So I explain what a Doula is…….
When people ask me what I do for a living I say I am an ante natal teacher and doula, this is followed by either knowing nods of ‘yes i know about them – Doulas – my sister/friend/acquaintance had one’ – or I am given a puzzled look as although they know what an ante natal teacher is – the word doula is somewhat more intriguing.
So I explain what a Doula is – well I tend to say a childbirth companion and people tend to to then go ‘arh ok’ they mainly then say ‘do you only work with single parents?’ thinking that if they have a husband/partner/mother/sister with them there is no need for a Doula. I say yes I have supported single parents but also just as many couples as they value the support given to them by a doula. This is then followed by – ‘ooh i would love to be a Doula – it must be great watching the baby being born’
People perceptions of a Doula are they are only there for the birth, this cannot be further away for the truth.
Supporting a women and her family through her birthing journey, starts from the first call, when the enquiry is made. Listening to the women’s experience of any previous births and any anxieties they made be holding on to and why they would like a Doula.
I then arrange to meet the family, there is no formality to this meeting it is very much led by the Mum and Dad to be – de briefing any previous births – this is so important as if the mums to be cannot resolve any issues from the birth it will impact on their impending birth. Discussing various options for their birth – whether is home or hospital – do they want a water birth? What sort of interventions, if any they would like and so on.
When this meeting has finished I ask the family to think about whether they would like me to be their Doula and let me know – Why you may ask – it is so important that the person you choose to be your Doula is someone who has the same ideas around childbirth as you do. Do you feel you can put your trust in her totally that she will protect you and your space during labour?
As the mum to be pregnancy progresses, I am on hand via email, text and phone – meeting regularly and looking at active birth positions to alleviate common pregnancy ailments and positions for birth. Talking to family members about the new arrival and how they are feeling.
Until finally the on call period starts at week 38 and finishes at week 42 – this means I am on call 24/7 – constantly having my phone with me, not travelling too far and no alcohol. Is this stressful – no its exciting knowing at any moment you can be called to support the woman you have spent the past few months getting to know on her birthing journey. As the mum to be has her bag packed, so do I with the birth plan, fluids, bananas, straws, flannel, underwear and travel toothbrush and toothpaste – you never know how long your going to be away from home for.
Then the call comes – generally in the middle of the night. Off I go to meet mum at her chosen place of delivery and we have a chat about how things are going and then I support mum to use her instincts to birth her baby – this can be keeping upright and walking, rotating the hips on the birthing ball and helping her to breathe through her contractions, light touch massage and visualisations. Also making sure mum to be has plenty to drink and has slow releasing energy food. It is also important for the Doula to sit back and watch and use her instincts to support the mum to be.
Soon – I use the term ‘soon’ loosely as this can be anything from 6 – 48 hours, it is time for baby to make their appearance – babies come at various speeds from shooting out to those taking it slowly and bit by bit – when baby comes, no matter how many birth you attend each one is special in its own way and I still feel choked when I see a baby birthed by mum and having skin to skin contact.
I can then help mum, get settled on the ward if in hospital, have a shower and get all freshened up or I can leave mum, dad and baby all to get to know each other – the choice is theirs.
I feel it is such a privilege to be allowed to be a part of a families journey and will I always cherish each family and birth.
Thanks to Paula for this wonderful insight, here is her website if you would like to go and take a look www.beautifulbumpsandbabes.co.uk