“So you’re a midwife?” I think I’ve been asked this question about 50 times since January. Ecstatic, I’ve been shouting from the rooftops that I am now a trained doula finishing the last box-checks to certification. All the while, I’m telling people that I am absolutely NOT a midwife. Inherently, I get a plethora of reactions. At that point, I get to enact my teacher-brain and give a run-down. Some very in-tune mamas in the world remarkably know what a doula is, does, and how it all happens, then there are the moms who know, and then there are those without a clue. Meghan Markle’s usage of a doula is also stirring up the conversations, and it’s simply an amazingly awesome time to have this skill-set. But what the heck does a doula…well…do…(LA? – I know you wanted to do say it – I gotchu lol).
- MEDICAL ELEMENTS are not in our repertoire. Soothing, healing, coaching, advocating, massaging, calming, reaching, holding, supporting, breathing, stabilizing, combing, brushing, braiding, rubbing, preparing, planning, speaking, prioritizing, providing, even entertaining. These verbs are the defining elements of our duties (mostly) and they include everything from rubbing feet to prioritizing the mother’s birth preferences should an emergency decision have to be made, and her wants have to change on a dime. Aaaaand that brings use to the soothing and calming during what can be the most stressful experience of a woman’s life, a couple’s relationship, and a baby’s entrance into the world. Bottom line is that these verbs hone our list of, “Dos” while there is that one thing – medical delivery – we DON’T.
- We are generally a part of the delivery team. A friend of mine gave a great metaphor to the skill set. If you think of what a caddy provides to a PGA golfer, we are very much the golf caddies of the birth-team community. We provide the suggestions of a movement to positively forward along a birthing mother (just one of our many provisions), much like a caddy would recommend a nine-iron or six-iron in certain situations. It was a perfect metaphor, and I’m going to simply leave it at that. It is worth saying though…Ya never see a PGA golfer enter the Masters without their caddy. Don’t “do birth” without us!
- There is almost nothing we won’t do for a client in need of comfort. Doulas work at various levels via their certifications – prenatal, postpartum, birth, end-of-life, lactation coaches – there are many hats and certification levels for women to seek in a doula as they survey their options, budget, and needs. doulamatch.net is a great place to start! When I joined, it was excellent to share my availability since mine is currently limited, but will change over time. Check it out if you are starting to research. I get inquiries via email, and it’s a very friendly forum for both doulas and our clients seeking services, to begin their journey.
- We support births in all locations – hospitals are now beginning to have their own doula teams as the requests have increased in recent years. We can come to a hospital alongside the family from start to finish. We are not just attendees for home births. We do it all.
- We support women of all preferences. Want anesthesia? Cool. Don’t? Cool too. C-section? We’re there. Birth with no complications? We are there also. Gone is the myth that doulas only support women who prefer to go “all natural”…nope! Bring it on, baby (literally).
I’m keeping this to a short and simplistic list. According to AmericanPregnancy.Org, the use of a doula, “Decreases the overall unplanned cesarean rate by 50%, the length of labor by 25%, the use of oxytocin by 40%, and the requests for an unplanned epidural by 60%.” My goal today was simply to pull back the curtain on the role of a doula. It’s 2019. Time to start birthing like it, ladies! In the words of Salt n Pepa, “Push It!”