You've heard the word Doula. Your sisters best friend had one at her birth. You saw a Facebook post about a birth doula once…but what does a doula do? What is your money paying for?
What does a Doula do? The better question is, what does a Doula not do? -not in a cocky 'doulas are awesome and doulas do it all what do we not do' kind of way but actually, what does a doula not do?
A doula is not a nurse. (Well in my case I guess that doesn't apply but I take that hat off and wear my doula hat at a birth!) Your nurse is employed by the hospital you're giving birth at. She has to change shifts after 8 or 12 hours and she has other patients she may need to be with. She follows hospital policies and doctors orders. She takes scheduled breaks and works with other nurse colleagues who will be in and out of the room to check on you. A doula does not do any cervical checks, blood pressures, IV starts, blood draws, medicine administration or any other clinical duties your nurse does.
A doula is not an OB or a midwife. A doula is a trained birth professional but she is not a medically trained professional.
Imagine this. You meet someone and you fall in love so you decide to get married. You pick a month to get married in. As that month approaches, you get so excited! You talk to your partner about what its going to be like. You talk to your friends who have done it before but most of them tell you all of the things that went wrong on their day and what you should or shouldn't do. You don't know the actual day it's going to happen on so as the days of the month pass, you get nervous that you could have to show up at the wedding venue at a moments notice. You hope that when you get to the venue, they'll have a nice dress for you to wear and the same attendant you spoke to a few moths ago will be there. You haven't met any of the people who will be at your wedding so you just hope they're kind and professional and know how to do their job. You didn't order a cake or flowers or a DJ. You'll just use whatever the venue had left over from another wedding. You have no idea what they'll serve for dinner so you hope it tastes good. And you most certainly didn't plan what you'll do after the wedding once you get home. Sounds silly right?? Your wedding is one of the most important days of your life and you spend probably at least the better part of a year fine tuning all of the details. You spend thousands and might hire someone to help you bring it all together. It is, after all, a day you'll remember for the rest of you life.
So, shouldn't it be the same when you're having a baby? A doula is someone you hire who is there with you from start to finish for your labour and birth. She's like a wedding planner but for your birth. Your doula will meet with you at least once or twice before your birth to go over your wishes and plans. When you're in labour, you don't want to be asked questions. You want to be admired and assisted. You want to be respected and not have to defend your birth choices. Your doula can give you information to help you make the decisions that fit your desires for your birth. She can anticipate what you need before you even have a chance to ask for it. She can help your partner with comfort techniques to help you. She can take care of other tasks so that you and your partner can stay close and connected while you're in labour. She knows many relief techniques to help during labour. She can ask people (read: your in laws ;) to leave the room when you don't feel comfortable doing it. She'll empower you to advocate your choices and help you find your voice when there might be pressure from the doctor or nurses to perform an intervention. A doula will support your decisions to breast or bottle feed and help with either. She'll facilitate the 'Golden Hour' after birth. She'll support your birth at home or a hospital, with an OB or a midwife, vaginal or cesarean. She'll be one of the reasons you look back and think, the day I had my son or daughter I had such a positive birth experience.
A doula will hold your hand, your hips or hold space. She's got your back and will stand in your corner. A doula knows that If a woman doesn't look like a goddess in birth, someone isn't treating her right. ~ Ina May Gaskin