When I was pregnant with my first child, I did all the typical preparation steps for birth. I scheduled my appointments with a local doctor, grabbed a copy of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and dutifully attended all the hospital birthing classes with my husband. I was aiming for a natural birth in the hospital. After a domino effect of induction, epidural, and a non-emergency cesarean for “failure to progress,” my son was born. With my second kid, I planned for a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC.) Again, the same dominoes fell one by one, and we landed in the surgical unit once again. I ended up having a homebirth with my third.
After my youngest child’s birth at home, I decided to become a doula and help others. Doula is Greek for “a woman who serves” and is also known for being interpreted as a “Mother’s Helper.” Doulas provide emotional, physical, and mental support during birth. Doulas do not give medical advice, but they focus on the non-clinical aspects of care for the mom, especially during labor. A post-partum doula provides support for the whole family in the home after a birth. A doula doesn’t have to be certified to provide support during birth, but having a certified doula ensures that one has gone through a training process and understands the ins and outs of providing support to the mom. Doulas of North America (DONA) is the most well-known program that provides certification. A list of other certification programs can be found on Radical Doula
I started providing doula services in the middle of my certification process. I absolutely loved providing moms with pampering, support, advocacy, and encouragement during their births. One of the biggest advantages of having a doula is the constant support. During a hospital birth, the labor staff will come and go, but a doula is consistently there. This is especially helpful when the father or birthing partner needs to take a break or get some sleep.
One of my most memorable births was a home VBAC birth. Like me, the mom had her first two children via cesarean. On the night her labor started, I was two hours away in another state. I shaved 30 minutes off the drive getting to her house! Once I arrived, her labor had slowed. During the slow periods of labor, I prepared various snacks and two meals for during and after the birth. By morning, her labor had picked up but she was still feeling pretty good. A short time later, she began to say, “I can’t do this.” As anyone in birth knows, that’s a time of transitioning! We moved to the birth tub to get some relief. The midwife was an hour away. I could see the baby was moving down with each contraction. I looked at the husband and asked him if he wanted to catch or if I should. We quickly switched positions. The midwife walked in and just a couple of pushes later, a beautiful girl was born.
Every birth is special, whether it is at a hospital or home birth. During one birth, a deaf teen mom woke me up at two a.m. with several texts. She was unsure if her water had broken and if she was really in labor. Thanks to technology and a call to the midwife, we were able to determine that it was the mucus plug and not amniotic fluid. I stayed up all night timing the contractions with her and determining her pain level. In the morning, I had to take off for a flight and was not able to attend the birth. Two hours later, she sent me pictures of her newborn baby girl.
If you are considering a doula for your birth, here are some tips:
Interview several doulas to ensure you have a good personality fit for your birth.
Meet with your doula several times throughout your pregnancy to get to know each other.
Create a birth plan outlining various birth scenarios so that your doula has a full understanding of your expectations.
Check with your insurance company to see if doula services are covered.