Our job as doulas is to provide evidence-based information to families who seek us out to support their births. We're supposed to be a blank canvas, a person without judgement about the "right" or "wrong" ways to give birth, because there is no right or wrong way to birth. Because each birth is the "right" birth for the person who gives birth, even if it doesn't go as planned.
But we would be lying to ourselves and our the families that we serve if we presumed to lack an opinion about birth. I think it has to do with our personal preferences for our own births, especially doulas who have given birth themselves. And for doulas like me who hope to one day give birth to living children, I have an idea about the kind of birth I imagine myself to have.
So when documentaries come out about birth and about the state of maternal health in our country doulas and birth workers tend to seek them out, study them (and study them again) to make sure that they're giving good information based on the latest evidence about birth.
I watched this Lisa Ling special about birth today and I will continue to watch it over and again to tease out information I think is useful for my families. What I do enjoy about this documentary, based solely on my initial viewing, is that it looks at birth from all angles; it tackles racial disparities in maternal health for black people vs. white people, it looks at infertility and how it affects people and families, it looks at surrogacy and it looks at birth by cesarean. And while it would seem that Lisa is coming at it in a sort of biased, wagging a finger way, it's not that way at all. Instead it gives you a glimpse into real scenarios for a majority of families who have babies.
Click here to check it out!
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.
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.
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
fThis year I'd like to try something new. I'd like to share an article or blog post that I think is interesting, has important information for birthing families to consider, or is just plan awesome. I think this one falls into the important information range. Birth Stories.
As a part of the generation that grew up watching shows like "A Birth Story" on TLC I seriously FEARED childbirth. My own birth story was one of a long (50+) labor that ended in an emergency cesarean. To add a bit more drama, my mother often tells of looking over at me from the operating table and watching my little body heave, trying to catch my first breath, and then stop. And in her words, I was "whisked away."
When I look back at my first pictures, I see a fragile baby with tubes attached to it's body, flushed palms and feet with pale skin.
I determined that when I got pregnant that I would avoid all of that drama and go straight into the OR for a beautiful, forgettable cesarean birth resulting in a nice, round headed child.
It wasn't until much later that I realized that a cesarean section wasn't "easy", but that it was major surgery. Basic knowledge of anatomy teaches us that! So I learned about birth, considered becoming a midwife and decided that I wanted to be a doula.
One of the first questions I ask my clients is to tell me birth stories they've heard. And while some of them tell stories of cesarean births and others of blissed out natural births, it's how we tell stories that it's important. And the understanding that no two births are the same.
There are benefits to hearing "good" birth stories where mothers feel empowered and partners are connected. Hearing more of these stories, I think, over stories of panic, pain, and fear, are a vital step to creating the births moms and birthing people want. Life happens, births can veer off course, but in the span of human existence it's only been in the past few decades that we've dis-empowered women and our ability to give birth. Let's take our power back, trust our bodies and trust birth.
I'm thrilled to share a site I recently found called Good Birth Stories. Below is a snippet from a positive birth story. I hope you enjoy.
Vanessa’s story – Matheo’s birthThe Spanish phrase for ‘give birth’ is, brilliantly, ‘dar a luz’ (give light to). I gave light to Mathéo Zen at 7.30pm on a late May evening in St George’s hospital in Tooting, London.
The room on the delivery ward was luminous with mellow evening sun and crackling with energy; the air iron heavy with the raw smell of blood. I’d used hypnotherapy and my sheer bloody-mindedness to achieve a birth of my first baby that was natural, vaginal, drug-free (except gas and air – woohoo!) and seeing our miniature creature on the outside for the first time was mind-blowing.
He was the softest thing I’d ever touched; a tiny peach; deliciously creamy and a little bit fuzzy all over. He had come in his own sweet time and was very pleased with himself indeed. He was calm, bright as a button, and he seemed to suckle contentedly – if painfully, but that’s another story – when I put him to the breast.
One of my favorite births was a dear friend of mine. She had a hard labor that totally veered off of our Birth Vision. Low fluids followed by an induction and a strong reaction to Cervidil followed by epidural and Pitocin and a lovely, healthy baby boy. Through the hard times and the bliss that an epidural can sometimes bring, I felt like I was a witness to the birth, rather than a participant. Which sounds strange as a doula.
What I mean is that this mother and her husband were so connected, so in sync, so in their own world that much of my role was to support them.
A doula doesn't replace the role of husband or partner or birth partner, our role is to enhance and support. And yes, sometimes to stand watch while the partner takes a nap.
What About The Father’s Role When Using A Doula?
The role of the doula is never to take the place of husbands or partnersin labor, but to compliment and enhance their experience. Today, more husbandsare an active role in the birth process. However, some partners prefer toenjoy the delivery without having to stand in as the labor coach. By havinga doula as a part of the birth team, a father is free to do whatever hechooses. Doulas can encourage the father to use comfort measures and canstep in if he wants a break. Having a doula allows the father to support his partner emotionally during labor and birth and to also enjoy the experience without the added pressure of trying to remember everything he learned in child birth class!
Read the rest of this article outlining the benefits of having a doula.
Hi there! I'm Erika Davis and I'm a doula working in the Seattle and South Puget Sound area.