What a doula is and does, and the impact we are capable of making
This is by far the most frequently asked question I get in regards to the work that I do. If the response following my answer of "doula" when asked what I do for a living isn't "What's that?" it's typically something along the lines of "Oh, so like a midwife?" (sigh). Nope, not at all actually. So what is it, then? If you looked this question up on google before I'm sure you've seen the same lackluster definitions over and over again. In Greek it means "servant to the mother", or some say its "mothering the mother," etc, etc. These definitions don't even scratch the surface of what a doula is and does, and they sure don't do this line of birth work any justice. In my strong opinion and experience: us doulas are SO much more. So what are we? What do we do?
In short: doulas are non-medical professionals hired-by the birthing person+family-to assist in the transformational journey of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum by offering mental, emotional, and spiritual guidance, comfort measures, and practical tools. These include but are not limited to:
Evidence based information and education about and throughout pregnancy, labor, and postpartum
Emotional support for the duration of the pregnancy and postpartum periods, via phone, email, or in person visits
Assistance in creating a Birth Plan or Birth Preferences, help in deciding on a care model and provider, and understanding their options
Help preparing an arsenal of tools and resources for navigating the challenges of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum
Preparing for the birth by going over different comfort measures, position changes, pain management options, affirmations, visualizations, and more
Providing constant, unwavering support during labor and birth, however that looks per individual
Advocating for clients and making sure communication between the birthing person and care providers stays clear and open
Assisting with initial breastfeeding
Remaining a steady presence throughout the postpartum period
Holding space for birthing person and family to debrief on the birth experience
These are the most common, tangible ways that doulas serve their clients. Birth often feels like uncharted territory and doulas are wonderful guides. However, there is much more to this incredible line of work. Although these above mentioned services are extremely important and useful, the real magic of the interaction between doula+client(s) is often one that cannot be seen, but felt.
Doulas have been used since the beginning of time. It was only recently-with the start of modern medicine and maternal care- that this beautiful craft of being "with woman" was lost. The lack of a support from our village or tribe and the lack in continuity of care takes a huge toll on our ability to confidently birth our babies. Feeling fully and completely supported in our birth journeys is astronomically important. Being out of touch with our inner "wise woman" is another obstacle that we face as modern day women. Most of us live in a society where the divine masculine tends to be valued more often than those of the divine feminine. This causes women to suppress their intuitions, self awareness, and deep inner knowing at a young age.
As shitty and frustrating as this really is, the work of doulas is a powerful way to help heal an imbalanced society. There is something extremely magical that happens for women when they are given the permission and space to be 100% themselves without fear of judgement or abandonment. The power of telling someone "I SEE you and I BELIEVE in you, beyond a shadow of a doubt" combined with the transformative nature of birth makes for an extremely profound awakening. That kind of personal realization has the power to undo years of conditioning, negative self talk, and fear, AND has the power to rekindle those innate feminine traits that are often lost.
Imagine a world where every birthing person recognizes their inner power, listens to their intuition, and is free enough from expectations to be their authentic selves. This is the kind of revolution that is possible with birth.
So yes, our hip squeezes and pressure points, positive affirmations and unwavering support are crucial for a positive birth experience. But, it's the intangible connection, the pure trust and love and synergy between doula and birthing person, that creates something deeper. For me, that's whats so addicting about this work. Yes, it's the babies and the bellies and the magic of birth itself, but the transformation that takes place in a woman journeying from maiden to mother, THAT'S what I live for. That's what keeps me coming back again and again to this work. That's what brings me to my knees in gratitude and makes my heart sing.