You are what? A doula?

Many people have no idea what I do. These are some of the most common questions I get asked…

”Doula…what is that? What do you do?”

The word doula is actually a Greek word meaning “women’s servant”.

Historically women have been supporting other women during pregnancy and labour for centuries and being a doula means I continue to do this. Although my formal education does include training as a social worker and working with women and families, I am not a midwife or nurse. I have no medical training. It is important for my clients to remember this and ensure they differentiate the role of their medical provider and me as a doula.  Prior to delivery, I will encourage clients to write a “birth plan” and in writing this we usually discuss and explore pain relief techniques, relaxation techniques, massage and possible labouring positions.

 “How will you work with my husband/partner?”

Pregnancy and birth is an amazing experience for couples and can provide a whole new intimacy and vulnerability for many couples. It is my job to help both the pregnant woman and her partner to feel confident in their abilities, educate them on the birthing process and guide them into the most calm and gentle birthing experience possible. As amazing as birth can be, it can be stressful and exhausting for not just the mother but also her partner. Sometimes I create time and space for the partner to step away from the labouring mum and regroup, often I encourage and remind partners how to help their partner..but the most important thing I usually do is make sure the labouring mum feels safe and respected, no matter how the birth unfolds. My role is never to replace a husband or partner, but support and compliment their strengths in the birthing space. More often than not, birth doesn’t go to plan, but if both mum and dad know what and why things are happening their experience can remain one of joy, strength and positivity.

“Wouldn’t I only get a doula if I wanted a drug free natural birth”

The presence of a doula at a birth can be beneficial no matter what is planned or unfolds. Many women report needing fewer interventions when they have a doula, and it is never my job to choose the type of birth women have, just support their decisions.  

“Will you help me once the baby is born?’

An important part of my role is to debrief every birth with my clients. Talking through timelines, how and why things happened and answer any questions about their birthing experience is essential to feeling complete satisfaction in how their birth unfolded. There is also no doubt, that the immediate time after a baby is born can be one of the most confusing, exhausting and stressful parts of motherhood. I always offer a postpartum package, which can include basic things like cooking a few meals, light housework and watching baby while mum gets some sleep. In addition to these things, I refer on to other specialists for lactation support, observe and guide on settling techniques and talk through the changing emotions and feelings that mums and their partners may be experiencing.

The most important thing to remember about employing a doula is that not all doulas offer the same thing. Find the doula that is most aligned with your beliefs, don’t be afraid to ask them any “hard” questions and enjoy having an extra person as part of your birth team. Pregnancy and birth is an amazing journey and it is a privilege to share it with all my clients. I still stay in touch with my clients. I love the updates they give me about their beautiful babies and I know their birthing experience was filled with love, support and sometimes a lot of laughs.