Friday, July 19, 2013

Why I'm Hiring a Doula (and What the Heck is a Doula?)

Here is the jist of a recent conversation I had with my father in law:
FIL: So how's it going, what's new?
Me: Going great! I'm meeting with a birth doula tonight.
FIL: A what?
Me: A doula, she's like a coach for giving birth.
FIL: Ohhhh *furrows brow in confusion*. Is that a new thing people do?
Me: Not really, but I just feel like I'll want the extra support since I'm trying to go for a non-medicated birth.
FIL: Hmm, alright. Seems odd you'd need a coach for something women have been doing for thousands of years. But that sounds cool!
I LOVE my father in law, truly, so please don't misinterpret his words because they weren't nearly as snarky as they seem when I write them out. But bless his heart, he is a man who enjoys the simple things in life like barbecue and baseball. I don't think he's ever given a second thought to the variety of ways women give birth, or even that there were options. He did say he went to all the birth preparation classes with my MIL when she was pregnant with TH, but that it was all fairly simple and straightforward - contractions start and you go to the hospital, where the staff basically directs how it's all going to go down.

I've mentioned my interest in hiring a doula to a few friends as well, and to my surprise almost all of them either didn't know what that was or why anyone would need one. I've come to realize now, that none of these women have ever had a baby, so perhaps it's not something they've considered. Heck it's not something I ever considered before getting pregnant, either. Like most people, I think I assumed it was all pretty straightforward and I just had to deal with whatever came up.

That was until I started doing research and made a decision to labor and deliver my baby without medication or augmentation, if it was a safe option for both of us. This information also tends to horrify my friends, who usually say "oh no way, I'm getting an epidural for sure". I think epidural's are just dandy for those who want/need them, and at this point I don't even know if I for sure won't get one depending on what goes down, but based on my research I've decided that I can get through the intensity of a normal birth - but I will most certainly need some support from someone else with a vagina (in other words, not TH).

My FIL did have one thing 100% correct - women have been giving birth (mostly without meds) for hundreds of thousands of years. But they almost always had support from women in their family or their community. Plus, other people have done it, but I sure haven't, and it's certainly not something I was born knowing how to do! My other modern day problem is that the support I will get once I reach the hospital will be from complete strangers - we have HMO insurance and my OB will not be at the hospital I'm delivering at, nor will I have met any of the nurses or midwives who will be on call that fateful day. So, there I'll be, in an intense physical and psychological situation, with people who don't know me at all trying to coach me through something I've never experienced in my entire life. The solution? Hire someone who's attended dozens more than just her own births, who has vast knowledge of the birthing process, and will have an opportunity to get to know me and TH before the big day. The woman I've hired is also a HypnoBirthing instructor so she can assist me with all sorts of relaxation techniques to help handle the intense sensations (that can be painful) that go along with a normal labor and birth.

So back to basics. What is a doula??? Here is a definition from Doulas of North America (DONA):
The word "doula" comes from the ancient Greek meaning "a woman who serves" and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.
Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily. 
A Birth Doula
  • Recognizes birth as a key experience the mother will remember all her life
  • Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor
  • Assists the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth
  • Stays with the woman throughout the labor
  • Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decisions
  • Facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her clinical care providers
  • Perceives her role as nurturing and protecting the woman's memory of the birth experience
  • Allows the woman's partner to participate at his/her comfort level
I seriously, and I mean SERIOUSLY, applaud any woman who can birth their first baby with little assistance (and I know a few), but I just do not have that kind of confidence! The unknown is terrifying to me, so I know this woman will be a source of comfort not only to me, but to TH as well. Aside from providing the support I need, she can take care of some other tasks as needed, such as taking pictures or running to get us food. That way my TH and mother can just be with me and the baby as we labor together, and we can all enjoy it. This is a once in a lifetime experience for me and little BK, so it's important that I do what I can to make it special.

Had you ever heard of doulas? Did/would you hire one for your own birth? I always love to hear birth stories so please feel free to share yours!

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  1. I had a doula for my 2nd and 3rd. maybe if I'd known enough for my 1st I would have had one and saved a lot of future problems.

    1. I've heard/read a lot of people say the same, which is yet another reason I felt like it was probably a good idea to get one the first time around. I only wish I had written this post before you had your first! I'm hoping this will inspire other first time mama's to consider a doula. Thanks for commenting!

      Strive to Thrive,


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