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To me, a doula is…

Posted by on Jun 30, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

To me, a doula is…

I was at a birth not too long ago.  It was a very gentle birth.  The couple chose to do it at home in the water.  I had a moment of insight as I was massaging the mom’s shoulders during a contraction.  It was a thought that I have always known but hadn’t had crystallize into my conscious vocabulary.  Warning to those with a low tolerance for mush, but in that moment I felt so blessed to be doing this work, because essentially it is a position of giving love.

From the moment I arrive at the birth, the cloak of my life outside this birth is taken off, and I am here totally present for this family.  The flavour of each birth is unique, but my role is the same.  I gently enter with warmth and compassion, and then begin to assess any needs.  This initially looks like simply being present for a few contractions, and listening to the story of how things have been unfolding.  Usually families are anxious to receive some sort of assessment of the situation.  My job is to be an unyielding voice of encouragement and validation of her inner wisdom and experience.  If she is feeling overwhelmed, I fully acknowledge that, and we move forward together to be able to pull that experience into a more manageable one.  That might look like changing positions, some massage or counter pressure, getting the TENS machine up and going, or changing scenery and getting into a warm bath.  It is not my personality to take charge, but to offer suggestions, and I feel that I am there to serve the wishes of mom and partner.

Parents know best, I have ideas, tools and knowledge that parents are free to take from me as needed.  I will do my best to anticipate needs and bring solutions such as a cool cloth, more pillows or a refill on labour aide.  And then usually I will pass it off to partner to tend to mom with.  I will not take over partner’s role in caring for mom, unless specifically invited.   I consider my role as one that facilitates the opportunity for mom and partner to experience this together and have it be a bonding experience.  So often this will look like taking care of partner’s need for food, or running a last minute errand that didn’t have a chance to get done before hand, so that mom and partner can be together continuously.  Moms frequently look for doula services in anticipation of wanting to know that partners are looked after and considered.  If I provide that sense of assurance for mom so that she can relax into her labour, and so that partner can relax into caring for her, then I leave a birth feeling successful.

People often ask about the difference between a doula and a midwife.  To put it simply, I feel the privilege of the doula is to not have to engage in the situation from a medical perspective.  That is what the midwife does.  A doula is free to be fully present to the emotional and physical comfort of the labouring family. I don’t do exams of any kind.  I am there to give encouragement into mom’s eyes and hold her hand, not to be at the other end guiding the baby.  My coordinator asked me when she hired me on to the to the team of childbirth educators, “You aren’t going to go off to midwifery school any time soon are you”?  And I answered very genuinely at that time that “No, I like being at the head”.  She looked at me and said “I know exactly what you mean”.

As a doula I like being a consistent part of a family’s care team.  Midwives will come in and out of the scene, as well as nurses as they come on and off shift, but I get to be there from start to finish.  And I think this brings a certain level of bonding with the family that is unique.  Families can feel assured that someone familiar is there for them until the end.  This makes the postpartum visit so rewarding.  I see it is a wonderful reunion, where we can replay the memories of the birth, compare perspectives, and I get a chance to validate and honour the family’s achievement once again.

In essence this is what I do at a birth, and why I love it so much.  It is a rich emotional experience that connects lives in a completely unique and special way.  I consider each invitation to a birth an honour and a privilege, and work really hard in hopes that my presence has contributed positively to the experience.  For a positive birth experience lays the foundation for a healthy parent child relationship, which in return continues the cycle of love out into the world for all (to put it simply).

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