I get asked a lot what I do. Many times the job of a doula gets confused with a midwife, but they are very different jobs. Some people may think of a doula and picture someone leading them into a pool of dolphins or blocking the door from doctors coming in to perform interventions. Neither is the truth.
A birth doula is a professional labor coach. As a birth coach I meet with my clients prior to their birth, get to know them and their wishes, and help them find evidence based information. I have the chance to spend hours with them before their birth so I know what they want, what they don't want, and how I can help them through the process.
In my many years as a doula, I have held the hands of laboring women as they experience the most profound pain and intense experience imaginable. I have seen the awe-struck look in their eyes as they feel their baby moving down and the amazing moment when new parents see their baby for the first time. I have wiped brows, moped throw-up, had blood, amniotic fluid, and more on me, and still serve the women who call upon me. I have squeezed hips to reduce sacral pain for 15 hour straight- yes- fifteen hours! I have been privileged to watch a dad as he discovers the best way for him to help his wife. I have helped explain to a woman why her new baby is being resuscitated. I have sat for hours with a woman whose baby did not make it. I have helped Dads not pass out or even throw up! In summary- I have been.
I have been able to just be in the room and find how I may support each new family in their journey. I am often asked in interviews what is my "thing" that I do for every birth. Simply put, I immerse myself in the experience, knowing that I can not guarantee an outcome, but do my best to give the best support. Sometimes that involves using the rebozo- an ancient tool to help women through labor. Sometimes differing positions, breathing techniques, aromatherapy, water immersion, or other techniques work.
What doulas don't do, is in any way act like the primary care giver. We do not do cervival exams, listen to baby's heartrate, administer medications, or operate any medical equipment. Although we are often said to advocate for women, we do not speak on their behalf. The job of the birth doula is to help make sure families have the information they need to make decisions for themselves. The doula may ask questions to make sure our client understands all their choices. In the end we support the decisions of our clients. No matter what the choices my clients make; whether medicated or natural, home birth or hospital birth, I will support their wishes.
The formal studies done on doula support is overwhelming in support of using doulas for every birth. In addition to that, the feedback from women who have had a supported birth from a doula tell the importance as well. The couples I have supported have felt that the support of a doula helped them feel closer during the birthing process. Dads have been able to focus on how they can best love on the laboring mom, while knowing a professional is always there to guide them through the process.
Think of a doula as a tour guide. Yes, you can go on vacation without a guide, and you may have an amazing time and see all kinds of things. If, on the other hand, you have a guide, you may see hidden places, find secret short cuts, and find amazing new adventures you never knew existed. People have babies every day without a doula. The doula can help show you those special ways to possibly shorten labor, feel more comfortable, and take the stress of being the only support off of the partner. This is turn can help the couple have a much better experience. The labor coach also acts as an interpreter, helping you understand the medical language and processes involved in birth.
A certified labor doula knows how to best help you decide when to go to your place of birth. She knows how to help with back labor. Your doula can help with understanding what is "normal" in birth, and what is outside the realm of average. The labor coach knows how best to get a hospital gown off quickly when a woman is hot, or where to get the emesis bags when she feels sick. A birth doula knows the signs of transition, when you may need to get in the shower for comfort, and the best way to keep washcloths cold for you.
Whether you are choosing to give birth in a hospital, in a birth center, or at home a doula can and will be an integral part of your birth. Come explore how you can grow closer to your partner while being fully supported for the birth of your baby.