You’ve got an amazing partner, the most fantastic BFF, perhaps a super sister, or a mother/grandmother who rocks beyond belief. Maybe even more than one of these things. So…what the heck do you need a birth doula for?!
A birth doula is a trained professional with a vast knowledge of labor and birth. The care provided by your loved ones is priceless during labor and childbirth – no one knows you better than your partner or close friends and family! The expertise and experience of a birth doula will only compliment this by providing support to your entire birth team, with the main focus always being on you. A doula will enhance the support that others will provide, without being intrusive.
Your mother, father, grandmother, and dear friends each have their own emotional response to seeing you, a woman they love experience labor, and to welcoming this new child into their lives. Doulas respect that this is a special moment for each person, and gently provide encouragement, information and reassurance that will help your loved ones offer their support in a way that also respects your needs.
Most family and friends do not have experience with labor and birth. They don’t know what is “normal”, they often don’t know the physiology of labor and how to help you find a good position to help relieve pain or discomfort, and above all else they are emotionally involved. A doula is not emotionally involved like those closest to you. We know that it’s ok if you cry during labor or curse loudly or say you want to give up. Labor is hard work! Doulas know this! But we also know you can do it and we know how to talk you through the difficult parts. We care about you. We are there to be your support, and many times Moms/Sisters/BFFs don’t know what to do when you say you give up. They want to fix it. They may try to convince you to make choices that you are trying to avoid or distract you with their worries.
A doula speaks the language of birth, both intuitively and technically. Doulas are trained in providing comfort measures for coping with pain, normalizing the experience for all involved, and assisting a mother and her partner/team in making informed choices around her birth experience and newborn care.
Informed Consent – permission granted in the knowledge of the possible consequences, typically that which is given by a patient to a doctor for treatment with full knowledge of the possible risks and benefits.
While surveying a group of non birth worker friends informed consent was a BIG topic. Comments ranged from, “I wish I had known I could have said no”, “I didn’t like feeling like things were just being done to me”, “I wish I had known I could have asked questions”, to, “I didn’t even know where they had taken my child”
Whenever a medical procedure, drug, test, or other treatment is offered to you, you have the legal right to “informed consent.” This means that your doctor, midwife or nurse is responsible for explaining to you:
- why this type of care is being offered
- what it would involve
- the harms and benefits that are associated with this type of care
- alternatives to this care, and their respective harms and benefits, including the possibility of doing nothing at the present time (“watchful waiting”)
As a doula, I see so many excellent care providers, who very clearly explain what is going on, and why. And, sometimes I see people walk in and in the words of one person who answered my informal survey, “just do things”.
You have the right, and the responsibility to ask questions. You have the right to ask for a second opinion. You have the right to say no.
While it can feel overwhelming to speak up, and ask questions in the midst of labor, it is so important. Important for you and your baby’s physical well being, but, also for helping to achieve the birth you have planned.
Hiring a doula is an excellent way to help you along this path. As a doula, I am not allowed to speak for you. I am not allowed to tell you what to say. But, what I can do is make sure you understand what is happening. Remind you of your preferences. Ask you if you need things explained more clearly. I can help you ask for more time, and help you formulate the questions you want to ask.
Your birth is your journey, and the first of many as a parent, but, a doula can help be your guide through the process.
Last week I took a little informal survey of my non doula, non birth worker friends on my personal facebook, as well as a San Fernando Valley community group, and asked mothers and partners to name something that surprised them about birth and that they wished someone had told them about beforehand.
One common theme was support. The great need for continuous support. From comments stating that the partner just didn’t know what to do, or, that it was just too much for them to deal with, to, they just weren’t at all supportive. No matter how amazing your partner is, they too need someone to reassure them, this is normal, birth is normal, fear is normal, you’re doing great. Doulas are trained, of course, to take care of the birthing woman, but, I firmly feel that taking care of the partner is also a huge part of taking care of the birthing woman. If your partner is calm, focused, and directed, they can help you remain calm, focused and directed. Sometimes I think of myself as a labor translator…or, as this great Pam England quote says – a sherpa –
“Asking your husband to be your sole guide through labor is like asking him to lead the way on a climb of Mt Everest. He may be smart and trustworthy, you may love him, but in the Himalayas you’d both be a lot better off with a Sherpa!” – Pam England
Every labor is different. Every birth is different. Some are slow and calm, some are fast and frantic. Why not have a calm, caring voice at your side?
Whether it’s your first birth, or your fifth, the calm, nonjudgmental support of a labor and birth doula makes for a more satisfying birth experience!
~Heather Mayer – Birth and Postpartum Doula
*Part 2 will address informed consent and your right to speak up and ask questions!
It is natural for baby to be close to his mother/primary caregiver. Babies are happiest when being held.. Babywearing is a great practice for keeping baby happy and to help build a stronger bond. The benefits of babywearing are many!
When we wear a baby in a carrier, we can walk around freely and not have to worry about negotiating steps, crowds or narrow aisles with a stroller. A carrier can also be great to help block out excess stimuli when breastfeeding a distractible baby.
When a baby rides in a carrier attached to his mother, he is in tune with the rhythm of her breathing, the sound of her heartbeat, and the movements his mother makes.. This stimulation helps him to regulate his own physical responses, and exercises his vestibular system, which controls balance. The carrier becomes in essence a “transitional womb” for the new baby, who has not yet learned to control his bodily functions and movements. Research has shown that premature babies who are touched and held gain weight faster and are healthier than babies who are not.
Studies have shown that the more babies are held, the less they cry and fuss. Crying is exhausting for both the baby and his parents, and may cause long-term damage as the baby’s developing brain is continually flooded with stress hormones. Babies who do not need to spend their energy on crying are calmly observing and actively learning about their environment. Baby-wearing is especially useful for colicky babies, who are far happier being worn, but placid, content babies and children will also benefit greatly from the warmth and security of being held close.
Carriers are a useful tool for every adult in a baby’s life. I love seeing baby wearing dads/partners going for a walk with their baby in a sling! The baby is becoming used to their voice, heartbeat, movements and facial expressions, and the two are forging a strong attachment of their own. Partners don’t have the automatic head-start on bonding that comes with gestation, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make up for this once their baby is born. The same goes for babysitters, grandparents and all other caregivers. Holding baby safe and close in a carrier is a wonderful way to get to know the baby in your life, and for the baby to get to know you!
As a postpartum doula I love spreading the babywearing love and helping new families figure out the perfect carrier for them! There’s so many resources out there for help – from facebook babywearing groups, to certified babywearing instructors located here in the San Fernando Valley .
I wish for your birth to be everything you want it to be. I want it to be joyful, and empowering. I want it to be safe, and I want you to always feel listened to and respected.
As a doula, I’m a natural birth cheerleader, this is true, but, as YOUR doula I respect that your birth is your choice. It’s my job to help support your wishes and needs every step of the way.
It’s my job to help you remember why you don’t want that epidural, and to find your voice to say NO. It’s my job to tell you how awesome you’re doing, and hold your hand, and reassure you that you are strong and powerful even if you decide that drugs are the best choice.
It’s my job to focus on YOU, 100%. To respect and support your choices.
It’s my job to help you stick to your birth plan, and remind you of all the reasons you wanted it, but, it’s also my job to let you make your own choices, and change your mind as things progress.
I wish you everything you want from your birth, no matter what path that may take, and how different it may look from one moment to the next.
It’s my wish, that every time you look down at that new, beautiful being, no matter how they came earthside, that you know that YOU are strong, YOU are powerful, YOU did this.
I just had the most amazing Sunday! I had the privilege to attend a full day workshop on acupressure for pregnancy, labor, and postpartum issues.
Sunday morning I got up early (early for me, Sunday is a sleep in day when I’m not working!), and went from Woodland Hills to Venice. I was blessed with no traffic (if you know Los Angeles, you know what a miracle that is), and gorgeous sunny blue skies.
My DONA International approved workshop was held at The Sanctuary, in Venice and led by the fantastic and highly skilled Nicholas Olow. 9-5:30 was spent all on acupressure and comfort techniques to better serve my clients, and to help facilitate bonding and closeness between the birthing mother and her partner. It was a fantastic day, surrounded by awesome doulas and so much positive energy. Much knowledge was shared, and so much love, and energy filled the room.
I learned SO much. The workshop was hands on and absolutely wonderful. I went in with an open mind and fully expecting to enjoy it, but, I must say, it lit a fire to continue learning even more acupressure techniques. New skills to bring to my clients, new knowledge for me, and a new passion!
So amazing. I love my life!