May is International Doula Month. To celebrate, I wanted to share about my experience with a doula for my second birth and help clear up some misconceptions about doulas.
When my first daughter was born back in 2013, it was just me, my husband, my mother, and about 20 health care professionals in the room. Super calming and empowering, right? WRONG. I had a high risk pregnancy. My daughter was born with a health condition that landed her in the NICU for about a week. And the entire birthing and postpartum process was, in a word, overwhelming.
So, when I found myself pregnant with baby number two, I decided to research a doula at the encouragement of some friends. I wasn’t really sure what a doula’s responsibilities were, or what I needed one for. But I knew that I felt like I needed a little additional support this time around! As I began to research and asked my support group (my Facebook friends), I learned that what society tells you about doulas versus what they actually do is vastly different!
MYTH 1: Doulas do/are the same thing as a midwife.
TRUTH: Doulas are not actually healthcare providers, but rather provide pain management techniques and emotional support and advocacy. They won’t be attending to your clinical needs and should never be found checking your cervix. But rather they provide you with the tools you need to feel heard and cared for during your child’s birth.
MYTH 2: A doula will push my partner out of the birthing process and make them feel unnecessary and in the way.
TRUTH: Part of your doula’s job is actually to support both partners and to give your partner the tools to better support you while you are in labor. Partners can sometimes feel helpless watching the mother of their child in pain, and a doula will work to give them tools to be supportive and feel empowered to connect with the process. In my case, my doula knew that I wanted my husband to be the one providing me with supportive touch and counter pressure during my most painful moments, so she helped him feel confident in the methods we agreed upon.
MYTH 3: A doula will run the show and will speak for me.
TRUTH: This is actually the opposite concept of what a doula is intended to do. A doula is with you to empower you to find YOUR voice. In my experience, my doula would ask me how I felt about each new suggestion or intervention, and we would discuss a plan with each new development in my labor. I was always the one in the driver’s seat, but it was SO helpful to have a level-headed support person to help me weigh my options.
MYTH 4: A doula only provides care during the labor and delivery process. Moms are on their own during prenatal and postpartum.
TRUTH: Before I hired a doula, I thought that I was going to be inviting someone who was basically a stranger into the delivery room with me. Once I researched, I realized just how invested my doula was in my entire pregnancy and birthing process, but most importantly in the postpartum process. We had several meetings before AND after baby was born, so that we could discuss how things were going. In fact, I am still in touch with my doula, and my youngest daughter is almost three years old! They provide important education on what your body is going through and take you through every option regarding pain management, birth plans, and postpartum healing. Talk about wholistic care!
MYTH 5: Doulas are only for women who want a natural birth, and they will try to talk you out of an epidural.
TRUTH: I had so many unnecessary interventions during my first birth experience that I was determined to have a natural birth the second time around! As fate would have it, I was induced via Pitocin the second time around. And that meant giving up a lot of the plans I had envisioned. The Pitocin made my contractions come every 60 seconds (lasting 45 seconds in total). And after about 22 hours of that, I had been through enough. I wanted an epidural because my progress was stalling, and I couldn’t seem to catch my breathe. My doula, my husband, and I already had a plan in place for if the plan changed, and I wanted an epidural. The change went seamlessly, and I felt so incredibly supported in my choice! A doula works to make sure that the mom feels heard, empowered, and supported.
I would be remiss without also mentioning some of the extra perks we received when hiring our doula. She brought her camera (at our request) and got pictures of us during the labor process, and the first pictures of us all when baby arrived! She also took notes during the entire process and wrote a birth story for my daughter. There were so many little moments I would have forgotten, not to mention funny anecdotes about the things I said while in transition, that I now have tucked away in a box to pull out and smile/ugly cry over every year on my daughter’s birthday!
If you are on the fence about whether or not to hire a doula, I hope this post encourages you to make the right choice for you! After having a rather traumatic birth experience with my first child, having a doula for my next birth made me feel like I finally had the reigns in my own birth experience. Yes, birth is unpredictable. And rarely do things go according to plan. But having that support person there to give my husband and me perspective and encourage us to weigh all options was so life giving!
If you are interested in hiring a doula, make sure to check out Doulas of the Southwest, a group of independent doulas who work together to advocate for and educate about the role of doulas and other perinatal topics in the Albuquerque area. They also hold monthly community classes about a variety of topics, such as babywearing, birth plans, and postpartum recovery.