"I'll be there for you. These five words I swear to you. When you breathe, I want to be the air for you. I'll be there for you."
You're welcome for that little earworm. And my apologies if you're not a Bon Jovi fan. You're missing out.
But seriously folks, you're probably here reading to figure out how a doula can help you in your birth. What are the benefits of hiring one? What will you get out of it? Why can't my partner just do it? All valid questions, all real answers. I've said to people when asked something similar that if you don't hire a doula, you're going to have a baby just fine, you're not going to know what you're missing. But if you do hire a doula, you can't imagine going through the experience without one. Birth is life-changing and being supported through that change helps immensely.
So lets talk numbers first. The risk of the birthing person needing to use Pitocin go down, the risk of having a cesarean go down, the use of any medication for pain relief go down, and the chance of being dissatisfied with the birth experience go down as well. And to top it off, the chances of having a spontaneous vaginal birth go up. To be specific
But there is so much more than just numbers. Imagine watching your loved one in pain and exhaustion and you are nervous on what to do and how to help. A doula eases all of that for you. One of our many roles is to make sure that you, the partner, feel secure and strong in your role as Co-Captain of this ship. It is your journey too, you deserve to feel empowered in your knowledge to help comfort your loved one, to assure them that are doing a wonderful job. I think that when a birthing person says after the birth that they didn't know who was rubbing their back or putting a cool cloth on their face, it was all so nice, then the partner and the doula made a great team. High five, Partner! We did it!
Doulas also come with a whole bag of tricks, literally and figuratively, to get you through your labor process. We have positions for you to do to make space for baby, walking, lunging, sitting, (did you know laboring on a toilet is actually really good for you?) counter-pressure spots to show partner to how to do to ease back labor, a tool called a Rebozo that does wonders, heat packs, ice packs, food, tea, birth balls, breathing techniques, etc. (Oddly enough the thing I use most at births are hair ties/bobby pins and chapstick. No joke, every birth.) Usually you will go over much of those laboring positions with your doula before you go into labor, so you're prepared.
A doula is also there as the voice of reason in what can sometimes feel like chaos. Especially for first time parents, you've never done this before, you've never felt a pain/pressure like that before, you've never heard those noises come from your loved one before. It's all on the spectrum of normal. When a wrench is thrown into your plan, a doula is there to help you navigate your choices. I encourage my clients to continuously ask "Am I safe? Is baby safe?" Simple yes and no questions and the answers will help you make your next move. And sometimes that move is nothing. You can continue to labor and just do what you were doing. A doula will help you decide which steps to take.
A doula is there for the expectant parents. Not the medical staff, usually not the other family members (unless previously discussed). You hire a midwife or an OB to help get the baby out. You hire a doula to help ease your mind and your heart. I often tell expectant parents that a laboring person is internally focused on what their body is doing, partner is focused on their loved one, a doula is focused on both. A doula protects your space and your time and your emotions. It's a lot to take in and it can be overwhelming. So much so that the only place the emotions have to go is out your eyeballs. A doula will be there with a tissue when that happens.
At some point in labor, the laboring person will hit a wall, figuratively speaking. (Although sometimes a laboring person actually hits the wall. In a rhythm. That is normal too.) A doula is there to get you up and over that wall and to catch you when you jump. Every time.
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Sarah: Birth doula, wife, mother, coffee and wine drinker, lover of beer, books and tattoos.