When I look back on the those moments in my life that were touched by my doula, my heart swells with warmth. But both my husband and I were initially skeptical. It seemed like a big expense that could be better used on something else. And thoughts like ‘What if my labor is so short, that we don’t even need her?’, or ‘We can just manage on our own; we did take a Bradley course after all’ circled through our minds as we tried to convince ourselves that getting a doula was costly and unnecessary. The fate would have it that once my labor started, the doula that had been attending our Bradley classes, contacted me and offered to come. The conversation went along these lines:
Jenny: “Larisa, I heard you are in labor! I want to come and be your doula.”
Me: “I would love that, but we can’t really pay you.”
Jenny: “That’s OK. I am coming anyway!”
And she did. She stayed with us for over 24 hours through the most grueling and wonderful time in my entire life. Had she not insisted on joining us, my labor would most likely have gone a completely different route, and not the one I hoped for, too. We managed to give her a bit of money — we just couldn’t not repay Jenny in some way for what she did. Two years later, our doula joined us again, this time in our home to make sure we are ready to welcome another baby to this world. Second labor was a lot easier and shorter. Seasoned by the painful posterior birth of my older son, I sailed through contractions like an experienced sea captain through smooth oceans. In retrospect, I would say, hiring a doula was life changing and was totally worth it. Jenny went on to do a midwifery program at Yale, and she is going to make a wonderful midwife.
Now, I have never met anyone who said that paying for a doula was a waste of money. Some, unfortunately, have encountered unprofessional birth workers, but those are special rare circumstances that deserve an entirely different post, and I won’t cover them here. This post is for couples that are on the fence about getting a doula and need some extra arguments to consider.
In this post, for the sake of consistency, I will be referring to a doula as “she”. However, male doulas are breaking ground in many places now, and we will sure be covering them soon in our posts.
1.Peace of mind.
Doing your home work is important, and childbirth classes are there for a reason. However, knowing that there is a trained professional at your side, who feels at home in the delivery room and for whom birth is a normal familiar environment, takes a lot of anxiety away. Having Jenny there made me feel protected and safe no matter what was happening around me. I cannot understate how important rapport is with your chosen doula. She will project her calm presence on to you both. Research on mirror neurons supports this notion.
2. Experience/Bottomless bag of tricks.
Got a posterior baby? She got a position for that. Pain in the lower back? She will give your hips a squeeze that will put your husband to shame. Partner so tired that he/she needs to lie down/pass out for an hour and a half? No problem, she’s got you covered. Having trouble staying motivated? She will guide you through a relaxation and chant a positive mantra with you. Add to that a gazillion other tricks and things she will bring with her in her bag and in her mind to help you and your partner. Throughout my challenging first birth, Jenny “reached” into that bag more than once. Squeezing my hips, walking the stairs with me, doing lunges, giving me sips of water, directing me through breathing, encouraging me to do one contraction at a time were only some of the things she had to offer.
Some couples worry that the doula will take over the role of the partner. That is not her job. Her job is precisely the opposite of that. The thing I learned form my birth and from my work as a doula, is that labor support is a more-than-one-person job. It took a room full of amazing birth workers, employees of the birth center I labored in, to assist me. Contractions came every two minutes, and with the pain in my hips not letting go even in between, I needed each pair of strong hands to deliver relief, while my husband hugged me and whispered encouragement into my ears, poured water on my back, held me and wiped my tears. Sometimes Jenny gave him directions, other times she let him take the lead and stepped back, and when I got a much needed epidural and finally slept, she made him laugh and listened to him cry because he had just witnesses his wife go through the most intense pain imaginable and felt helpless.
You’ve read those words before: doulas provide informational, physical and emotional support. They mean a lot to me. One of my most vivid memories from that birth is being admitted to the hospital (and having to fill out paperwork that should have been filled out before birth by the birth center) by a person who, wait for it… had a very important personal argument to finish on the phone before she deemed important to torture me with questions for my hospital file. Being treated like this can be very stressful for a laboring woman and lead to various interruptions in labor. Even though I was hurt, I knew that Jenny was there with me (my husband was parking at the moment), and nothing else mattered. She helped me answer questions and held my hand all the way while I strained my primal labor brain to remember various details of my life.
Labor is an uncharted territory for most of us. Having someone explain to you and your partner what is happening to your body and that it is normal, can make a big difference on how you will react to it. Calm and acceptance replace fear and panic. Proper latch demonstration in the first hours of birth increases your chances of successful breastfeeding experience. And don’t even get me started on the mind blowing super powers of doulas to never sleep, eat or pee while you need help.
5. Better birth outcomes.
The science is clear that doulas reduce the rates of C-sections, epidurals, and premature births considerably and over all improve women’s satisfaction with their births. As from my own biased point of view, I am not sure if I would have had a vaginal birth if it weren’t for my doula. The fact that I had a chance to labor naturally for over 12 hours before transferring to a hospital and getting an epidural (my son wasn’t turning into a better position, and I wasn’t dilating past 6cm; not to mention, I was in agony), gave me an edge time wise, and I delivered vaginally about 12 hours later. My second birth took half the time of the first and wasn’t nearly as painful. But Jenny was still there, walking stairs with me, squatting, breathing, and when the time came, she my loud and excited toddler for a walk, so my husband and I could welcome another baby in the birth pool in the middle of our living room.
So, here you have it, all of my personal reasons for hiring a doula. I hope you find them convincing. What is your doula experience, or why do you think you need one?
Doula Services Network Blog is accepting guest posts: Submit your articles here →