I remember the first time I needed to call a postpartum doula for a birth doula family I was working with. The new parent was a single mother and overwhelmed by a 2-3 day old baby who seemed to just want to cry. The mother's breasts were hot and engorged, making it difficult for her hungry screaming baby to latch on. Tears streamed down her face and she looked at me helplessly. I gave her a forced smile, picked up her wailing baby and lead her into her bathroom to draw a warm bath. As she soaked I soothed her baby and quickly text a postpartum doula and lactation consultant I worked with. She arrived just as I was helping the mother dry off. I watched as the postpartum doula expertly helped the mother express some breast milk to spoon feed the baby and got to work helping the new mother.
When I came for my second prenatal a few days later my client was a new person. She was confident, happy and nursing, though still difficultly. She'd already attended her first Le Leche League meeting and planned to go back. Her transformation was astounding and it was in that moment that I realized that my job as a birth doula was only one part of the journey. A Postpartum Doula is a necessary ally for all pregnant people and new parents in the 4th Trimester, the time after baby is born.
I never wanted to have that "holy shit, now what?!" moment again and decided to train at the Simkin Center at Bastyr University as a Postpartum Doula to help bridge the gap between pregnancy and parenthood.
Now that my training is complete and I'm working towards certification I want to empower all new parents to seek the care of a postpartum doula.
Your postpartum doula is not a nanny or babysitter, your postpartum doula is an extra set of helping hands for the entire family. The role of a postpartum doula is to help new parents navigate the transition from being pregnant to becoming parents to a new baby. A postpartum doula helps to reassure new parents in their decisions around feeding and sleep. A postpartum doula helps new parents understand their new baby better by teaching them how to speak to a tiny human that speaks a different language than the parent. A postpartum doula helps keep new parents organized and provides support with light household tasks like meal making and grocery shopping. A postpartum doula has your best interests in mind; making sure new parents are staying hydrated, eating, sleeping and is watchful for signs of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. A postpartum doula's role is to help new parents get their sea legs and to eventually leave when new parents are feeling more confident in their new role as parents.
I will be starting to take postpartum doula clients in September and would love to talk to you about ways in which I can support your new family.
Hello, everyone! I'd like to start this blog post with a commitment to do more blogging here. I've been working through the Shining Life Workbooks in the hopes of better dreaming and planning for a shift away from full-time nanny work to full time birth work and through the process have decided that I need to be 100% focused on content in this space. If you've been reading all along, thank you! If this is the first time you're reading this blog, welcome and I hope you find some content that you enjoy and find to be helpful. And now, on to the blog.
Q. When is the right time to hire a birth doula?
A. Right now!
In my opinion, it doesn't matter if you've just found out you're having a baby or if you're in your 38th week and have decided that, "Yes! OKAY! I do want another support person by my side at my birth!" Whenever you make that decision is the best time. There are definitely some benefits to hiring a birth doula early on in your pregnancy; you can take your time to find the right doula for you and your family, you can take time to craft a birth vision and be thoroughly educated on what to expect during pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum, and it allows you and your family to be completely comfortable with a person (your doula) who will be by your side at one of the most important days of your life.
On the other hand, a good doula is perfectly capable of providing you with consistent care and support if hired a week before or even the day of your birth. In fact, many hospitals are starting to hire doulas as staff and a lot of the time people may not have been introduced to the doula until the day of your birth.
If you have the time, I would add hiring a doula to your baby prep list. Just as you pencil in provider appointments, time to shop for your new wee human, etc.
If you live in the Seattle Metro area and are looking to hire a doula, I currently have availability for late May, June, and August births! Please call or email
It always feels great to get reviewed on my Birth Doula services! In the last month I've received two new reviews! You can check them out over on DoulaMatch or read them below!
I have openings for June and July Births so be sure to send me an email to schedule your consultation!
"Erika is one of those most competent, kind, emphatic and capable doulas I have ever met. She transformed every fear and anxiety we had into a reassuring, comforting thought to take with us into the birth. She visited with us in our home a couple times before the actual birth and always brought books, visuals and great stories. At the actual birth, she was unflappable and focused the entire time. I have no idea how but she never seemed to get tired or stressed! She was a great support for BOTH of us too - for my wife who was birthing our child and to myself as the birth partner. She was right there with us reminding us to drink water, eat a snack or take a break to breath. And she happily took photos at our request after our daughter was born. There is no one quite like Erika - her humor, her warmth, her energy are unlike any other doula out there. My wife and I both would recommend her without any reservations."
"Erika made me feel so supported and confident about my labor and birth. The birth plan she helped my partner and I craft, as well as discussions about what happens if things don't go according to plan, helped us make decisions easily during labor.
I would definitely hire her again and would recommend her services to anyone looking for an amazing birthing experience with a caring and competent doula."
The following snippet comes from a January 12th article about doulas from the Seattle Times. While I find some aspects of the piece problematic, particularly the assumption that doulas are women and that only women give birth, it does a great job at shedding a bit of light on the racial and ethnic disparities faced by people of color and the babies of those people.
"A week into my son’s life, he wouldn’t stop crying. I can still see his scarlet face and hear the alarm in his voice. Exhausted and new to motherhood, I was flummoxed and near panic myself.
Then my doula rang the bell. A no-nonsense woman, she swooped Malcolm up, whispered in his ear and massaged his little body. Identifying that he was hysterically hungry, she fed him a few fingers of formula — calming him down long enough to nurse.
She also asked me how I was doing and listened when I admitted: “Not great.” She was a lifeline in the chaos, and I still think of her with deep gratitude.
A person* is a woman who is trained to assist women during childbirth as well as in the pre- and postnatal period. It’s a tradition with roots around the world but a practice that has been resurrected in the U.S. as research increasingly shows doulas reduce C-section births and encourage successful breast-feeding."
Read the rest of the article here.
I remember my first tough postpartum visit like it was yesterday even though it was three years ago. It was one of my first births and it went beautifully. The mother labored at home all day and when we arrived at the hospital she was 10 cm dilated! She pushed out her baby girl and had skin-to-skin right away. It all went according to plan.
So when I arrived to her apartment two days later I wasn't prepared for what I encountered. Her little one was wailing in her bassinet and the mama's face was streaked with her own tears.
"My breasts!" she exclaimed and threw open her shirt. They were large, bright red and painfully engorged. I wracked my new doula brain for what to do; we got her little one settled down and latched on, but it was at that moment that I realized that the entire birth process tends to be focused on labor and birth and not so much on the postpartum period.
We found that Mama an amazing Le Leche League Lactation Consultant and she nursed her Little One until she was almost 2. Since then I have been suggesting that all of my doula clients come up with a solid Postpartum Plan. These plans can include specific thing like rules for visiting the new family after the baby is born, a chores check lists guests can help with, and creating a meal train plan. I also encourage clients to create a list of resources including lactation consultants, postpartum doulas, new parent groups and more.
Your Postpartum Plan, like your Birth Plan, should be as specific and as personalized as possible. Think of everything you could need to make your transition into parenthood easier. Having a plan can take some of the surprise out of those first few weeks.
I'll admit it, "Doula" is sort of a buzz word in birth now. Almost as common as "When's your due date?" is "Do you have a doula?" For some a doula seems like a bit of extravagance, an expensive accessory for the rich. And for others a doula is something that only hippie-dippy folks have.
Both can be true, and more.
Ill give you an example. I have a friend, let's call her Chana. She's a Type-A, badass lawyer. She's no nonsense and gives the best side eye of anyone on the planet. Period. When I told her that I wanted to move to the country to raise chickens I never thought I'd see her eyes again, she rolled them so hard. So when she got pregnant and asked for my help finding a doula I was shocked. And when I got an email from her of her requests I understood she was one of those people who wanted the support, but none of the other "hippie" things. She had no problem with pain meds, she wasn't going to try to do something natural if she couldn't handle it and wanted a doula who understood that. She just had her second baby with her second no-nonsense doula.
While having a doula may seem like a new thing, it's actually quite old, as old as it's Greek name, perhaps older. When people gave birth they would be traditionally and historically be joined by family. Grandmothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and close friends would join the birthing person, in many cases the birthing woman to give her the support she needed to bring her baby earthside based only on experience and instincts. As birth moved away from the home and into the hospital this tradition was lost, when we need it the most. And with hospital schedules that work on rotations and shifts giving birth can be a sea of unfamiliar faces. A doula is sometimes the only constant.
I've heard snide comments that doulas don't really stay for the entire birth, especially for long labors and I can say, in my personal experience as a doula, that I've never left a mother's side. The one exception was when my sister passed away during a birth. I've spent multiple evenings in hospitals, and my longest was just over 50 hours.
Check out this informational page over on Evidence Based Birth for more ways that Doulas can help in a birth.
Back in March the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology released q study that confirmed what a lot of midwives and doulas (and yes many OBGYNs) have been saying for a while. Pregnant people need more time to push. In fact, the study proved that if women and pregnant people were given as little as one extra hour to push their rates of unplanned C-Section went down by roughly half. HALF!
According to the Huffington Post article about the study, while this information has he potential to radically change how people give birth in the U.S, it may not actually amount to concrete change. Author Catherine Pearson writes, while the study is small, it's "unlikely to fundamentally change medical norms any time soon, researchers say it offers a much-needed critique of potentially outdated standards."
Just how outdated are the standards you may ask, well the allotted time a woman is "allowed" to push was adopted in the late 1800s. “[The time recommendation] came from expert opinion from the 1800s,” said Dr. Alexis Gimovsky, a fellow in maternal fetal medicine at Thomas Jefferson University in Pennsylvania, and an author on the study. “Since then, there’s really only been retrospective data used to validate that guideline.” In the 1950s, researchers looked over earlier data and found that women who delivered their babies within two hours had lower rates of infection and serious postpartum bleeding, for example. In 1955, another team concluded that most women without anesthesia give birth within two hours."
So what does this all mean? In my opinion it goes back to the idea of B.R.A.I.N, being armed with knowledge, and being confident that your body knows how to give birth.
As a review B.R.A.I.N is an acronym I suggest pregnant folks and couples start to using during prenatal appointments with your caregiver.Using it early on in pregnancy and frequently helps you get accustomed to the process of coming to your care provider with questions and being ready with responses that are best for you and your baby. Frequently using B.R.A.I.N also is great so that when something is suggested during labor, you're ready to ask:
B: Benefits - What are the benefits of doing this?
R: Risk -What are the risks of doing this?
A: Alternatives -What alternatives do we have?
I: Intuition/Instinct - What's your gut say?
N: Nothing - What happens if we do nothing?
I will close by saying that there are many reasons that birth visions fall off track and interventions and potential c-sections are how some babies are born. I like to say that there is no "right" or "wrong" way to give birth. And this evidence-based information about not rushing into pushing and giving you, the person giving birth, time to ease into pushing and to let pushing happen can result in the birth you vision.
Finding the right doula is all about finding a good match. Your doula should fit seamlessly into your life and the life of your family.
A lot of times you'll hear doulas say that we "hold space", which I think is pretty accurate. We're not there to be your cheerleader (although we will encourage you completely). We're not there to be your coach (although we'll make sure you have all of the tools you need to have the birth you envision). And we're not there to replace your partner.
Instead, we help you create, make and keep space. And finding someone who is able to do that in a way that is natural and feels comfortable is all about the Match.
Meeting a doula is sort of like going on a blind date. You have possibly scoped out their profile on a site like Doula Match. You were attracted to their skill set. You sent them an inquiry and they emailed back. The emails and the phone conversations felt wonderful and natural, and you got actual nervous butterflies in your stomach waiting for them to arrive to the initial consultation. And in the moment you met the chemistry just clicked.
I've had this feeling for all of my births and I can say honestly that it is one of the best feelings. And. Even after meeting with a couple or woman who is giving birth and even if everything feels amazing and we gel well as a team, I always encourage the couple or single person to go home and think about it.
Hiring a doula is not only a big financial decision, it's a big personal decision. Inviting another person into a birthing space is a big deal. That person, your doula, will bare witness to your birth and the expansion of your family. They will see you laugh and cry and roar. They will see you at your most vulnerable and your most powerful. I guess what I'm trying to say is that they will truly see you. Into the deepest parts of your soul.
Now think back to that initial meeting. Is that the person you want to share your soul space with?
For me, thankfully, the answer has always been yes. In fact, there has only been one time when it wasn't a good match between me and a mother. And it was me who decided that we didn't quite fit. She went on to have a lovely birth and found the right doula for her. And I went on to continue to do births as well and find clients who were a good match for me.
Like a good date, a good partner, a good melon - you just know.
The topics of pregnancy and birth seem to be open season for anyone and everyone to give an expectant mother information; solicited or otherwise.
All of a sudden your mother, mother-in-law, Great Aunt Mildred, your barista, cashier at Whole Foods, and yes, your doctors and nurses and doulas have become experts on what kind of birth is best for you.
"Both you and your sister were big babies, it's genetic, you'll need a c-section too."
"I wanted a natural birth, too. But after 5 hours of labor, I bet you'll be screaming for an epidural."
"An epidural is safe, and it allows you to rest during your labor."
"The drugs are there for a reason!"
"Don't be a hero, you don't have to have a natural birth!."
With so many choices, how are you supposed to decide what's right and what's wrong? You use your B.R.A.I.N.
I've often seen the B.R.A.I.N acronym used in relation to the labor process when interventions are offered to a birthing mother, but I think it has merit in pregnancy as well.
So what is B.R.A.I.N anyway? I'm glad you asked :) When someone (anyone from your neighbor to your provider) brings a suggestion for your birth or pregnancy ask yourself the following questions:
B-What are the Benefits
R-What are the Risks
A-What are the alternatives?
I-What does your Intuition say?
N-What happens if you do Nothing.
It's my opinion that no one is trying to scare you or deter you from your wishes when you are pregnant. Most unsolicted suggestions come because some cares, or they want to share their story. It can get pretty loud with all of these suggestions coming at you at once. So, this Tuesday Tip is to use your B.R.A.I.N
What more information that's Evidence Based. Check out one of my favorite resources, Evidence Based Birth.
Happy 2016 Readers!
I feel like my mother saying this, but it seems like 2015 FLEW by! I can't believe it's already 2016-The year that I aspire to take my doula business off the ground! So many goals, so many dreams, so many opportunities to improve who I am as a woman, wife and doula and I'm SO excited to start!
I'm thrilled that I have my first 2016 birth booked for March. These clients are interested in having a HypnoBirth, which means I've been doing research and reading all I can shove onto my mobile's already stuffed memory on the subject. I'm excited to be working with this couple and am excited that the birth they want to have is a natural one. It should make for amazing learning for all three of us.
I'm also excited about Postpartum Doula training in February. I've been wanting to do more PP training since I had my first mother with serious nursing issues almost 3 years ago now! It was a humbling experience to realize that while I'd been trained to a degree, my training didn't prepare me for her issues.
My other goals for 2016 are to train and certify as a Child Birth Educator and to FINALLY become a yoga instructor. I think that these three additions to my birth work will make me a premier, well-rounded birth educator in the South Puget Sound.
If you're due to give birth in April, May or June of 2016
Hi there! I'm Erika Davis and I'm a doula working in the Seattle and South Puget Sound area.