The other day I was talking to a friend, and I mentioned that I am a doula, her response, "Do, what?" It makes me laugh every time I hear it. But then it got me to thinking, most people do wonder, i "do-what?"
Most people have never heard the term Doula, and of the group that has heard of us, most aren't really sure what we do.
I am a doula, which means I am a birth companion or coach. I help couples prepare for a great birth, I assist the couple during birth, and I am a friend to call on during the postpartum period. I specialize in Hypnosis for childbirth, and have an incredible passion for breastfeeding.
There you have it, my elevator speech. But, let's break it down a little more.
When I tell a mom/couple what I do, the first thing I usually hear is "oh, well my husband will do great, he came to all my childbirth classes with me." or I hear, "My mom will be there with us, so we have an extra set of hands." When I hear couples say this, it makes my heart stop, my chest tighten, and usually I sigh just a little. It is not that Dads/partners are AMAZING when it comes to birth, it is more that Dad/Partner will be going through their own transition during birth, and will probably need some assistance.
I have gone to trainings, classes, and courses to become proficient in what I do. I know all about birth; what is normal, what will speed things up, and when the doctor is just scaring you. I have made a career out of working with care providers, hospitals, and other family members. I even have a talent for translating medical-ese into English. This is what I do, and I am pretty good at it.
So when a couple tells me they know everything, that their care provider is totally on board with their birth plan, and that they don't see how a doula is going to help; I calmly explain this to them.
I am not only a support person for mom, providing her with comfort techniques and encouragement. I provide information on what to expect, as well as offer alternative approaches to medical interventions. On top of all of that, I am a support person for Dad/Partner. I will help dad become confident in his roll as birth partner. Partners go through their own transformation during birth, similar to a mother. While they are helping mom to stay calm and comfortable; they are also processing that they are about to become a father. They are doing their best to keep mom out of pain, and to elevate any discomfort she might feel. Dads are naturally "fix it" people, and so they spend the birth time trying to fix everything. The most common complaint I hear from dads who did not hire a doula... I didn't know what to do to help. The most common praise I hear from dads who did hire a doula... How could anyone do this without you!
I am not saying that Dads can't rock it at birth, what I am saying is that maybe, just maybe, dad could use a little help in his corner. Maybe dad could use the support of knowing how to be the best birth partner ever!