So what is a Doula anyway?
According to Doulas of North America (DONA), a doula is someone who accompanies a woman in labor, helps by “mothering the mother”, and takes care of her emotional needs throughout childbirth. I believe that a doula has 5 main duties - Educator, Counselor, Advocate, Personal Assistant, and Birth Coach.
Because I am a certified Lamaze childbirth educator my process would begin with educating sessions. Even parents who are proactive with their childbirth education generally have no idea how many decisions they will have to make, nor the amount of research that will go into those decisions. Because of the myriad of decisions they will have to make, this is were we start. I then, direct them to the resources they will need in order to make those decisions for themselves.
I refer them to the proper classes, websites, books, movies, journal articles, and scientific research - everything from nutrition and exercise, to different kinds of labor and delivery methods, to which formula (if breastfeeding is not an option) or car seat to buy and the pros and cons of each vaccine.
Next, I'll help to fill in the blanks. I'll answer questions, and help my clients to develop their own particular birth plan. If it is a hospital birth, I'll teach them tricks to help get the doctors, nurses, and other medical staff on their side to increase their chances of having their dream birth.
The second major duty of a Doula View doula is that of Counselor. Based on the information obtained from my clients through their birth plan, I use my knowledge of the industry to refer them to the kinds of service providers that will be most appropriate for their style of birth and their style of parenting. Which hospital is most set up to handle your desires for your delivery? Which pediatrician will most likely see eye to eye with you on vaccines, circumcision, and other important medical care? I consult with my clients and help them with interview techniques so they will get exactly the care they expect.
In this role as Counselor, I also act as therapist to both mother and father. Bringing a child into the world can be one of the most beautiful and exciting experiences of your life, but it is also scary. Things are happening to your body that have never happened before, and each new experience brings more questions. “Is this normal? Am I doing something to hurt my baby? Is the baby okay? Is the pain my wife is experiencing normal, or is something wrong here?” It is my duty to talk you through these times.
This brings us to the role of Personal Assistant. During your pregnancy, it is my duty and pleasure to be there with you through any issues you may experience. Do you need someone to hold your hand at the doctor's office? Need a ride to an ultrasound appointment? Need me to meet you at the hospital at 3:00 am because you aren’t feeling the baby kicking? I am happy to be there to help calm you and make certain that your pregnancy is a positive one.
During early labor, I am there for both mom and dad for whatever they need. Whether it be fetching coffee, water, or ice, running to McDonald's for a burger, making phone calls or updating social media sites, I am there to help. I also help parents to limit the amount of time they need to be at the hospital by helping mom to labor at home in her own surroundings. I offer back rubs, conversations, card games, meditation and other techniques to help with the early stages, and know when it is the right time to head to the hospital (or call the midwife) for active labor.
At the hospital, many expectant parents are surprised to find how much of their labor is spent alone. The average labor & delivery nurse is dealing with 6-8 patients at a time, and spends their time running from room to room. From the minute you check in until you start pushing, you may only see your nurse for 5 or 10 minutes an hour, and the rest of the time you are left to labor on your own.
My clients do not have this jarring experience. Once a I arrive at the hospital, I put on my "Birth Coach" hat, and do not leave the mother’s side. I watch the monitors while the nurses are out of the room to ensure that everything is going well with the baby, and can run to get medical staff if anything seems out of the ordinary. I time contractions and help my clients to remember everything they learned about what is happening with mom’s body and the baby and how things are developing.
I am there to comfort my clients and help them to maintain their focus. I am there for dad, and helping him to remain calm so that he is able to be the strength that his partner needs during the stress of delivery, and I am there to intervene with extended family to ensure that the parents can focus on the important task of bringing their bundle of joy into the world.
During all of this, I am also responsible for what I consider to be my most important job duty, that of Advocate. It is my job to run interference between my clients and the hospital staff. I translate the medical jargon so everyone is on the same page about the progression. I help to stand up to the doctors and nurses and ensure that my clients have the birth that they mapped out, but just as important, I am there if things go wrong.
If circumstances change, it is critical for parents to have an experienced voice that they trust to let them know that the time has come to back down from their plan, because the health and safety of their baby is at risk. It is my most important duty to ensure that at the end of the day, a healthy baby is delivered, and that a healthy mother is there to greet it into the world.
At Doula View, being a doula means so much more than what Webster describes. While I agree that a doula “assists other women during labor and after birth,” if that’s all I did, I really wouldn’t be doing my job.