What This Doula Wants You to Know

 

 

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Doulas are for everyone. At least, this one is. Doulas are not only for the earthy-crunchy, squat-in-a-field-by-the-river, no-medication-whatsoever Moms.  I believe everyone could benefit from some intensive support, no matter what your preference, plan, or non-plan is.

After all, birth is a monumental, incredible, life-changing experience, whether you think of it that way or not. And who wouldn’t want some degree of support while going through a monumental, life-changing experience?  But – believe it or not – some people don’t hire a doula. Which is absolutely okay. There are many mothers, sisters, friends, even partners out in the world who are up for the challenge and make incredible birth companions.

But pregnancy and birth is not always a straight line. It (sometimes) has it’s twists and turns, and  (sometimes) that’s when having a trained professional- someone who has been down this well worn path many, many times before, and has seen an endless number of variations of this dance- is invaluable.

But whether you hire a doula or not, my nervous, excited, ever-so-hopeful and determined mama…..there are a few things I really want to share with you.

  • Please, take a great deal of care and time when choosing your birth provider. Your provider is one of the most important decisions you will make in this process. He or she has a significant impact on the outcome of your birth. Please, talk to them open and honestly early on. Listen to what they say, and how they say it. Listen to the tone of voice they use, look at their facial expressions. Then listen for what they don’t say. Don’t be afraid to share everything you are concerned or curious about, or to ask anything, even the hard questions. Then notice how you feel when you are talking with them. Do you feel calm and at ease? Supported? Dismissed? Like they are truly listening? If you don’t get a good feeling and it doesn’t feel like a good match look into meeting another provider. You have the ability and the power to do so! It needs to be a good fit for you both! You need to feel completely comfortable in this relationship. There are all types out there. Just because this person was incredible with your good friend, or cousin, or cousin’s sister, doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for you!!! Go with your gut.
  • Providers are human beings too. They have similar clinical training across the board, but all have their unique personalities. They bring to the table (and to your birth) with them their own “baggage”. They have opinions and history and past experiences that are going to impact they way they practice today. That doesn’t make them good or bad, only human! Again, find one that makes you feel comfortable! For example, if you are seeking a  VBAC and they seem on the fence about it early on, they are not going to suddenly change their mind halfway through YOUR pregnancy and become a huge advocate and push for it! You might wish that, but it’s not going to happen. So again, find the right fit, early on, or move on and keep looking. It’s a lot easier to find a compatible provider at week 15 than it is at week 36. Or, be prepared to constantly advocate for yourself every step of the way.
  • Remember to think outside the box. There are other places to give birth. Such as at home, with a skilled midwife, or at a Birth Center. Look into these options if you are low risk and seeking a natural birth. They are not so outside the box anymore. More and more women are seeking out these locations for their births because the return of a more a natural birth experience is becoming more and more mainstream. Many women are realizing that most hospitals treat birth as a medical event, a business, not a natural, normal process.
  • If you choose to use an OB as a provider, and there are many supportive, attentive, empathetic OB’s out there, find out how many other OB’s (and Certified Nurse Midwives who also may deliver there) are in the practice. It is not uncommon for a practice to have easily anywhere from 2 to 4 other providers, not counting CNM’s in the practice. So if you painstakingly do all your research and find YOUR PERFECT PROVIDER….please remember the chances of them being the actual person on call the day you go into labor are…well, you do the math. They rotate. So the chances are slim it will happen that way. So it’s best to wrap your head around that concept early on, and make sure all the providers are like-minded. Or find a smaller practice with a different doctor.
  • Education goes a long way. The more educated you are about pregnancy and birth, the more comfortable you will be when and if a deviation from your original plan happens. Take a childbirth class, a breastfeeding class, a newborn care class or all 3. Knowledge is power!
  • I can’t take the pain away…as a Doula I wish I could. But then I’d rob you of the experience of knowing you can and will do this. This experience will push you to the brink of your capabilities. It’s a rite of passage, no matter which way it happens. And the experience belongs to you. As a doula, I can be there by your side, helping you navigate the twists and turns, helping you stay as comfortable as possible, reminding you that you can do this, you’ve got what it takes to get through. Unwavering in my faith in you, and in the process.

You can do this….you will do this.

Remember you have so many choices along the way….

You can choose where to give birth.

You can choose to do it all natural.

You can choose a scheduled c-section.

You can choose an epidural.

You can choose to change your mind midway and go from all natural to an epidural.

You can choose to decline any or all medications for you or your baby.

You can choose not to consent to a procedure that is being recommended if you’ve carefully weighed the pros and cons and don’t believe it’s in your and your baby’s best interest.

But the beauty of this whole experience is you have a lot of power, and you have choices.

Don’t forget that!

 

 

 

“You’re a Do-what?”

It seems like even with the current evolution of the birth world- with documentaries like “The Business of Being Born” and “Born in the USA” becoming quite well known, and more women choosing home births or seeking out birth centers, you hear more and more about “alternative” birth practices and birth-related terms. Home births, water births, unassisted births, midwives, doulas, placenta encapsulation, placenta smoothies….these are all terms that are now quite common. Well, at least you’ve probably heard the terms before, even if you don’t know exactly what they all mean. And quite possibly, if you’re not pregnant (or planning to become pregnant….or if you’re a male) you might not want to know what some of these terms mean.

But…..for me, if I had a dollar for every time I still heard “You’re a doo- whaaaat?” when I say I’m  a doula…..well, let’s just say I’d be typing this blog post from aboard my yacht as I sip on a tropical cocktail by the pool, while the cabana boy who bears a striking resemblance to Chris Hemsworth rubs sunscreen on my body (please note, I’m not on-call in this fantasy). Because, well, let’s face it, the reality is many people don’t really know what exactly a doula is (although they might think they do, or they don’t want to admit that they don’t). Heck, I work closely with two home-birth midwives that have had clients who have already hired them and aren’t sure what the difference between a doula and a midwife is. Not to mention the misconception that if you hire a doula, it must mean you are planning to birth at home in flower-petal filled water, singing “Kumbaya” wearing nothing but a wreath on  your head, while burning sage and chanting mantras in ancient dialects. And while I think that sounds AMAZING and I’d love to attend that birth, that’s just not the case. Most of the time, the women who most benefit from having a doula are those birthing in a hospital setting, with a traditional OB as their care provider. Because birth can be “complicated” within that setting, with many opposing forces coming into play along the way.

The word doula is of Greek origin and means “woman who serves”. But please, allow me to break it down for you further. Here it is, in language everyone can understand- what a doula is and what a doula is not. Or rather, what a doula does and doesn’t /shouldn’t do.

A doula…

…provides physical, informational, and emotional support.

That means we help you identify what comfort measures work best for you to alleviate the physical discomforts associated with pregnancy and birth. That could mean massage, hot/cold packs, different positions for laboring women to move into to get the baby in the best position for birth,  music, affirmations, visualizations, meditations, etc. We are there to help you navigate throughout your birth using all of these and more, silently recognizing when something that was working great is no longer effective, and we gracefully guide you to a new suggestion.

It means we help you get whatever evidence-based information you need in order to help you make the best decisions for your family and your birth. Whether it is helping you to communicate effectively with your care provider what your wishes & hopes are; helping you to listen to their responses and to determine if you feel heard, understood and respected; giving you links to information on a procedure or intervention that is being recommended; giving you community resources for other types of practitioners throughout your pregnancy , birth and postpartum that may be helpful; taking your phone calls at 2 am when you are wondering “Is this normal?” when you are wide awake at night because you are worried, and tired, and haven’t been able to find a comfortable sleeping position in MONTHS, and just want to ask that question but you don’t want to call your care provider and seem silly or overcautious.

It means emotionally, we are present and there for you at all times, without judgement or an agenda. When your family members are questioning your decisions and your choices. When your fears leading up to birth become overwhelming. When the time FINALLY comes and you are in the thick of it and you get to the point where you don’t think you can do it anymore. We are there to hold your hand, wipe your brow, look you in the eye and remind you that you CAN do this, you will do this, you are doing this.

A doula does not:

  • perform ANY clinical tasks such as taking your blood pressure, performing vaginal exams, checking fetal heart tones, etc.
  • make any decisions for you. We help you to get the information necessary to make informed decisions, both during pregnancy as well as during your labor and delivery. We also remind you if there is a departure from your original birth preferences.
  • speak to the staff or care providers on your behalf. We will discuss your concerns with you and suggest options, and tactfully help you & your partner speak to the staff directly and feel empowered to make decisions regarding your birth.

As doulas, we are simply there for you. We hold space. We are your ally, your partner, your sister, your mother, your coach and your friend all rolled up into one during that magical time of pregnancy and birth. And we are grateful and honored to be able to serve you and be a witness to your miracle.

Please feel free to share this with anyone who might benefit from better understanding what a doula is. If you would like any more information specifically about the services I provide, please contact me at martha@zenmamalove, or visit my webpage, www.zenmamalove.com.

Birth Meme