Doula? What the...?
Today's fun topic is to talk about what a Doula is.
I have been a doula in my area for going on 6 years now. Doulas are not very well known and there are a ton of misconceptions about who we are and what we do. People who know me are "in the know" so to speak and don't get a glazed over sort of frightened look when I talk about what I do. (Thanks Peeps! You all rock!) However strangers is another story. It usually goes something like this:
Stranger: "What do you do?"
Me: "I'm a Doula"
Stranger: *weird look* "that's like a midwife right? you can't go into hospitals can you?"
Me: "Well actually midwives catch babies, I don't"
Stranger: "Then what does a doula do?"
Me: "A doula is a non medical support person, kind of like a trail guide on an incredible journey. We provide support to expectant families via providing evidence based information, physical support and emotional support"
Stranger: "Oh, I see"
The conversation sometimes continues from there and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes we don't even get to that point. The word "Doula" sends them fleeing in the opposite direction as they envision some woman from a movie in flowing skirts, Birkenstocks, flowy hair, smelling like patchouli, who wants to bang on a drum and chant and encourages everyone to have a natural birth. Well I'm not your typical Birth Doula. Sometimes I wear flowing skirts and my hair is quite unmanageable (thank you genetics, thank you) In fact most doulas don't fit the image of your "typical" doula anymore. There's a Doula Revolution and a movement towards presenting a more professional face to the world.
So what is a Doula? To me a doula is someone like myself or one of my fabulous colleagues who represent our profession in our area. We are women (and men!) who serve our clients and their families in a professional role of an open minded support person. We are compassionate, caring, knowledgeable and skilled at many things birth related. We come into a birth quietly, hold a hand, offer a gentle encouraging word or suggestions, give a hug, and unconditional support to our clients choices. We understand that every woman has her ideal birth, we also understand that birth is uncontrollable, wild and sometimes terrifying. We are there to gently guide the way and help our clients and their families feel in control and armed with the knowledge they need to make the best choices they can. We are there to help a client change her position, or get more comfortable in the arms of her partner while he or she soothes her through a contraction. We are there to quietly celebrate as a women achieves her ultimate goal, the birth of her baby. We are there to be a shoulder to cry on when things don't go according to plan. We are there to be a rock in the storm, a beacon to parents, holding steady, holding space.
I'll leave you with a quote that I love that pretty much sums it up.
"Asking your husband to be your sole guide through labour is like asking him to lead the way on a climb of Mt Everest. He may be smart and trustworthy, you may love him, but in the Himalayas you’d both be better off with a Sherpa” – Pam England