The profound mystery and spirituality of birth can never be understood with the mind, they are known through the heart. Thus, it is the Doula and her heart which ‘mother’ the mother when needed, allowing her to step outside of her mind and unite with her body. This is the essence of her commitment.
What is a Doula?
In recent years, the tradition of having a Doula in birth has been revived. Doula (pronounced doo’-la) us a Greek word meaning ‘woman who serves’. The word has now come to mean ‘a woman knowledgeable in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother and her family before, during, and just after birth’.
Along with nurture and support of both the woman and her partner, the Doula helps parents become an active part of the decision making process by teaching them to ask the ‘right’ questions. Without adding her own agenda, the skilled Doula assists families in making informed decisions.
A Doula is not a doctor, a nurse, or midwife. She is not trained to make any medical decisions. However her training includes learning about the usual medical interventions so that she can explain them to families in order to relieve some of their uncertainties and anxieties.
The Doulas Role…
Ideally, the Doulas role begins when she has the opportunity to meet the mother and her partner(s). This can be as early as first knowledge of conception, to anytime within the pregnancy. Upon meeting, the Doula can learn in detail…
- What the woman or couple expect and want (goals and wishes) during labour, i.e a ‘birth plan’
- Physical and emotional coping and comfort strategies
- The options that best suit the woman’s needs
Ensuring that the above wishes are met is of great importance to the Doula.
Most Doulas commit to maining with the mother throughout her entire labour and will not leave her side. This gives the woman permission to be herself and feel free to let go of emotional and physical barriers. When a woman feels completely safe with another human being, it creates a freedom that enables her to begin to test the limits of her own capacities, and to experience the power involved in childbirth.
Childbirth can be the most empowering experience in one’s life. This is made possible through the love and support a Doula strives to provide.
Finding the right Doula
By searching the internet and local resources you will come up with many Doulas in various areas. It is important that the Doula you choose has the qualities and requirements you desire. Is it important that she has had similar experiences to you? Is she certified with a Doula organization? Most importantly, will her personality complement yours and your partner(s); will she be able to work with everyone who will be present at the birth of your baby? Try to meet with a few Doulas if possible and see who fits your needs.
When you meet the Doula (and it is a good idea for you and who ever else will be with you in labour to meet her as well), pay particular attention to your personal perceptions of the Doula. Is she kind, warm and enthusiastic? Is she knowledgeable? Does she communicate well? Is she a good listener? Is she comfortable with your choices? Do you feel comfortable with her?
Questions to ask Your Potential Doula
-What training have you had?
-What is your philosophy about childbirth and supporting women and their partners through labour?
-When do you try to join women in labour? Do you come to our home or meet us at the hospital?
-What is your availability for contact by phone or in person before and after the birth?
-Do you work with one or more backup Doulas? May we meet them?
-What is your fee?
It is important for you and your partner (if applicable) to feel comfortable with your labour support people. Many Doulas are involved in other topics related to pregnancy and childbirth such as breastfeeding, postpartum Doula support, and/or photography. It is important for you and your partner (if applicable) to know what you want or ask questions that will help you to understand what you want or don’t want to happen during the birth of your baby. Everyone is different and there is a Doula out there to best suit each of your individual needs.