What is a Doula?
Monday, 13 May 2013 | Mummy and Little Me
“I am a doula,” I often say. “A what?!” answers the enquirer. “A doula…” I confirm, “Yes but what is a doula?” they re-ask…
I have had this conversation so many times, and admittedly, it is a funny word (it comes from Greece) and a not very well known profession in the UK, so I do tend to become quite accustomed to the puzzled looks and curious questions people ask when I announce what I ‘am’. I have become quite a pro at the very simple explanation of “It is a person (usually a woman) who provides emotional and practical support before, during and after childbirth”. That is pretty much what I do in a nutshell however in my heart it is much, much more than that…
To me, being a doula is about nurturing, empowerment, choices and continuous care which is something rarely given these days to women on their special journey. A doula provides information, does not give medical advice, and makes women and their partners fully aware of all their choices at the time of pregnancy, birth and early parenting, being a friendly, familiar support at whatever points required. There are two main types of doula, a birth doula and a postnatal doula, (the names kind of explain) a birth doula is generally ‘hired’ in the second/third trimester, and from that time provides all that is mentioned above via phone calls, emails, antenatal meetings and of course being at the ‘main event’ from whenever needed until bundle is snuggling happily with their mummy and daddy.
A postnatal doula is usually ‘hired’ again at the latter stages of pregnancy so a relationship can be formed before baby arrives, and is then available at times required to make the beginning of your journey of motherhood as enjoyable as possible. This means lots of time for cuddles with babe rather than housework, cooking, food shopping, running general errands etc. A postnatal doula makes it possible for you to just sit back, relax and enjoy being a mummy. Additionally she is there as a shoulder to lean on, an ear to talk too, a source of information and comfort for any of those niggling worries (by the way they are completely and utterly normal) breastfeeding support and somebody that nurtures you as a new parent, understanding and empathising with the many emotions that take place. A postnatal doula can guide you, offer suggestions, and send you off for that sometimes much needed sleep while they look after your baby for you, or even run you a lovely lavender scented bath –we are there for you, your partner, your family, to do whatever is needed to really make the most of the incredibly special first moments.
Some doulas (including myself) love every aspect of the whole journey, so offer both birth and postnatal services. Some prefer keeping it separate; some enjoy supporting both the birth and the postnatal period, some just enjoy one specific area so purely do either birth or postnatal. Whatever the doula does, if you decide you want that extra form of support and encouragement at a specific point or throughout, you will be so pleased you made that decision, as forget the statistics and facts (having a doula present at the birth reduces the risk of C-section by 50%, 25% shorter labour, 60% reduction in epidural requests, 30% reduction in analgesia usage, 40% reduction in forceps delivery) having the emotional and physical support from somebody that knows you, knows your partner, understands your hopes, your fears, your wishes and your concerns and wants you to have the most positive birth experience that is humanely possible… can only be a good thing right?
So, that is generally what a doula does. I could talk about what I do all day but if I did that, where would be the time for births and babies?! I hope I have given you a quick snippet, and also hope you are going to Google doulas now for yourself as you are as unbelievably excited about this profession as I am. Also at least now when you next hear somebody say “I am a doula” you can respond not with “A what?!” but instead with “Ah I know what one of ‘those’ is… (And not say it with a look meaning – you’re one of those hippies that wear flowing skirts, bandanas and loves a good chant in your spare time aren’t you…) Because the answer is no we are not all hippies – I am certainly as far from the ‘stereotypical’ doula you could possibly imagine! Everyone is different, but we all have one very special connection in common, and that is that we love to empower, support and care for women and their partners during this lovely, heart-warming and very, very memorable and special time. Following that, there is not much more to say other than I am one of those exceptionally lucky people that wake up every morning with a smile and get to say - “I love my job!”
I wish you all the very best with your pregnancy, your birth and your baby.
Love Chloe xxx