Is only just beginning! I am no more than a month into this new venture and every book I read, group I join, conversation I have I know I am working towards what I am most certainly called to do. If you are wondering what a doula is I am happy to share! A doula is simply a support person for the laboring person along with their partner. They offer coping mechanisms (physical and verbal), encouragement, reminders for what is written in the birth plan or specific wishes that have been made. Doula’s do not offer medical advice or perform any procedures. While doulas are professionally trained they are not medically. However, doulas are ferverently educated on the childbirth process and everything that comes with that territory in order for clients to feel confident and comfortable with who they are including on their journey to parenthood.
With that glimpse into what a doula is you are maybe asking why I personally chose to pursue this. I have always had a love for babies and also a pretty intense interest in the process of pregnancy and childbirth. Besides all that it was actually a really weird moment of realization for me several weeks ago and possibly a little cheesy. I love to read, always have and probably always will. I finished a book and decided to make a quick run to check out a local ‘Free Little Library’ (which I had oddly never done before.). Anyhow, I placed my own book in there and began searching for a new read. I came across a book titled “Midwives” which instantly sparked my interest. I went ahead and took it home with me and while driving my mind eventually led me to the idea that I am able to do something to support women and help bring little lives into this big world. The answer is as you have likely figured out, become a trained and certified doula! I have actually considered becoming a doula before but at the time my kids were very little (and they still are) and I just felt like I wouldn’t be able to make the commitment at that specific time.
There is also the facts of my own birthing experiences and becoming a mom myself that make me passionate about this line of work. As I learn more about the birthing process I am realizing the impact the birth of our first daughter has left on me. I will attempt not to digress too much, nor am I looking for sympathies, but it has become clear in the last month that what I went through is deemed “normal” but, you guys, IT IS NOT. Looking back I consider my experience to be filled with trauma and mistreatment by the medical professionals who were there to help me bring her into this world. It is difficult to explain without giving you full details but to summarize as best as possible I was not allowed to get off my back while pushing even though I did not have an epidural. (Even with an epidural there are more positions that can be tried.) This lasted for almost 4 hours. Multiple nurses and myself asked if I was able to move and every time I was told no but never given a reason. At 23 years old with a first baby and little knowledge of what you are entitled to as a patient along with the idea that this was all just normal and ok I didn’t question him and oddly enough neither did a single nurse. My doctor choose not to say a single word to myself, and really not even the nurses, the entire time. He just stood there staring at my crotch in silence. Typically they place the baby on your chest immediately after delivery. They asked me if I wanted this when I was a few pushes away from her being born and I declined. I was so worn down I couldn’t hold the little girl I had been waiting so impatiently for for 9 months. I also left the hospital with a wrist injury, from squeezing the bed rails so hard, which I never addressed because again…. this was all part of the process right? Fun fact: a nurse walked out of my room while exclaiming that she “couldn’t deal with me anymore.” I break all of this down to impatience on their ends and wanting it to be done with already, as if I didn’t. Instead of choosing to be encouraging and supportive they made the choice to be silent onlookers. Thankfully everything was ok, I was just fine and baby was perfect. I do have to give credit to one nurse in particular though who finally had enough, moved me, and physically helped me deliver Solveigh. She visited me the next day just to check in and hugged me. I can tell you right now that hug was the most validating thing to be offered that what I did was hard but I did it. Her empathy and support is exactly what every women deserves when giving birth, the entire time, and I hope to be able to offer that.
(This statistic is very troublesome to me if you think about how many women give birth on a daily basis.)
So, who gets to use a doula? ANYONE! If you think that additional support is just what you need then do it. It is found that women who use doulas often have shorter labors, opt to use less pain medications, need less interventions, and overall have a more positive experience. Using a doula of course does not guarantee any of these things as birth is a very unpredictable process. There are also postpartum doulas. Some doulas offer 1 or 2 postpartum visits with their birthing services, and meetings before the birth as well. Others may have a specific focus just on the postpartum portion. These are important questions to ask when interviewing a doula as you want to make sure you are getting the services you think will be most beneficial to you. I personally hope to have more of an emphasis on the postpartum aspect of childbirth because I know how vital those first few days and weeks are to new parents.
I want to provide you with a list of books, some of which are required readings for certification. I have not read all of them but what I have read so far has been very informative and not a disappointment.
- The Birth Partner: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions by Penny Simkin
- The Doula’s Guide to Empowering your Birth by Lindsey Bliss
- The Doula Book: How a Trained Labor Companion Can Help you Have a Shorter, Easier and Healthier Birth by Marshall and Phyllis Klaus
- Birth Ambassadors: Doulas and the Re-Emergence of Woman-Supported Birth in America by Christine H. and Elaine G. Clift
- Birth Without Fear: The Judgement-Free Guide to Taking Charge of your Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum by January Harshe
- Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn: The Complete Guide by Penny Simkin
- Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
- This Isn’t What I Expected: Overcoming Postpartum Depression by Karen Kleiman and Valerie Davis Raskin
- Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth by Walker Karraa
Lastly, please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions. If I do not have the answer I will find it for you or find someone who has the right information! I am going to link the webpage to the DONA website who I am becoming certified through. There is a ton of great information on there as well!