I was first introduced to the concept of a doula when researching the overwhelming amount of information on the interwebs surrounding pregnancy and the undoable realization that a human being was in fact going to exit my body. While I never had a preconceived notion about what they were or weren’t, I just stumbled upon a website that described the profession and the potential benefits of having them join your birth team. Immediately, I was sold on all the juicy goodness of additional emotional support because truth be told my husband is somewhat of an emotional deer in headlights. Then one night we randomly watched The Business of Being Born and my husband and I knew we absolutely needed this unicorn doula lady to go ahead and be at our birth.
Fast forward through twelve million doula interviews and we hired the most lovely of doulas I ever laid eyes on. For real, I maybe had a slight lady crush on my doula. She was just that badass. It wasn’t until we hired her that I realized I was doing everything backwards. My OB was just the doc I’d been seeing to keep my lady bits in check pre-children so why not stick around to let her catch my baby? I never asked questions. I just showed up, listened to my kid’s heartbeat, and then stared at her blankly when she inquired about what questions we had. I may have even been slightly annoyed, like ‘I dunno lady you tell me, I’ve never grown a human before.’
Our doula recommended we take a childbirth education class so we had a better idea of what we were hoping for in our birth and holy moly were we ignorant about so many things. We had an entire class dedicated to choosing a care provider and I was panicked realizing how much of a mismatch my OB actually was for our wants and needs. So here I was almost 30 weeks pregnant on the search for a brand new OB. It was stressful, but in the end hiring a new care provider made all the difference during my birth journey.
Overall, our first (and second) experience with a doula was beyond amazing and made us firm believers in their presence at births, but explaining the investment to friends, family and sometimes strangers was often a comical dialogue to say the least. Now that I’ve decided to become trained as a doula myself, the misconceptions and confusion about what the hell I’ll be doing in close proximity to someone else’s afterbirth have only intensified. With all that said, I’ve decided to debunk some of the more popular myths out there about this very common yet seemingly foreign profession. Maybe you are on the fence about hiring one for your own birth or maybe you are just my dad and still don’t understand my life choices, but either way I stand to set the record straight.
Doulas ARE NOT:
Crunchy hippie commune oil sniffing flower children.
There is probably a doula out there that identifies with this label, but certainly not all of them. I personally consider myself more of a crunchy peanut butter eating coffee sniffing wild child. The point is every doula is a unique individual and while trained similarly, each will have their own personality, strengths, and lense through which they practice their skills. This is why the interview process is so important. It’s not any different than interviewing a pediatrician or in general researching your options when it comes to the professionals you want or need to hire in your lifetime. You deserve someone that is a good fit and makes you feel comfortable and while doulas certainly have a passion for trusting in your body, more than anything they have a passion for empowering their clients.
Strictly natural birth supporters.
Doulas are definitely passionate about minimal interventions, but that doesn’t mean they laugh in the face of medicine. All medical interventions have a place and doulas have a vast knowledge of all types of births and the types of interventions that may be necessary and why. To me, this aspect of doula care was one of the main reasons I fell in love with the profession. Their job is never to judge. Their job is to support, educate and empower you in your choices. They don’t care if you have a home birth, a scheduled cesarean, all the drugs in a hospital, or if you birth alone in a field with a baby goat, they care that you had options and were respected and supported in your choices.
Most of the time when people ask me what a doula is, the response in my head is “Oh you know a person who practices witchcraft. Like midwives.” Of course I don’t say this, but seriously, both of these very separate professions get confused way too often. Midwives are trained health professionals that provide pre/postnatal care and deliver babies just like a physician can.
Doulas do not deliver babies. They have nothing to do with the medical aspects of pregnancy or birth. My definition of a doula is that they are essentially social workers, but for birth. They educate, empower, and advocate for mothers (and fathers) during their birth journey. Doulas process hopes and fears, answer questions, and connect you with resources. While in labor, they help create an environment of calm where you feel respected and heard and overall are there to provide emotional support and guidance to the parents. No digging in cervixes allowed.
Replacing your partner.
Doulas don’t come into a birth and take over. In fact, one of the main roles of a doula is to facilitate involvement where needed. Birth can often be a marathon, emotionally taxing event that even the most prepared of couples aren’t prepared for. Doulas can remind partners what they learned in birth class, demonstrate pain relief techniques, or simply compliment the partners strengths and reassure them that they are doing a great job. Has labor slowed down? Believe it or not dad might not remember that nipple stimulation can help. Even more doulas carry around the biggest Mary Poppins bag of tricks I’ve ever seen. My doula had goodies such as a rice sock heating pad, tennis balls for counter pressure, essential oils to combat nausea or fatigue, and snacks to keep me energized.
Speaking of snacks, doulas also make sure partners take care of themselves cause no matter how badass your partner might be, they still gotta eat and pee and doulas know how to tag team like a boss. Ultimately a doula is not someone you hire for the mother only. They are a doula to both parents.
So there you have it, doulas are not a bunch of crazy hippies. They play a very valuable role in birth and I encourage anyone about to embark on parenthood to research the profession and consider the benefits hiring one might provide you and your partner. If you want to learn more or need help finding a doula in your area check out Best Doula training. I’m beyond thrilled to begin my own journey as a doula and can’t wait to start supporting couples in the sacred and beautiful space of child birth.