Updated: Feb 14
It dawned on me the other day that there was nothing on my Facebook page that told people what I can actually do for them if I was their birth doula. Had I just assumed that prospective clients would automatically know?
So, I sat down and had a little think and started to write a long - but not exhaustive - list.
I considered my position at a birth. I imagined arriving to find my client in (hopefully) the early stages of labour. What would they want me to do? Before attending a birth, I would have met with the client(s) antenatally. I like to let them decide how often that might be because the frequency would vary from person to person. I would already know their preference for birth - hospital/home/birthing centre and gone through their birth plan with a fine toothed comb. Those who say “my birth plan went out the window” probably never told their midwife to read it... it’s your birth and you own it.
Human beings are mammals. We are programmed to give birth in a calm, quiet and loving environment where we can labour naturally. So, off with the harsh lights and down with the volume. Let’s talk in hushed tones and maybe put your favourite music on in the background.
Doulas are often called “keepers of oxytocin” - that is to say that we should be promoting the love hormone that keeps our client’s contractions going and things progressing. Adrenaline is anathema to oxytocin, so i would make sure that the birth space was protected as much as possible. Even a sign on the door of the birth room saying “please knock, and welcome to our birth space” should be enough to let anyone know to be quiet and prevent them from bursting in with enthusiasm!
With restrictions on human contact at the moment, it might be hard to have your doula rub your back, hold your hand or be a shoulder to lean on when a contraction really grips. I’d recommend being part of each other’s support bubble and self isolating for two weeks either side of the due date. No sense in being caught out when all you need is a cuddle. If you’re not a touchy-feely person and want to be left alone to get on with it, I’m also very good at watching quietly from the sidelines.
Labour end birth can be a long affair. We know that we might all be sitting around for hours. I would be happy to make tea, bring snacks, help out with other children in the family, play a card game or two and warm up the car for the ride to the hospital (if applicable) when it was time to go in. Don’t underestimate the practical side of having a doula. We are support for everyone in the family.
I would never replace the client’s partner and nor would I ever want to. The relationship between doula and partner is just as important as doula and client. Hand me your phone to take videos and photos - in the excitement, it will be the last thing you‘ll want to do. And I’m very good at making phone calls to expectant grandparents/siblings/aunts and uncles when you’re ready to announce the birth to the world.
When all is done and the baby is nestled in the bosom of its new parents, I will tuck you all in and make sure you are ok before I head off home. Just promise me you’ll let me know how you are in the morning 💗