talk about what you liked, didn’t like and all those precious moments that you may have been too tired or focused to remember.
Your doula should have a clear picture of the kind of birth you want to have. Whether it is an all-natural birth or perhaps with an intervention of some kind. Their role is to support your informed decisions. That being said, her personal views should not dictate your birth. Instead she may gently provide you with information if she feels you are ill-informed.
In addition, I hope she talks to you about the importance of breastfeeding and provides you with information in case you need some help after baby is born. There are also a handful of routine procedures, which the doctor rarely talks to you about beforehand. Many of these are not necessary depending on your situation. Your doula should be able to talk through these situations and help you make informed choices.
If a birth is going long or not going the way the doctors would like it to go, you have another brain in the room. Many times in the medical world quick and safe is the standard — instead of just safe. And many times the quick part can cause problems, even if it is deemed as safe.
After almost every exit of the doctor from room the parents have a little pow-wow. Then, we three have a discussion about which way we should go. Many times at this point mom is in that “I’m done” stage of pregnancy and dad is just wanting to do what is best.
Having an objective third party who has real experience and maybe a little more knowledge than the doctor is letting on is priceless. Another person to confirm you decision to go with the doctor’s recommendation or someone enabling you to say, “No, we would like to be able to wait it out a bit longer” can be so reassuring.
Dads can sometimes feel superfluous in the labor room. Having a doula there to help him focus on his wife and keep him calm is a huge part of the doula’s job. This enables him to be there emotionally for his wife — even if all that means is reminding him to hold his wife’s hand.
Seriously, I do not think there has been a birth yet where at some point I have not had to remind hubby to be a little more attentive. And often times the questions I receive from dads are, “Is this normal?” and “Should I be worried?” Giving facts, experience and information quells these fears and allows husbands to maintain the masculine role of secure provider which they so desperately want to fill at a time when everything is beyond their control.
That emotional support role is much different for the laboring mother. Oftentimes it is the reassuring words of, “You are doing a great job.” Or steady, calm eyes to look at during a contraction. Or simply the knowledge that she will not be left alone. And, if she is a Christian, being able to suggest a prayer when it is evidently needed.
“Attending a birth” or as I sometimes call it, doula-ing, is some hard physical work. Staying alert for a long labor and giving of your body to alleviate some pain from the mother are two big parts of being a doula.
Your doula will give you her hand to wrench, let her arm go numb while applying pressure for back labor, tirelessly massage where you need, continually keep a cold or hot cloth on your forehead, take your socks off, put your socks on, take your socks off, put your socks BACK on, hold you up when your legs no longer can, help you change positions when you are just out of energy, support your leg while counting you through pushing, or simply leave you alone while she uses encouraging words because even skin to skin makes you seize up.
She does all these things with a calming spirit, reassuring smile and forceful quiet nature.
From a first time mother on having a Christian doula, “Doctors and nurses are there to take care of your and the baby’s physical needs, but they are not gifted, trained, or have time to be there for your emotional needs. I was really grateful to have an advocate who was committed to being with us through the entire process and knew how to interface with the hospital staff. Also, having a Christian sister who could help me practically apply my faith — reminding me to look to God and seek His help and strength — in an unfamiliar, intense, and sometimes scary situation.”