Have you ever wondered? What in the world does a birth doula actually do?
I GET TO KNOW YOU. By the time birthing day arrives, we (me, you & your partner) will have already had several face-to-face visits and phone conversations. We will have exchanged countless texts and emails. I will know your likes and dislikes and your wishes and desires for birth. You won't have to explain why you want this or don't want that, because I will already know. I will have developed a fondness for your family as I do for all my clients and you will feel comfortable with me in your surroundings because we already know each other. Feeling a level of comfort and familiarity is an important factor for moving the birth process along.
I AM A SAFE PLACE. There is nothing you can think, feel, say or do that will shock me. Seriously. Trust me when I say that you will think all sorts of seeming illogical things as labor draws near and begins. This is totally normal. I find it best to go ahead and verbalize it and get it out in the open. I will not judge. I will help you process and move forward. Some women need to vocalize (make sounds) during birth. Knowing I am a safe place gives her the freedom to do that. A laboring woman needs the opportunity to be open and vulnerable but feel completely safe while doing so.
I AM A WEALTH OF KNOWLEDGE. I remember all the stuff that you are afraid of forgetting. I'm a plethora of info at your fingertips. Yes, I will encourage you to research on your own beforehand but, in the moment, sometimes the details slip through the cracks. I remind you of your birth plan and encourage you to stay the course. Maybe something new comes up that you didn't research. I offer non-medical options to see if they will meet your needs. I make sure that you understand the information your care providers have given you. I remind you to ask them for all of your options - including risks, benefits & alternatives - before making your decision. Best of all, I support your decisions, no matter what!
I STAY WITH YOU. Starting at 38 weeks you have 24/7 access to me. Call, text, or email, and I will respond immediately. When you go into labor and are ready for me to assist you, I show up pronto, and I do not leave until your baby has arrived. I literally do not leave your side other than to go to the restroom or unless you ask for some privacy. In active labor, many women close their eyes and tune in so internally that they lose all track of time and what is going on around them. I give the play-by-play of birth keeping you informed every step of the way. I help you understand what is happening in that moment and what is going to happen next. I'm always there providing encouragement, support, and information.
I HELP YOU. I bring you drinks and remind you to pee. I put lip balm on your mouth before you even notice that you are chapped. I re-arrange your pillows to make you more comfortable. I'm adjusting the temp in the room because I know you are hot but afraid to ask because everyone else might get cold. I pop mints in your mouth to keep you feeling cool and refreshed. I keep the bath water warm and drop in some lavender essential oil to help you relax. I sense that it's time to go and signal hubby to load the car. I know that transition is coming and mentally prepare you as well. I turn on your playlist. I use peppermint or ginger oil to keep the nausea away. I suggest comfortable positions for nursing your baby and make sure that you have something to eat as well. I make every effort to recognize your needs and meet them.
I PROVIDE COMFORT. I suggest positions that relieve pressure and tension. I help you find coping mechanisms that support your progress. I provide counter pressure and hip squeezes and neck massages for hours on end as needed. I hold your hand. I press acupressure points. I encourage you with my words. I repeat relaxation scripts. I cover you with blankets. I take them off. I sway with you, moan with you, walk with you. I use my rebozo to help your baby move into an optimal position. I use essential oils to keep you relaxed, relieve discomfort, center your mind, and address physical symptoms. I press cool washcloths on your forehead. I accommodate whatever position you deem best for the moments right before you meet your baby. I aim to make the day of your birth as comfortable as possible.
I FOLLOW UP. Yes, I am there for the birth but I also make sure that you transition well into motherhood. I remind you to have your guests help with tasks instead of just holding the baby. I give you permission to stay in bed and not overdo it in the early days. I make sure that diaper changes are within normal ranges and give suggestions for feeding and sleep issues. I assess and encourage normal behaviors and activities for mom, dad, and baby. I make sure other children and/or pets are also adjusting well. I give you reassurance and encourage you to contact me at any point should you have questions because babies are constantly changing. If there are concerns for healing, breastfeeding, baby care, ect, I direct you to local resources and make sure that you get the help you need. This is when it can be so helpful to have already established a relationship with a doula because you have a trusted professional to call.
I AM PASSIONATE. Seriously, spend just a few minutes talking to me and it's obvious that I LOVE what I do. I deeply feel that no matter what type of birth you are planning, the entire family will benefit from the consistent, loving, and nurturing support of a doula. It can make all the difference in the world!
Staci Bishop, CD, HCHD