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.