Thursday, January 8, 2015

What's a Doula?

My older daughter is a doula.  

...What's a doula?

My mother, who is very supportive of the work that I do, tells me that when she tells other people I'm a doula she's often met with confusion.  People think I'm some sort of midwife or they have no idea what she's even saying because it's a term they've never heard before.  I've certainly encountered the same confusion.  Although the role that doulas fulfill is in some ways as ancient as birth itself, the modern role of a professional doula is relatively new.  A birth doula is a trained and experienced support person offering women continuous physical, emotional, and informational support before, during, and immediately following childbirth.

Simplified, as a doula I am a personal guide on your birthing journey.  I use my knowledge and expertise to help you achieve the birth experience that you desire.  It may sound simple, but the support I provide as a doula is invaluable.  Mothers who have doula support tend to have shorter labors, fewer complications, increased success with breastfeeding, and a smoother transition into motherhood.  Most importantly, they are more likely to feel satisfied with their birth experience overall.

So, what exactly is this support that I provide?  What do I actually DO?

I meet with you prenatally to discuss your options and help you decide what your preferences are.  I talk you through the labor and birth process so you know what to expect.  I demonstrate ways you can help to facilitate the labor process and remain as comfortable as possible.  I help you formulate questions for your care provider, prepare for breastfeeding, point you toward quality resources, and talk you through fears you may have.  I want you to enter your birthing time feeling knowledgeable and confident!

I provide hands on support throughout the birth process.  I join you at your home when you don't feel ready to go to the hospital, yet need an extra set of hands with fresh perspective.  I place a comforting hand on your shoulder, breathe with you through contractions, and remind you that you're doing awesome!  We transition to the hospital together; I'm a familiar face in unfamiliar surroundings helping you and your partner settle in to this new environment.

I hand you your cup before you realize you're thirsty, get you a cool washcloth, and suggest another trip to the bathroom because an hour has already passed without your realizing it.  When your partner looks uncertain I remind them of how great they're doing, suggest that they slow dance with you or rub your back or get you another cup of ice.  I offer all sorts of fun positions for you to try, brush your hair out of your eyes, remind you to stay in the moment, and squeeze your hips because it feels so much better.  I encourage you to vocalize through contractions and then I remind you that you're almost there!

When it's time, I remind you of all the strength you possess, and remind your partner to tell you out loud just how amazing you are in this moment because they're already silently thinking it.  I reassure you that those shakes are normal and fan you because you're suddenly so hot!  Your partner and I work together to encourage you as you bring your baby into this world.  I snap a few pictures with your camera while you and your partner marvel at your new little baby.  Then, I help you navigate that first nursing session.

We meet postpartum to review your birth, because it's nice to talk about it with someone knowledgeable who was there every step of the way.  Then I answer questions: any tips for getting baby to sleep at night?  How do I use this Moby wrap?  I'm thirsty all the time, how do I remember to drink more water?  And, if I'm lucky, I get a few baby snuggles.

As a doula I walk with you on your path to birth.  I am there to be an experienced supporter, a quality resource, and an unending source of comfort.  I bear witness, facilitate communication, and do what I can to make everyone's day just a little bit better.  It's amazing and humbling to be invited in to another's birth experience and it's incredible to be able to have a positive impact on such an important journey.

I'm honored to call myself a doula.

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