When I first became a Doula over five years ago it seems like almost every time I said "I'm a Doula" the conversation would turn into this: "A what?" "Medulla?" "No a Doula." "What's a Doula?" Oh and don't forget to imagine the most perplexed facial expression to accompany the questions. And YES more than one person has said "Medulla?" "Isn't that a part of your brain?" Even as I type this, my computer doesn't recognize "Doula" as a real word lol! It keeps it underlined as if it were a misspelling! Thankfully in the past couple years I'm finally hearing more of the "Oh that's great!" comments but, let's face it, there are still so many out there who have no clue as to what a Doula is and the amazing service they provide to women.
So, What's a Doula Anyway? Where do I begin?! Doula is a Greek word meaning “woman’s servant" or "a woman who serves". In many ways a Doula does serve but, in today's terms it means a trained professional who provides support to a woman who are pregnant, in labor, and even through the early post partum phase. A Doula provides continuous emotional, physical and informational support to the mother before, during and after birth. We also help the mother prepare her birth plan and see to it that her wishes are met as much as possible.
Doulas do NOT replace your partner! They make it their responsibility to know the mother and the partner, even the big brothers/big sisters to-be. That way a Doula can meet the unique needs of the family and help Facilitate communication between the laboring mom and her partner. In my own personal experience, I have worked along side many dads as if we were a team. When my hands would get sore from rubbing moms back, dad would take over while I would then hold her hand and help coach her through a contraction. Then we might trade again and so on. I've also been in situations where dad's looking very nervous and uptight so I would gently communicate in detail everything that's going on to help ease his worry and then tell him what he can do to help and stay involved.
The benefits of hiring a Doula for your birth are: Laboring mothers with a Doula present have lower incidence of abuse, Reduction in the cesarean rate, shorter labor, reduction in epidural requests, reduction in oxytocin use, reduction in forceps delivery, mothers tend to have less postpartum depression, shorter labors, it reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience, greater success with breastfeeding, moms feel more confident with their baby and the list goes on!
Not convinced? Here's what some moms who have had a Doula at their birth have to say:
"Having a doula at my birth was the best decision I could have made. It put my husband at ease, knowing that he would be better able to assist and comfort me, with support. Even being a doula myself, it helped to use the knowledge of someone with different experience. It was great to have someone encourage me through the difficult times. At my previous births, sometimes my husband froze up and had a hard time encouraging, wrapped up in the difficulty of seeing me in discomfort, and being excited and nervous himself as well, it helped to have another person there, not entirely emotionally involved, and not there to do anything but to be my support, as fantastic as my midwives were, they still had there medical responsibilities that they needed to tend to. Next baby, booking the doula will be the first thing I’ll do!"
- Beth MacKenzie
"I loved having a doula. She was an advocate for me and my choices. She was great as a 2nd person to my very supportive husband."
"The labour of my first-born went very well--much better than I thought it would, considering I was being "forced" to give birth at the hospital. I desperately wanted a home birth, but found out very early in the game that getting a midwife in the province of Quebec was going to be next to impossible. So I hired a doula. Sarah was there for us throughout the pregnancy. I phoned her often (especially in the last 2 weeks as I carried my baby to 42 weeks.) Sarah stayed by my side throughout the 15-hour labour, ensuring that every decision about the labour was my own. I delivered a 7lb 6oz baby girl and recovered very quickly. Our doula still comes around to visit. After experiencing the labour with her, my partner and I consider her a dear friend."
- Jenn Hardy
"Our doula was amazing and brought such a calming presence to our delivery. She was never pushy, always supportive, and kept both my husband and I very much grounded and focused during our birth. She reminded me constantly how strong I was and gave me the confidence to trust my body to birth. Because of her, we had the beautiful unmedicated VBAC we had been hoping for, and I am forever grateful to her for playing such a huge role in our lives on a day that we will never forget. When I told her after delivery, "I couldn't have done it without you," she said, "Yes, you could have. You're so strong." So, I chose instead to say, "I wouldn't want to do that without you."
- Leslie Milner
I didn't end up needing my doula too do much during my birth because I really got into my own rhythm and zoned everyone out. Was she worth it? Absolutely! She offered me months of prenatal support and helped me research and plan the kind of birth I wanted. I knew that I had a strong support system, and I knew that my chances of having a c-section were automatically lowered just by having a doula on hand. That peace of mind was worth every penny! After Lyla was born, our doula stuck around to help us establish breastfeeding and made herself available to answer postpartum questions for as long as we needed her. She took fabulous photos for us, also! I'll always remember her as a wonderful part of our birth experience and I absolutely recommended doulas to all of my pregnant friends!"
I'll leave you all with this to think about; When I got engaged, I immediately went online, did tons of research, read tons of books, and spent thousands on hiring a wedding planner. Why did I hire a wedding planner? Because she was a professional who would help me sort out the details, be my support through the process and what was most important to me was that I wanted to make sure that one of the most important days of my life went perfectly. In my eyes it was worth every penny. Well guess what? The birth of my baby was ALSO one of the most important days of my life so I had a Doula. I think it's time we as women start placing just as much importance on having a baby as we do planning a wedding if not more! What a precious and momentous event it is. Your Doula will understand that your birth is an experience that you'll remember for the rest of your life and she'll be there to lovingly nurture and guide you every step of the way. Give yourself and your baby the gift of having a Doula present at your birth.