To Doula or Not to Doula?

During birth many women choose to have a doula present, who is usually a woman. She is present at birth to be an assistant to the mother. Her role is not a medical role, like the doctor or the midwife, but often her presence will smooth the birth along. For example, if you’re having your first child and you’ve worked through a lot of your fears, many times going into the unknown can be scary so women will choose a companion to help calm the fears. Her main job is to show you through her eyes and her very presence that she knows you can do this, and to ease you through the process: making sure you are as comfortable as possible and taking some of the pressure off your partner so they can be more comfortable as well.

Debra Bochinski is a doula and a Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist who says it’s her job to educate women on their choices so they can then make the best choice for themselves and their new and growing family. If you are having a hospital birth, some hospitals will provide this service, or you can bring your own. Because you have more intervention options at a hospital, it’s important that you choose the people around you who are going to support you through your natural birth: so make sure you know the hospital stats and the doctor’s history on when and how they intervene. (And be sure and ask these same things as you interview midwives and birth center!) And take the time to clearly communicate your own desires.

These women can be a great support during the birth for those who choose hospital birth, but also for those who choose a natural birth at home or in a birth center. Think of it this way: how many times have you risen to the occasion when someone truly believed in you! It’s much more likely than if everyone beats you down or says no, you can’t do it. So what’s a doula’s job? Sometimes they just look into your eyes and say you’re doing great! Sometimes they massage where it hurts, help with back labor, or offer other positions to help keep things moving along. And sometimes they will just be a presence that reassures you that you are not alone! And these duties cannot be undervalued!

There are several things to consider when hiring your helpers. First, there are birth doulas, postpartum doulas and some who shoulder both duties. What’s the difference? Birth doulas usually meet with you during your pregnancy and many times will assist you with birth preparation and during the birth. When you are interviewing birth attendees it’s important to hear what their experience, or position on birth is, but it’s even more important that they ask about you: your desires, your fears, you past experiences and from there they will have many ideas to help you in the preparation or the birth. Sometimes it happens, if you take a hospital birth that you might meet your birth companion as you are coming into delivery, even though the getting to know you time is shorter, the main purpose is still the same: to support the mom during the birth and to make sure you are comfortable with everything that goes on.

The postpartum doula comes in after the birth to assist you in adjusting with life with the baby. They can help you with the logistics of caring for the baby: like breastfeeding and helping you communicate and understand your newborn. They are there not to take over the care of the baby, but to help you embrace and flourish in your new role. Once again, to let you feel supported and empowered, that yes, you can do this! Debra tries to tell each woman she works with that yes, she is dieing, and with each birth a new woman is being birthed with the baby. When you consider how huge this is, it is perfectly normal to feel like you might want a little help during the transition. The most important thing in choosing a your assistants is that you are comfortable with them, that you feel they are encouraging and supporting you with their heart and their knowledge.

Whether you choose to doula, or not, it really comes down to the experience that you want to have and what you think will support you the most. Look at the roles that you want each of the attendees to play, and the energy that you want them to hold for you. Make sure you clearly communicate what you want, for it is in defining our desires that we really find our truths. One woman might want her mother to assist her in labor and after, another might want a doula and another might want to be on her own or just with her partner. There is no “right” way, just the way you want to experience it. So don’t cheat yourself out of your desires. Put time into considering how you want to experience your birth. Make sure you put your time into knowing your own body’s wisdom. Read books and watch shows that will encourage you. Talk with others and spend time with those who encourage and empower you to know how very capable your own body is… and make sure whoever you choose to attend your birth, whether it’s the doctors or the midwives, the doulas or your friends, make sure they are all on the same page and will hold the sacred space for your own power to shine through and lead the way.