Whenever I share my birth story with others, they ask me, “what is a doula?” So if you’re curious about doulas, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, I’m sharing how doulas supported me throughout pregnancy, during childbirth, and postpartum.
I had two compassionate doulas, one that followed me during my pregnancy and visited me postpartum and another at my baby’s birth. These care providers were my pillars of strength throughout pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum. I also refer to them as life-saving, apple-bringing, kitchen-cleaning, wonder women!
So, What is a Doula?
Alright, so you’re pregnant, and someone told you about a magical doula. According to DONA International, the world’s leading doula certifying organization, a doula is “a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.” But what does that mean when you’re in the trenches of pregnancy, birth, and new motherhood?
For me, my doula was a stable support system, an advocate, a knowledge bank and pregnancy encyclopedia, and a hand-holding, caregiving source of strength throughout pregnancy and postpartum.
Do I Need One?
In my opinion, yes. Finding a doula is the first recommendation I give to anyone with a bun in the oven. I’m sharing a bit about my birth story and how doulas provided me with emotional support, encouragement, and reassurance through pregnancy and birth and postpartum.
Just like how every pregnancy is different, every doula-mom experience is different. I believe it’s the most personalized and intimate relationship you will form with a care provider during the transition to motherhood. A doula will articulate your needs when you can’t, support you when you feel weak, and ultimately see you at your most vulnerable.
What Does a Doula Do?
Just like finding an OBGYN or midwife, you’ll want to meet with your doula to make sure they’re right for you. At your first meeting with your doula, they may recommend books or prenatal classes and give you information about what to expect over the next few months.
Your doula may ask about your OBGYN or midwife and discuss your medical appointments. They’ll also answer any questions you may have. The first trimester can be a rollercoaster of symptoms and emotions. Your doula may have a few solutions or can recommend resources.
As you move through your relationship with your doula, they may help you craft your birth plan. They’ll learn what decisions they should be expected to advocate for you during your labor and delivery. Your doula can act as a mediator between you and the medical staff at the hospital or birthing center.
Sabia, our amazing birth doula, met my son’s father and me at the hospital and stayed with us until well after our son was born. Through my labor, Sabia was there with unwavering confidence to articulate my needs when I couldn’t convey them. Having her meant that I was supported in my birthing decisions unconditionally. For example, when I needed quiet between contractions, she made sure folks stopped talking so that I could gather my strength to focus through each of those final pushes. A doula can also help you with relaxation and breathing techniques during labor.
Support for Birth Partners
Birth doulas give guidance to the dads and non-birthing people in the room. During labor, doulas advise birth partners on how to best support the birthing parent.
During my son’s birth, the most valuable thing Sabia did was engage my son’s father in the delivery, as we’re a split household. Sabia made it clear he needed to engage in our son’s delivery and that sitting in the corner wasn’t an option. Had she not stepped in and grabbed him to rub my back for pain relief, I’m not sure he would have felt the capacity to be involved in our son’s birth.
Doulas Services May Include Postpartum Support
My antepartum (pregnancy) doula was also my postpartum doula. Kerry was a godsend–an unwavering pillar of support. She was a constant wealth of information. When my OBGYN or the nursing staff didn’t explain something well, Kerry always had the answer or could point me in the right direction. As delivery grew closer, Kerry kept me accountable for building the resources I needed for delivery and postpartum. She reminded me to prep frozen pads, make freezer meals, stock a diaper station and hospital bag, find a lactation consultant for breastfeeding support, and more.
After birth, the focus shifts to your newborn. But moms need care, too. As my postpartum doula, Kerry visited my newborn and me a few days after we arrived home. It was our first and only home visit from a provider. She walked through the door with a bag of Honeycrisp apples (my favorite and a huge pregnancy craving). She went to work cleaning my house, walking my dog, and giving me a break to take a shower—my first shower without my son since his delivery. Postpartum doulas can also provide newborn care advice.
A Unique Relationship
There is no exclusive list of what a doula will do for you. As a personalized care provider, a doula is there to individually support you, which means you’ll determine what the support looks like.
Do you need help crafting a birth plan and advocating for yourself with doctors? Do you feel more comfortable asking your doula questions than your doctor? A doula can help mediate. Do you need a bag of Honeycrisp apples postpartum like I did? Unlike any other care provider during your pregnancy, a doula will individually support your needs throughout pregnancy.
Add Doula Services to Your Baby Registry
Flourish Fund wants to help get mamas the support they need through their baby registries. You can add a gift card for a birth or postpartum doula to your baby registry.