The Mission of the Doula: to attend the birthing woman like the Queen that she is..
Since training to be a doula recently I’ve been asked lots of times to explain what a doula does… and that is a hard question since, in an authentic sense, a doula does NOTHING! Traditionally, a doula was a woman who would come and sleep, knit, read etc in the corner of a dark room as a woman laboured, as if to say “hey, if I can nap or carry on with my knitting it’s no big deal that you’re having a baby!” setting the tone for a relaxed labour with no excitement or adrenalin in sight. Obviously, although it would be brilliant if that’s all I was required to do (and I’d get a lot of knitting done!) there is a lot more to the role of a doula in today’s society and I’ll try to dedicate some time to explaining that in this blog post.
Unfortunately within the constraints of today’s healthcare system very few midwives get to see a woman from booking appointment to delivery (something many of them mourn daily). This often means that a woman has little or no relationship with the midwives attending her labour and she has to rely on her partner and birth plan to communicate her wishes to midwives that have little knowledge of her personal history or personality. A doula provides this continuity, a familiar face who not only knows how you wish your labour to be but also who you are, your fears and anxieties, what makes you happy, who or what makes you feel safe, all the little quirks and eccentricities that may prove exponentially helpful in a moment of fear, doubt, pain or anxiety. A doula also offers a woman someone outside of her family unit to trust, that has no emotional baggage in connection to her and purely has the woman’s best interests at heart – a buddy and confident purely associated with this birth and this pregnancy that isn’t going to get bored, or stressed, or worried by anything she says. This can also be a huge relief to other family members or a partner who feel free of the responsibility to play a “role” and instead can support you in a way unique to your relationship.
Let’s get this straight, I am NOT a midwife, nor do I wish to be. I don’t have any skills which crossover with any medical field and I won’t pretend that I know more than you about your medical notes… why? Because a doula is there is fill a role which is not in competition with your midwife or obstetrician, to prove them wrong, or oppose their advice. A doula is an advocate, a buffer, a translator, an information gatherer. Someone who works with you and your care providers to help you feel protected, safe, informed and relaxed. A doula will help keep you focussed on what you want and why, and be your advocate in finding a compromise you are happy with when that isn’t possible: keeping your journey as personal to you as possible. A doula will ask for space and time for you and your family to make a decision and as act as an ear or a shoulder when you need it.
I’m not a fan of the word “protector” as it implies that women require “protecting” and that those who attend the birthing woman have less than admirable motives. Guardian is a much better way to describe the role of a birth doula. We set the tone and mood for your labour, remaining calm and relaxed at all times. In the birth environment it is very easy for adrenalin among those not labouring to be high, and having just one person who is calm, relaxed and nonplussed has an immediate effect on calming others. A doula will also strive to maintain your physical environment, limiting the number of people in the room, keeping the lights low, being in charge of keeping people quiet and making sure everything is just-so. A doula will also limit interaction between the birthing mother and others present, briefing the midwives on arrival (out of the room) about pregnancy, previous delivery, labour so far, birth plan etc so that little or no questions need to be asked of the mother herself. They will chaperon all medical staff or midwives making sure that language used to palatable to the mother and “translating” to her as a calming, familiar voice if necessary keeping her unique personality, history and experience in mind. If anything unexpected occurs a doula will stay with the mother and be a calming, reassuring and clear-headed figure who the mother knows will be her passionate advocate and protector, allowing family members or partners to be free from the responsibility and just be there with each other, for each other.
Perhaps most overwhelmingly a doula respects and is in awe of each unique pregnant woman and labouring mother. We are drawn to being doulas as we wish for women to be honoured and respected during this magical time and wish to play whichever role makes that possible. Our focus is on keeping a woman relaxed, de-stressed, safe and fearless, allowing her to enjoy, relish and marvel in her pregnancy and labour. We are happy to walk dogs, play with children, give foot rubs, fold blankets, research for hours on end about burying placentas or natural caesareans, wipe your brow, reassure your partner in the delivery room, fill birth pools, make tea for midwives… you name it, if it will make you relaxed and enjoy the miracle of pregnancy and birth we’ll do it!
If you have any questions about what a doula is, does or how they could help you during pregnancy or birth then just get in touch with Hayley Embleton from A Mamas Touch, writer of this blog post, or why not arrange to meet her to talk about your wishes and see whether a doula could play a part in your journey?
For more information on the services Hayley can offer you please visit www.amamastouch.co.uk/doula/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org