Not sure how many times I have to explain to people what a Doula is. Often we are interchanged with Midwives. Oiy! These two professions are not even close to the same thing. But I remember, there was a day when I had no idea what a Doula was either.
I was naively introduced to the Doula world by a co-worker when I was pregnant with my first child. She told me how amazing her Doula was during the birth of her first child, and how her husband insisted they would never have another child without her (and they haven’t). This person supported her AND HER HUSBAND throughout her labour and delivery. Myself, having no family support in the vicinity and a husband who at the time was challenged with anxiety, she had me hook, line and sinker. After meeting with her Doula I was positive she was what I needed at my delivery. My husband… politely disagreed; however, understanding that it was me who was going to have to birth this child, he agreed whole-heartedly to support what I wanted (smart guy he is).
In any event, my labour and delivery was “mostly” uneventful… but what my Doula did for me that day was worth its weight in gold. I was flat out panicking during labour. I had no idea if the pain and nausea I was experiencing was normal, all of the positions I thought would work for me failed and I was frantically trying to find that damn “rhythm” everyone kept talking about at my childbirth classes (yes, I’m completely Type A in this circumstance). My Doula… walked in moved me to the bed, looked me in the eye and slowed my logical brain to zero. She helped me find the primal, survival headspace you need to be in during labour. And after another 2 hours of hard labour and no progression, she helped me allow myself some pain relief (I chose Fentanyl). It was exactly what I needed… it helped me relax enough to progress and in another 90 minutes we were well into transition. In addition to all of that… she reminded my husband he needed a break every once and a while. Reminded him to eat a snack, get a drink of water and then come back to support me. This amazing woman stood by my side, held my hand, my belly, my leg, you name it… offered words of encouragement and made me believe that I could do it (even when I was sure I couldn’t).
I delivered a beautiful 7 pound, 4 ounce baby boy that day and became a mother for the very first time. There is not a moment of my delivery that I regret. Even though I opted for pain medication (which was not what I planned), not even when the vacuum was used after 3 hours of pushing… not for a second do I believe that I failed. My Doula allowed me to accept the changes that took place throughout my delivery and supported me every step of the way. She guided me into motherhood during the most physically strenuous and emotionally charged hours of my life. When I reflect on my birth… I don’t think about her specifically, but I think about all of the things I was able to do because she believed (and made me believe) I could.
This is not something my husband could’ve done for me. Not because he isn’t loving and supportive, or because we aren’t a great team. But simply put he was much too emotionally invested. Something I didn’t realize until much later after the birth of our son was how much emotional stress he was under during my delivery. His entire life was held in that delivery room. Physically he was completely wiped out. He had been on his feet during my entire labour. He never faltered. After our son was born and put on my chest for skin to skin, our Doula asked him if he wanted to take some time maybe make some phone calls. I never realized it… but she gave him permission to take a moment for himself and process everything that had just happened. He (like me) had just become a parent for the first time. She stayed with me and the baby, taking pictures, cooing and helping me try to breastfeed for the first time. We often forget that our husbands are enduring a lot during this difficult time. While as women we are enduring the pain and emotional transition into motherhood, our husbands are left on the sideline with nothing to do but wait and support to the best of their ability. Not gonna to lie… I would never wish to be a husband in the delivery room. At least I was busy and distracted with task at hand, and I got the added perk of the hormone/adrenaline rush after labour. HA!
So what do I do as a Doula… All of the above. In a nutshell I’m a mama-bear guiding another into this beautiful (and messy) thing called motherhood. My Doula who later helped me welcome my daughter into the world showed me the importance of guiding other women through the complexities of labour and delivery. There is no ONE way or ONE person. It’s about finding the right fit… like a good pair of shoes. They are strong and durable, never too tight and no matter what, they are there to lift you up and help you walk through the messy stuff.
If you are considering hiring a Doula or would like more information about how to become a Doula, I’ve listed some of my favorite resources: