Thinking of possibly investing in a doula but not sure what a doula really is? Look no further! This blog goes deep into what a doula is... and isn't.
Have you had these questions?
What the heck is a doula?
How can a doula help me?
What does a doula do?
Why should I hire a doula?
Will a doula replace my partner?
Before I knew what a doula was I had all these questions, as well as some deeply held biases about what a doula was (you know, typically hippy with a flower crown that smells like incense!).
Doulas - but not that word - think birth support people, have been practicing since the beginning of time to give comfort and support to mothers as they bring their children into the world. Doulas also provide essential help during postpartum.
The word "Doula" was coined in the 70's. And being a doula wasn't considered mainstream until about 10 or so years ago - doulas often hid in the shadows and weren't actively marketing or promoting themselves online or in person. They certainly were charging their worth for the amount of hours or emotional labour that goes into this role. Times are a changing and doulas are becoming more and more well known as an essential part of the birthing persons and whole families experience.
By definition, a doula is someone who provides physical, emotional, mental and spiritual support to birthing people and their families. Doula's do not offer clinical/medical care or advice. Midwives do 'womb down' care, making sure you and baby are cared for clinically. Doulas do 'womb up' care, your inner world, heart and mind. We prepare you for labour and those early postpartum parenting days. We coach you through finding your inner wisdom. How I define myself as a doula is that I show up for you with integrity, supporting you through pregnancy, labour and birth reminding you how much of a birthing badass you are.
A doula supports the whole family unit - not just the mother or birthing person. Dads and partners need this vital support too! We help them to help you. They learn to advocate for you, and how to best support you when you enter the passage to parenthood that is birth.
A doula brings the human experience back to humanity.
When you invest in a doula, ultimately you will be prepared and empowered for a positive birth experience. Throughout prenatal catchups a doula will prepare you for the role of labour and provide continual support with four pillars - physical support, emotional/spiritual support, informational support and advocacy.
Many women don't know they have choices surrounding their pregnancy and they way they want to birth. A good doula will empower you to be informed about your rights. A doula doesn't advocate for you, but teaches you to empower yourself through finding your voice. I do this by guiding you and supporting you though the inner work (and it is work!).
Many families hire a doula because they want continuity of care from the same familiar face. Many women who birth want constant physical support or just the option for it. Midwives, amazing as they are, sometimes can not provide continual emotional or physical support during labour in a hospital setting - they are often looking after many other birthing women at the same time - so unfortunately there often isn't the time to provide the care they truly want to give you while your contractions build and your ready to birth.
Labour can be long! Partners can get tired. A doula tag teams with your partner so you can have constant support. That can look like slow dancing, massage and acupressure, helping you with breathing techniques, wiping your sweat away as I whisper how strong you are and how amazing you're doing. Or, I just holding space for you with my presence. I do not take away from your partner or replace him/her in any way.
Overall, a doula is a birth professional who becomes a trusted friend, confidant and side kick. Someone to bounce ideas around with, someone to ask how and what to expect during labour, someone to cry with, laugh with and be your true authentic self with. A doula/client relationship is a treasured one and something I am so honoured I get to be apart of.
If your thinking about investing in a doula during your pregnancy, birth and postpartum journey reach out, I'd love to support you to have a positive, empowering birth experience so you can walk into parenthood with confidence and clarity.
"I really want a doula but I'm not sure my partner is on board"
"He's thinks its not worth having a doula when he can support me"
"He says he can support me well enough during the birth"
"He doesn't want a doula there because he feels like its a time just for us"
This is actually a super common thing to experience. When an expectant women wants to hire a doula, it's more often then not, the mama finds a doula and then a joint decision is made between the two people who created the baby. I'm a huge advocate for respecting each others needs and desires in a relationship but it can cause some tension when you want a doula and your partner doesn't. So what can you do?
Get to the root
Some expecting dads or partners don't want someone they don't know coming into such a sacred space for a variety of reasons. Maybe because they feel like they will be replaced, they will miss out or that it's a special time for them and their partner. All super valid reasons. Yet, this is a huge misconception. A good doula will never replace your partners role. It's impossible. Your partner is the parent to this amazing new life and no doula can replicate that or take away from the bond that you two share. Having a doula present can actually amplify the role of the partner being more present (more on this below). Often these worries are at the root of a partners concern about investing in a doula.
Help them understand why you feel the need to have a doula present
Dads and partners do an amazing job when they're supporting the woman in labour. But they get tired too. It can be emotional watching your partner be in perceived pain. It can be worrying time, filled with anxiety, especially if its your first baby and they haven't experienced watching their partner give birth before. A doula is a calming an grounding presence to mum as well as dad. Dads and partners lean us on us for emotional support during labour too. When your surging and they are worried because it's unknown to them we bring a sense of "she's got this and so do you". Doulas and dads tag team, when your partner needs a rest, we take over. When your partner isn't sure how to best support you we guide them to try out this or that technique. When they need snacks, we got them and you covered. They mirror us and our calming presence. Thus amplifying the birthing space and the love between you two. They take visual cues from how we are supporting you and do the same. It's actually so beautiful to witness a partner do this, taking the time to find out how you need to be supported.
Explain the birth you desire
Tell them your fears, your worries, your anxieties. Tell them the type of birth you're hoping for - if it's an unmedicated/drug free birth, a doula is a huge asset on your team. The mother goes into a birth space knowing what she wants but if things get intense sometimes she asks for alll the epidurals when its something she didn't initially want. Your partner, seeing you in perceived pain wants to ease that and tells you "It's okay, get the epidural". Now, I'm all for if you truly want an epidural, and you have changed your mind - that is okay! But sometimes dad's jump the gun and want to ease the pain for you straight away. Maybe all you needed was 10 minutes to get your mind back in the game and let your bodies return to the state of ecstasy that oxytocin in labour provides. Having a doula by both your sides is a great asset to bring you back to your birth desires and wait it out a little bit (if that's what you truly want).
Consider doing birth education together
If your partner isn't sure about a doula, what about investing in birth education with one? They might warm to your chosen doula through 1:1 birth education. If not, then at least you will both have some amazing tools, techniques and tips to have the birth you want as well as being informed on the physiology of normal birth. This increases your confidence in your partner, and your partners confidence to be the best support they can be during your labour.
Birth throughout history
Having only one support person at your birth is quite a new convention in society. Go back 100-150 years ago and women have been supported by other women throughout birth for thousands of years. There is a yearning inside of us to be supported and held by other women during this time. By having more than one support person present it takes the pressure and stress off.
Doulas can help with a difficult decision
Sometimes there can be complications and mum might need an emergency caesarean and it can be a challenge to feel supported if this happens. If a complication comes up where mum and baby need to be separated for a short time (baby might need to go to NICU) dads and partners are faced with a hard decision to go with baby or stay with mum. Most mums want dad to go with bubs but this means she is left alone with no support. If a doula is present she can stay with you. You're both supported and no-one is left alone.
There's always postpartum support
If your partner really doesn't want a doula present at the birth there is always after birth support available.
Have a meeting with a doula, together.
It's one thing to read about, but when you meet a doula and get to ask questions in real life it cements a decision. I love when I meet expecting families together. Dads come away knowing that investing in a doula is a great way to support their partner and they feel supported as well. Doulas often have a no obligation initial catchup to see if they are the right fit for that client. I highly recommend meeting with a doula to see how you all mesh together. Go in with no expectations of an outcome - go to meet and ask questions about how a doula can support you both during the most momentous time of your lives.