Why should a person get birth support? What does a doula do in a birth support role?
Well... what are the circumstances?? Honestly, the care I provide is specific to the client. So below is a run down of my client support portrait. My skills of flexibility and adaptability make giving support in ANY circumstances feel comfortable. Fast or slow. Vaginal or cesarean. Medicated or unmedicated. Surrogate, single parent, or parent teams with support people present. Whatever it is, I'm there 100%.
My point: It's not my role to judge -- it is my role to support a birthing person in the present moment throughout birth based on the client's beliefs, values, and wishes. Sounds simple, right?
Interested in more beyond birth support? Read about Postpartum Support or read more about Prenatal Support.
VAGINAL BIRTH- I provide emotional support- this is not to be underestimated as a powerful way to encourage the birthing mother and her partner to feel safe and promote vaginal delivery. A doula increases feelings of safety and bonding as a family. How about decreasing fears and chaos? A doula can help with her presence to provide a vibe of peace. Sometimes, doulas are fun and even hilarious, adding a great distraction. I know ahead of time what the client's wishes are for pain management, meaning I can help tremendously with physical support like ice rags, holding her in positions, massage, assist in moving around, and running errands. I am there for her to support her decision-making by providing information and encouraging her self advocacy with providers in a positive way. A doula sends texts to anxious family, calls back children and mothers with questions, gives birth partners breaks, and provides a nice buffer between guests and mother. Last but not least, photos. Not a professional photographer- I am there for those quick and precious moments with a smartphone. The kind of candid photos you look at grateful someone snapped that shot of you snuggling baby or partners in a private moment. I am not exclusively providing this support to vaginal delivery- but instead, every client gets support in the above ways if that is what is required in the moment. (Medicated OR Unmedicated see below)
CESAREAN BIRTH or C-SECTION BIRTH- I have attended cesarean births that were planned, elected, emergent, and somewhere in between. Every birth is so different. As a doula, I feel responsible in holding space no matter what the plan becomes. If it is an elective C-section, you got it- I'm there and 100% supporting my client and their wishes. If it is a breech baby and mom is scared or struggling with the news- I'm there helping her with positions to potentially flip baby (if that is what mom even wants) or I'm there to help ease the tension and increase the joy for the coming birth. If the birth we are about to experience is emergent and very serious in nature, I'm 100% present for both the birthing parent AND the partner who are feeling out of control of the situation. Nothing is more important in my world in those hours. I am not there to judge a choice or outcome- in fact, I am there to help the anxious or scared parent process their fears of being judged or being in a situation less than their ideal. And though this is nearly unheard of- I have been to many really joyful and FUN C-section births! The nature of those births meant setting intentions with the client to overcome their fears to look for the best of the present circumstances, even if some of it is scary or is not going to plan. This is not to diminish the seriousness of major surgery- instead I'm there to empower my clients to choose what they want to celebrate that day. I also take pictures at these births (if I'm in the operating room)! Cesarean birth is BIRTH TOO!
SINGLE PARENT BIRTH- Birth of a first child or a fourth- does not change that a birthing person/mother may want doula support. A single parent has special circumstances that can challenge of types of support available. First, there is no judgement or projection about how "parenting" should look-- nuh huh, not from this doula. I am there for my clients WHEREVER they are in life. You need physical support? You got it. Support getting baby's room ready or planning a postpartum recovery plan? Yes, I can help with that too. Perhaps I go to birth classes with you and play the role of your primary support person. Or maybe I'm supporting a friend, sister, or mother playing the primary role. All of the above ways to promote feelings of safety and comfort apply at a single parent birth.
SURROGATE BIRTH- Mothers come in different forms. Sometimes that means an arrangement between a parent or family and a surrogate. I have experience at surrogate birth. You might wonder, "Well, I wonder what that looks like..." Let me answer this way: I am a doula for the birthing person. Sometimes called the surrogate or simply by their name, a pregnant surrogate deserves support through the unique situation. Though there are parents of the baby involved, my primary focus is the birthing person in their birth situation. That birth could be vaginal or cesarean. It could be medicated or unmedicated. Hospital or birth center. All of the above, I am prepared to support. The interesting truth is that surrogacy birth is private because it is an event the "intended" parents will treasure for life because it is the birth of their child. Yet, that birth is also an important pivotal day for the birthing person- meaning it is my role to prioritize increasing safety, communication, support, and comfort for that surrogate. When the baby goes to the intended parents, I am right there with the surrogate attending to their emotional and physical needs.
MEDICATED BIRTH- I have been to so many medicated births that it still sort of shocks me when I'm asked, "what could you do at an epidural birth?" I answer, "A lot." Just because a person is medicated does not mean that person does not need other physical support. Or emotional support. Or errands ran. Or someone to speak to family waiting in the waiting room. Or someone to text family. Or someone to support the partner. Or someone to take pictures- because medicated birth IS STILL BIRTH! A medicated birth does not need to be a situation void of hope or joy or even fun. It is possible as a doula to bring a client back to the present moment with a joke, a massage, a cool rag, or ice chips. I work just as much at medicated births because there is still work to be done. So often I meet the sentiment that an epidural is a failure. What is my opinion? My opinion is my client's opinion. If they are in enough pain that medicine would help them cope, I am going to be on their team to promote their CHOICE for their BODY. However, when that fear that medical intervention is failure creeps up- I'm right there to bring us back to remember we will be meeting a new person really soon and that is hardly a failure and more of a triumph!
UNMEDICATED BIRTH- I will say here that birth needs to include three areas to be considered evidence based: the values of the patient, the research on the subject, and the expertise of the provider. With all three areas honored, a birth can feel supportive (emotionally, spiritually, culturally, physically) and non-confrontational with providers or midwives. A doula's role is not to get into the equation of the provider-patient relationship in order to somehow guarantee unmedicated birth. Instead, it is common that my role is as a team member to empower my client to advocate for themselves with integrity and information in an open dialogue with a provider team. So often, a provider is equipped, educated, and genuinely their to support a patient's wishes; should a client feel otherwise, they need to feel heard and supported. If an unmedicated birth sounds impossible- it is not! I cannot guarantee a birth will be unmedicated if I attend. However, unmedicated birth very often is proceeded with an intentional plan set, values weighed, research done, and communication already laid out within a care team of provider-client-partner-doula. A doula can be instrumental in meeting these mile markers of an unmedicated birth.
Philosophically I hope to project acceptance and compassion. The birth world is full of enough judgement and fear.
I wish to bring lightness and hope in the private, precious moments of birth NO MATTER what the circumstances are.
Let's connect in a consult if you want to hear how a doula could benefit your birth experience.
"I'm so exhausted."
Joy. Energy in.
Fear. Energy out.
Fear is one of the most powerful draining agents of the postpartum period that I know.
I have worked with numerous families.
Fear of the unknown, the known, history repeating itself, and even the far fetched or irrational fears are a tremendous DRAIN ON ENERGY.
Here's the deal. We can go throughout our day doing things that are "GOOD" for us. Yet those things could be draining energy from us if they are motivated by fear.
The whole idea of "self-care" is to deeply replenish emotional, mental, and physical energy that is sustainable.
How do you know you are filling your energy up or allowing energy in?
Do you know that feeling when you feel super cozy and safe? Warm, soft, and purring like a small kitten, we should feel like laying still is just fine. There is food and water in our bellies. We do not feel the need to run, be productive, or even move.
Maybe you feel so inspired and excited with your energy that you feel like the sun seems to sparkle and giggles of children give you goosebumps.
You feel fully safe, protected, and sheltered if you prevent your energy from leeching out. That feeling of groundedness does something for our brains and nervous system. When a new loud noise occurs, we don't jump out of our skin in fear or anger.
Yet! I often hear about constant ruminating over an imagine or thought-- that's draining.
Imagining what you'd say in a pretend conversation-- that's draining your energy too.
When you snuggle a kiddo or read an enjoyable book-- you are required to be IN THE PRESENT MOMENT. Sometimes this is really hard when modern parenthood is distracting, demanding, and exhausting.
Parenting can actually invite us to be in the present moment with equanimity to enjoy the fleeting peaceful moments- HA!! I acknowledge that it's really freaking hard to be in the present moment as a parent and seems just about impossible. Yet, I work with clients all the time who say it's impossible and we steal moments of joy together in a way they never imagined possible.
As a doula, I'm constantly pulling my clients into the present moment to make every moment count. I see them wrapped in the tentacle thoughts of fear for the future.
Most importantly: I listen. I hear your story. Your fears. I hold them. It's ok to have them. It's ok to share them.
I say: "Be here with me. In this moment, you are doing a great job loving your kids. Join me. It feels really good to just be. Let's be here."
I ask: "Does this choice feel like it is serving you? Are you in autopilot? How can I help you feel safe, grounded, and energized? What actions are draining you- and how can I help you right now in this moment to increase your calm?"
I'm just like you. I put my leggings on one leg at a time. I buy my midday coffee to try to make it to bedtime some days. I hide in the bathroom to get a break and struggle with guilt for taking time for myself. I worry for my children and my choices.
But after hard losses and true trials in my life, I have discovered bravery in making every moment count. Making at least half the moments count most days.
I invite you to find reasons to make these daily moments as a parent more joyful and energizing. Join me. Be here.
Can I just say… sometimes life sucks.
It punches you in the gut. Knocks the wind out of you. Then you are drug through the mud. And that was just Monday.
My heart knows what it is to suffer. To really suffer with a hardship as a parent. I have girl scout badges in suffering. It got REAL.
The good. The bad. The ugly. The really shame filled and ugly stuff I told no one. Yeah. That was no fun.
What's my point?!
Well... SURVIVAL. Who does it? How do they do it? What does it cost them? Are there ways to do it well?
Is it possible to THRIVE?
DOULAS GET IT. IT IS OK YOU ARE STRUGGLING. GET A DOULA FOR HELP.
*** Doulas have experience- They have been in the trenches with families during some of the bad, ugly, and ugliest times. In fact, that is when a doula can shine. A doula provides loving kindness with no judgment because it can make clients feel safe during times that feel really scary. Experience with babies, education, and physical support- boom! You are covered even when you feel like it's a whole lot to handle.
*** Doulas have training for the hard days- It is important to me to be a professional and trained emotional support person. I have Mental Health First Aid Training. I prioritize going to a regional Maternal Mental Health Summit annually with professionals who see women who struggle every day. I am trained as a Peer Support Group Facilitator. Hey- kids having a bad day too? Doulas get it. What can I do to help?
*** Doulas help carry the burden- It never hurts the candle to share the flame. Your heaviest burdens are far lighter for me to help carry when I am with you. I know the power it can have to sit with you and listen. I know the pressure it relieves for you to know laundry is put away and dinner is made. Lean on your doula.
*** Doulas are connected- A doula can get you connected with your local resources. It is really REALLY hard for some people in times of crisis to search for help, pick up a phone, and ASK. It is downright impossible for some. Yet, with a doula, she can connect you to therapists, support groups, baby classes, mommy groups, county health services, specialists, lactation consultants and more.
***Doulas bring peace- If even for just one day it feels regenerating to borrow someone else's peace when you are in the middle of a crisis. Humans mirror other humans nervous systems. Instead of sharing chaos, a doula provides her steady peace to help you recalibrate for the week. Crisis and survival mode can make us forget to let in the joy out of protection. Doula days can remind you to smile, sing a little, dance with your children, and BE KIND TO YOURSELF.
***Doulas are not therapists- Hear me out. Sometimes the first step is talking to someone you trust. A doula can be a nonjudgmental person in your circle that is all about helping YOU. A therapist provides a different level of care. Doulas specialize in infant care, birth support, and postpartum support. Education, skills building, and building systems in the home to help life work more smoothly. A doula can even help you seek out therapy if that's what you are needing. Doulas don't treat you. They support people physically, emotionally, and educationally!
***Doulas will not fix your problems- Though, a doula sees you as more than your problems. Your struggles and trials are NOT a reflection of your worthiness for support. You deserve support. I'll type that again. YOU. DESERVE. SUPPORT. Compassion for your struggles. A gentle reminder than these times will pass and the sun is here to warm you. A hug. A hug from someone who isn't crying for you or needing you. You are a whole person. It's ok to have problems.
***Doulas are kind- Are you hard on yourself???? Yeah! YOU! I am asking you. Enough said. I believe in the power of words said and words thought. When I am around my clients, we talk positively about ourselves because sometimes that is the only time of the week they are able to. I role model positive body talk, positive parenting, and positive thinking. It's science. The brain easily is biased toward negativity in order to protect itself. Yet, positive thinking rewires the brain and provides all types of happy feeling hormones. It feels good to think good.
I can go on... but really, when life is not going great it's ok to call a doula.
When life is feeling downright awful, go on- call me. Email me. I can help.
I get it.
What does a doula do?
Dishes. Laundry. Walking the dog. Sure.
Meal prep. Lunch. Lactation cookies. Yup.
But is that ***all*** a doula does?
Doulas do oh so much more.
ADAPT- I help parents of a new baby adapt to the high demands of an infant. How can a person still adult AND parent? Well, we work on strategies to keep you from being overwhelm.
PERSPECTIVE- I work with many different families. My experiences with them give me perspective I can share. Most common- am I the **only** mom struggling with..." I don't have to guess- I KNOW OTHER MOMS STRUGGLE with fill in the blank.
NORMALIZE- You are at home with baby and not really out in the world. Your nest is special and perfect for you. It's safe. It can also feel isolating. If a person is thinking they are all alone in struggling or learning it can feel SO MUCH HEAVIER. But, you aren't alone. You can learn just like others do.
ELEVATE- I share my calm and joy when I enter a space. The exhaustion and irritability that can come with meeting constant infant and child demands can put a parent into a survival mode that feels more like a growl than a pur. I work with families like a Mary Poppins to identify areas they wish to grow and bring more joy. Then we problem solve.
SKILLS BUILDING- You aren't done learning and growing, no matter how old you are. Just like your children are learning- you are too. Life skills like adapting, taking perspective, normalizing, and creating a joyful emotional space- practicing those life skills helps to improve experiences.
SUPPORT- Sometimes, a doula is the only person who fully SEES the mother who can feel quite invisible after baby comes. The doula is all about the mother/parent. Making a tough choice? A doula has no skin in the game, your opinion becomes her opinion. She wants what you want, and she can help you logistically achieve that.
Support can be physical, emotional, mental, practical, and spiritual-- to all of these YES. A doula can achieve all of these with a loving kind presence.
DECREASE CHAOS- Outside eyes can help identify ways to reduce stress. Bringing the peace and even some humor. I share the calm instead of joining the chaos.
IMPROVE BONDING- When we enter parenthood, adjusting can take time. Knowing how to bond, when, and even what bonding does to infant development can encourage families who have experienced birth trauma, difficult situations, and even big life changes like moving or changing jobs.
IDENTIFY STRENGTHS- It might sound silly, but identifying your TRUE NORTH, your strength, your reason for living can be very helpful to navigating the twists and turns. In discussions with clients, we frequently find their strengths and see how they can work for them to guide their choices.
EXTRA SOMEBODY YOU TRUST- What a gift it is to trust someone with your baby. I certainly believe it is always a privilege to care for infants- the highest privilege that I take very seriously.
Do you need an extra...
… pair of arms to hold baby?
… heart to hold your worries?
… hands to help?
… ideas to solve issues?
… brain with information on infant development?
… pair of eyes for observing infant development?
… well-rested person who can help you rest?
… knowledge to know you are normal and not alone?
… nervous system to model calm, collected contentment?
… responsible adult to care for your older children?
… professional with expert info about infant feeding and sleep?
… peer who has struggled and overcome postpartum mood issues?
… mom who knows the challenges of working and stay at home parenting?
DOULA. A person who becomes the active role needed to support the mother/parent in that very moment, while also whipping lingering household jobs into shape to leave more room for bonding, playing, loving, and resting.
Serving Corvallis, Philomath, Albany, Alsea, and surrounding areas.
"Am I doing this right?"
"I feel like I'm winging everything."
"I can't tell what my baby needs."
"I feel like a constant failure. Like everything I do is inadequate."
How *do* you know you are doing a good job?
A question I ask my clients all the time. I'm usually met with blank faces. Crickets. Sometimes even with creative answers.
If I keep my baby safe?
Seems obvious right? But it can be tricky to fall in that trap that we control every factor. We cannot prevent colds and viruses 100%. There will be bonks, scraps, bruises, broken bones, broken hearts. Those things actually develop stronger humans through new experiences. The big obvious safety precautions are a given for the purposes of this post.
If my baby doesn't cry a lot?
No. Because there are lots of healthy babies who are well cared for that cry quite a bit. It's developmentally appropriate to cry.
If my baby breastfeeds exclusively?
I think there are lots of parents who feed with bottles or breastfeed and supplement that demonstrate amazing parenting qualities. The truth is that parents can really struggle with feeding. Or they simply choose alternatives that are healthy for their child and family. They need support- not judgment.
If I respond to every cry?
Not possible. It is just not possible. Respond to the cries for hunger, comfort, diaper changes, and affection. That is a lot of work in itself. Do your best, leave the rest.
You know you are a getting this parent thing
when you show up even when it is new and scary.
When you rise to the challenges.
When you overcome obstacles.
When you stick to it.
When you take breaks THEN get back at it.
You love the child through difficult days.
You give your child affection and play daily.
If you are able to meet their needs to your best ability, you care.
Being an awesome parent starts with learning. More learning. Adapting. Experimenting. Observing. Learning some more.
Parents are learning a whole new person in a whole new relationship. Guess what, you are capable of learning!!
Most importantly, you will grow. Grow your resiliency and endurance.
Forgive yourself for not knowing it all before you started. It won't always be as hard as today because you'll adapt.
Start being kind to yourself that learning new things, a new person during a stressful time is kind of challenging. Sure- your baby is learning... but so are you!
You are learning new things everyday. That is enough.
Keep going friend. You can do this.
What does it feel like to have a mood issue?
That's complicated because each person feels differently. One thing that unites us as parents with mood issues is that bringing it into the light and asking for support will help. We can be well again.
A peer support group- lead by a peer who has experienced Depression/Anxiety/OCD/PTSD- is meant to be a safe confidential space.
Is it therapy? No. But it feels therapeutic and cathartic at times. We do not share with outside groups your information. I can provide assistance to find referrals to professionals upon request.
Am I the right fit for this group? It must be new moms with babies. True. New moms with first babies come. Moms on their third babies come. Fathers and partners come. Parents experiencing mood issues 6 months, 12 months, even 4 years out from birth come to group. Why? It's a safe understanding space. Other common parent experiences include pregnancy loss, infant loss, infertility, IVF, foster, surrogacy, hospitalization, domestic violence, birth trauma. I get asked this question a lot. These issues are parenting issues that we all benefit from learning to hold space for- because that perfect "blissful experience" is just not everyone's reality. Knowing you aren't alone is a powerful feeling.
What if I cry? Most people do. Especially the first few times or when recounting a vivid story. The members of group knows what it feel like to be vulnerable.
Is it instructional like a lecture or do we share feelings/stories in a circle? Mostly the latter. That being said, group is not a place to tell you how you are doing things wrong. This is not a group that tries to problem solve, fix your issues, or judge you. Nope. Against group rules to tell someone what they "should" do. We walk around feeling enough "shoulds" everyday already. We get to dump those frustrations in group, and hopefully we walk away feeling lighter.
What do we do in group? We learn to hold space. With confidentiality, people feel safe enough to share vulnerable stories. Holding space is an act of accepting another person as they are. Give it and receive it in our peer support group.
For example- we start group with introductions. Who are you, why are you here, what do you hope to get from group. Then we share our mood issue brags and drags- what have you struggled with recently and what have you felt you overcome. Then we open group up from there and talk on issues relevant to our discussion so far. I include books, activities, meditations, and speakers.
I'm feeling better- why should I continue to visit group? On a road to recovery, helping others with your compassion is not just good for them, it feels GREAT for you. Compassion and empathy are muscles we need to practice in order to use often for ourselves. When we leave group, we leave behind those stories and take the compassion we practice with us. Numerous group members in recovery feel coming to group also reminds them how hard they worked and how far they come- it brings hope to themselves and new members
Issues discussed in the past include: vulnerability, shame, guilt, "should", partnerships, siblings, birth traumas, birth stories, working parenting and stay-at-home parenting, depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, psychosis, mind-body connection, resource finding, tool box building, finding our super power, finding gifts in our mood struggles, physical health, pelvic health and trauma, energy, suicide, and more.
I hear a person's deepest fears about being a parent and keep them safe. I see this person as a parent in ways that they share with no one else.
I see their strengths in a way they don't allow themselves to quite celebrate.
I share space to provide support so they can help themselves start their parenting chapter, which can feel very scary, with an empowered outlook and plan.
Nesting is important. It's the brain and body's way of gearing up to help a new human, that was on the inside, survive on the outside.
Yet getting things in order can be overwhelming.
A doula can help.
1. Sibling help- A family with a toddler was expecting twins. That toddler needing some help learning to sleep in her crib for naptime. She had always slept with mom up until mom was just not able to skip her pee breaks and stretch out. Physically mom needed support to lift and put toddler into the crib. Emotional support was also necessary because mom felt anxiety about how things would change for her daughter when the twins came. How would she adapt to having to juggle the needs of many littles?
2. Bringing baby home- is the home ready? Have you thought of all the details of what works best for feeding, sleep, and supporting yourself? Nursery prep. Supplies. Meal train, meal plans, and meal support. Diaper choices, feeding options.
3. Meals- I can prep a ridiculous number of meals in one day. I can prep snacks. I can grocery shop!!! Physically and energetically it is hard to grocery shop, prep meals for the freezer, and even imagine what you needs will be postpartum. I can help take on some of the mental and physical load.
4. Preparing for birth- get the towels! Get the receiving blankets! Get the butt paste! I've been in several homes helping mom prepare for her home birth. Gathering supplies and preparing the space in ways that mom is not able.
5. Emotional Support- Cool cool cool. You got pregnant. You probably won't see the stress and anxiety of parenting until the wee one is here- right? We look for positivity by discovering your superpower (strength) as a parent. We celebrate wins. We create strategies for accountability as we create new challenges to overcome. I work peer-to-peer because all that separates me and my clients is time and experience.
6. Birth Plan Details- Not everyone wants to do a full childbirth education course. Some just want help creating a comprehensive plan. You see, nurses and providers respond well to plans that are in their language. If a plan is concise and deliberate, it can enable nurses and families to become allies for the same birth outcomes. Have questions? I've got some evidence based answers. Need options? We can include those too. Let's create a unique-to-you birth plan that helps you feel prepared going into birth.
I am sure that there will many more new experiences to come.