I have a doula!

So some of you might be wondering, “what the heck is a doula?”  

Well, according to DONA International, “A birth doula is a person trained and experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after childbirth.”  Or as my midwife put it, “It’s like having your mom there without the emotional baggage.”  Basically, a doula is someone whose sole purpose is to focus on the mom during labor and attend to her physical and emotional comfort.  Her job isn’t to replace the dad or other family members but to add another voice and presence of experience and reassurance.  She doesn’t have medical training, so she’s not an assistant to the doctor or midwife, but she is trained in the birth process and can offer the mom massage, ideas of comfortable laboring positions, give suggestions when needed to the dad on how to physically comfort the mom, and even act as an advocate for the mom’s wishes to the medical staff.  

Clinical studies have shown that the presence of a doula 

  • tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications
  • reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
  • reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction
  • reduces the requests for pain medication and epidurals, as well as the incidence of cesareans

When a doula is present during and after childbirth, women report greater satisfaction with their birth experience, make more positive assessments of their babies, have fewer cesareans and requests for medical intervention, and less postpartum depression.

Studies have shown that babies born with doulas present tend to have shorter hospital stays with fewer admissions to special care nurseries, breastfeed more easily and have more affectionate mothers in the postpartum period.


I wasn’t planning-on having a doula at my birth simply because here in Washington their services can run upwards of a thousand bucks!  (give or take a few hundred)  But at my last midwife appointment I told her that although I had done a lot of reading and research about the birth process, Clay and I haven’t taken any childbirth classes, and I asked her if she thought that was just plain stupid.  She said that it wasn’t stupid since women have been having babies for thousands of years without childbirth classes, but of course it would have helped.  Then she recommended a doula.  She’s been a midwife for quite some time, I believe, and yet she said she had a doula present at the births of all of her children.  She said that I could probably find someone willing to do it for free since there are always people who are working toward their certification and need the experience, and they often have people calling the birth center and offering their services to any moms who need them.

 She put me in touch with the right people, I found a lady who helps coordinate a doula association in the area and she bent over backward to help me find someone.  So far I’ve talked to three people, and tonight we had our first interview with one of them.  She was awesome!  She looks like she’s actually probably around my age, which I wasn’t really expecting, but she was very professional and knowledgeable and works full-time as a doula.  (Which makes it amazing that she’s willing to do this for free, she said it’s because she just loves my midwife and the experience of helping a delivery at the birthing center as a change of pace from all of the hospital births she typically has…..And it’s amazing that she actually had a slot available for me since she’s almost booked through July!)  We talked for about an hour and a half, and I feel like we really clicked.  

She also had the funniest effect on Evelyne—normally Ev’s a little reserved around strangers, she usually won’t even look at them or talk to them for the first little while.  She eventually warms-up after about 20 minutes or so, but even with people she’s known for awhile and really likes, she gets shy.  But not with the doula!  Ev spent the entire time acting like we were all there to just watch her be cute.  She was singing every song she knew, dancing, doing every trick she knows how to do, and even making loud noises just so the doula would look at her!  We’ve never seen her react in such an immediate positive way to anybody, even family members!  It was hilarious!  

Anyway, so I’m super-excited.  I can call the doula as soon as I feel like I’m in labor and she’ll come to my house to be with me.  She’ll also be a big assistance in helping us decide when it’s time to go to the birth center.  Even just knowing she’s going to be there with us makes me feel so much more confident that this will be a positive experience.  As much as I need Clay there, he’s never gone through this either, so knowing that it won’t be just the two of us figuring this thing out is great.  She’s not there to usurp his role but to assist him in how to help me in the best possible way.  In addition, if a complication arises and we have to be transferred to the hospital, she will be with me the whole way and act as my advocate in situations where I would make decisions that differ from typical hospital protocol.  (delayed cord clamping, immediate skin-to-skin, no Hep B shot, etc…)  

Currently, I’m 38 weeks and 4 days.  My mom is coming out here on Sunday to stay for two weeks.  (Yay!)  I’m praying that I have this baby soon, and definitely before she goes home.  (I won’t be induced unless there’s a medical problem until 42 weeks, so it is possible!)  I’m getting nervous and excited… dreading the hard days and nights that I know are ahead and anticipating everything good in between.  I’m so thankful for this last-minute addition of a doula to the birth, it’s definitely been a major provision of the Lord.


9 responses to “I have a doula!

  1. I’m also pregnant and using a doula this time around, and I am really excited about it as well. I am glad you found someone who would work with you that you like so much!


  2. After talking to Jen about her experience, I’ll definitely be using a doula the next time around. That’s great that you’re able to find one who’ll do it for free!


  3. Yay! So excited for you! I’m sure she will be so helpful to you. It’s so funny the way Evy reacted to the doula—-Hannah did the same thing with our doula! I guess it’s just another reminder to me of how God has perfectly planned every detail of our lives. Oh–I’m so jealous of your naps in your new sheets! But I guess looking down at Caitlyn’s sweet face makes the days without naps worth it!


  4. YEA! YEA! YEA! for getting a doula! I can’t wait to hear how everything pans out. I’m glad the doula is giving you some more confidence and peace of mind.


  5. that’s so exciting, emily! what a blessing! i think you will have so much more peace of mind knowing that someone with so much experience will be guiding you through the whole process. i can’t WAIT to hear about it!


  6. Nice! My first kid ws 42.5 weeks so it does happen. I pray you will go A LOT sooner than that though.


  7. Hey Emily,

    This is Lisa (Zimmerman) Wellman. I enjoyed reading your post, and was intrigued as I came across your blog several months ago. I am so glad that you clicked with your doula–I smiled as I read the story about Evelyne– and you sound very encouraged about the labor process. It is amazing how God orchestrated all those details and that you were able to get a doula for free!

    As a Labor and Delivery nurse I was a little confused because a few of the comments about hospitals seemed harsh…not all hospitals, nor the staff there, are opposed to natural labors or a lot of the things that sound to be important to you (skin to skin, delayed cord clamping, limited fetal monitoring, and I am guessing maybe a whirlpool tub, the ability to move and ambulate, or even freedom from an IV). As a nurse who offers skin to skin after delivery , gives the option of mirrors during delivery for my patients, works with several midwives, and communicates about birthing balls, massage, positioning, and breathing techniques to my natural patients (which is less than 20%) I guess it is a little concerning you assume that is not an option in the hospital. Nearly all physicians/midwives are willing to work with your desires and expectations if you share them ahead of time. Hospitals do want to provide the most positive experience possible.

    I am not trying to be inflammatory. I do think birthing centers are a wonderful thing, and for people who know that a natural labor is what they want it may be a better environment. The hospital does have policies, for malpractice reasons, for the prevention of complications, or for patient safety, that may not be exactly the experience you have in mind.

    I hope that you have a wonderful experience, and that it is everything you hope for at the birthing center. Enjoy your time with your mom!!


  8. Lisa, it’s not that all hospitals are opposed to more natural options that I would want, but it’s not uncommon for a mom to have to really insist or fight for her wishes to be taken seriously or accomplished. I’m sure it all depends on what hospital you’re at and who you have as a doctor/nurse. Some people have fabulous experiences with a natural hospital birth, others have to fight tooth and nail to be allowed out of the bed. In case of a hospital transfer, I have written a birth plan to give to the nurses, and I’m told that the hospitals here are extremely considerate of honoring the mom’s birth plans, so I imagine that would be an ok situation. But there are just several “standard” procedures in hospitals that are more about covering the doctor’s butt than about what’s best for mom and baby, and that does make me a little bit more distrustful, but again, it all comes back to where you are and who you’re with. I’m more comfortable at the birth center because I know that all of the things I hope to have done (or not have done) are their standard of practice, and in the hospital I’d be working against the system (in some ways, not all!) and I’d really rather not have to deal with that when I’m in pain. =)
    I know I’d love to have you as my nurse, you’re probably a very calming and reassuring presence to your patients. And it sounds like you do go out of your way to honor their wishes which is awesome. =)


  9. Long time reader, first time commenter. 🙂

    My best friend is a doula and was present at my birth (natural/no meds, in a hospital with a midwife) back in June. It was a wonderful experience, and I wouldn’t want to do it any other way! We also had read a ton of books but opted to not do a childbirth class–but having a doula was really helpful (particularly for my husband, who was able to take a break during my 25-hour labor and was better informed because of her).

    I live down in Olympia, by the way. Hope you are surviving our dark winters alright!


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