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.