I became a birth doula before I had even heard the word. I was assisting my best friend in the delivery of her third child and knew I belonged. She had so much emotion and offering her peace and guidance, as she labored, came naturally to me. It was a life changing day for me, but I didn’t know how to move forward.
Working as a breastfeeding peer counselor at my local WIC office, I quickly learned more. Soon after, another dear friend asked me to partner with her during labor and delivery. She was awesome. She said, “Here is the course, go take it”. I’m so glad I did. The course taught me to connect more deeply with the emotions of labor and delivery. It taught me different positions to help moms labor more comfortably. It taught me how to help relieve their pain through touch and sound. Just as importantly, it taught me what a doula should and could not do, like offer medical advice or interfere with the decisions the mother was making with her doctor.
What is a Doula
Birth doulas are not medical providers. We are not there to make medical decisions for the family nor guide them in medical interventions. We are also not there to take the place of the support person in her life. We are there to support the mental, physical, and emotional state of the mother and her partner, if there is one. By doing so, doula care has been shown to decrease the length of labor and to reduce medical interventions. I can personally testify that doulas are also able to help the support person feel like a rock star! (Yes, dad. You SHOULD hire a doula!)
Being a doula isn’t always easy. If you want a job that requires you to be on call 24 hours a day and, at times, spring in to action at 3 am, this is the one for you! Doulas commit to being there at just the right time, no matter what time that is; we commit to being there the entire time, no matter how long that is. And, if you are also a post-partum doula, you commit to being there for days or weeks after baby is born.
A doula can specialize in birth, post-postpartum, or both. I have always worked as a birth doula, partnering pre-pregnancy through labor and delivery. But others focus on the post-partum period and help families with all sorts of tasks. They can clean, do laundry, care for older siblings, prepare meals, among other things.
Things to Consider
Here are some things to consider if you’re thinking of hiring a birth doula:
- Take time to interview several doulas. You should feel safe and comfortable with the person by your side during labor.
- Check references. You want to know if others had the support you are looking for.
- Be clear about your expectations. Doulas offer different kinds of packages. Make sure the one you choose includes what you think you’ll need.
- Meet a few times before the delivery. You’ll want to get to know your doula before “labor day.”
- Be clear about your expectations concerning your partner’s involvement with your labor and delivery. What role does the doula intend to play? Does that match with your wants and needs?
The day your baby(s) is born will be one you’ll remember forever. Finding the support you want and need is worth the time and effort it takes to hire the right doula for you. You’re worth it, your partner is worth it and your baby(s) is worth it too!
About the Author
This article was written by Renee E Davis, IBCLC. Renee has been the lead IBCLC at Rumble Tuff since October 2018. She is a former WIC Peer Counselor, doula, and midwifery assistant. She currently has a private lactation practice in central Missouri.