Photo by Sally Brewer
Many mothers are discussing natural childbirth lately and I kept hearing the term “doula” being thrown around. I was wondering, what is a birth doula? When I was pregnant with my youngest child, I was suddenly faced with the prospect of giving birth alone. My children’s father had passed away when I was five months pregnant. While I have a wonderful relationship with my mom, I’m not one that’s incredibly comfortable having my body on display for the world to see, even during the miracle of childbirth. I’m cool with the doctor and a few nurses being in there. But that’s it.
But I was also incredibly intimidated by the idea of going through labor without someone there next to me. This was brand new territory and not an area that I was eager to explore solo.
I began researching my options. I first looked into having a midwife since I had one for my first two children and I was already comfortable with the idea. I spoke to a couple midwives in my area and was less than impressed. I was really disappointed because I had such great experiences with my midwife previously but she had moved six states away and was unavailable. Drats.
I can’t remember exactly how I first heard about doulas. But as soon as I started looking into them, I felt immediate relief. Here was my answer. I could use a doula.
For anyone who isn’t familiar with this world, let me explain what a doula is. They are trained professionals who provide support (emotionally, physically, and information-based) for mothers who are going through (or have recently gone through) childbirth. Doulas can work with mothers before, during and after the birth of their child and serve the mother in a number of ways.
Everyone’s experience with a doula is different. I read a lot of stories from couples that used doulas as an extra layer of support and realized that they aren’t just for people like me who are facing labor alone. Doulas understand the physical act of giving birth and while they won’t deliver your baby, they understand all the phases and know how to coach you through each one.
For me, my doula helped me in the following ways:
She talked with me on a regular basis and checked in to see how I was doing.
She walked through my home and educated me on various ways to walk, sit, rest and move that would all help labor go more smoothly.
She held my hand through labor. She coached my breathing and acted as a birth coach for me.
She was my advocate with the doctors and wonderful staff in the maternity ward. If I had a question, she made sure it got answered.
She was my messenger. She would update my family waiting in the lobby how I was doing and how things were going.
She was my protector. She helped me decide whom I should see, whom I shouldn’t see and how I should approach each situation.
She created a birth journal for my daughter and helped chronicle her entrance into the world.
She gave suggestions on how to handle the first couple days of being home with my daughter (which were spot-on for me and exactly what I needed).
She was there. In one of the toughest days ever, she was there.
There are all kinds of doulas available and many that offer postpartum services as well. To get started in learning about doulas, I recommend you check out the doula organization called Dona International. From there you can find out what you’re looking for and what you need then begin a search locally for a doula that you’re comfortable with.