"What is a doula?", was probably one of the most common questions I was asked while pregnant with Kellen and Rowan once I told someone my husband and I had hired a doula for the births of both my boys. The word doula is defined as a person providing support and assistance to a person, in some cases, the partner and family before, during and after the birth of a child. doulas are non-medical and not to be confused with a midwife. Often times I was asked if our doula delivered babies. Ours was not trained to do that and we had an OB for both our births. However, our doula was/is an amazing piece of our team.
When I was pregnant with Kellen I did not know anyone who had used a doula. I really enjoy learning about all things pregnancy and birth related as a personal interest of mine, and had read a lot about the benefits of working with a doula. In Green Bay I wasn't sure where to find a doula, but thankfully an old friend of mine named Emily connected with me on Facebook because she was moving back to Green Bay with her husband. I met with Emily (along with Ron) and we talked about what some of my goals were and what type of support I was looking for. I was hoping to have a natural birth, but having never been in labor before I was understandably nervous about how things would go. I also knew that having an extra person in your corner in what could be a stressful situation never hurt anyone. I liked the fact that I could as her questions and that she would meet with me prior to the delivery. I also knew it was a person that would respect my birth plan wishes and value what was important to me. I jumped around to different doctors because I had a hard time finding one that was a good fit for me. I was not too worried because I had built a good external support system with my husband and doula. In Green Bay, at that time, things were a little different than they are now. I hate to say less progressive because it sounds negative, but I do not mean it like that. For example, when I would tell my potential doctors I was using a doula I was usually given a bit of a shrug or a nod (this has changed a lot and I will talk more about that later). I eventually decided to birth with Dr. DeMott. He was a lovely man and very kind. He was familiar with doulas and had positive things to say. I was induced with Kellen around 42 1/2 weeks. I had a really hard mantra that I believed that babies come when they are ready. Luckily I was very supported in my decision, but eventually induction was the best choice after 43 weeks of pregnancy was looming in my future. Our doula met us at the hospital for the induction and the process began. We worked on different laboring techniques, but after an entire day my body didn't respond to the induction and we went home (I didn't know that happens either). We returned and proceeded with another induction the following day and Kellen was born after almost 24 hours. For Kellen's birth, having a doula made me feel empowered during a very long labor. I was so tired at one point I fell asleep in between contractions in the shower... Kellen's birth was very different than I had initially wanted, but with Emily's support I was able to process and realize how many things actually went the way I hoped. I was able to do move freely a large portion of my labor, delayed cord clamping and immediate skin to skin was achieved, and my husband got to cut the cord. I realized that there were things I wanted to do different next time, but it did not mean that there were failures on my part this time. I believing that being able to have someone to help me process the experience allowed me to come to that conclusion and resulted in a really positive postpartum for me and for Kellen. Another stellar aspect of having a doula was placenta encapsulation (this will be a later post because it deserves detail).
Since Kellen was born Emily and I continue to be amazing friends and knew she would be my doula for round two. There is something to be said about being a repeat client. My doula knows me and how I labor and knows certain things that are important to me, things I like, and things I dislike. My doula knows that I am a person who seclude and presence alone can feel supportive to me. Another positive of having a doula was that she knew I had two miscarriages in 3 months prior to becoming pregnant with Rowan and knew how to support me and my husband during my second pregnancy because I was more anxious and needed to talk things out more often.
I discussed my birth story in this post
and don't need to re-write everything in regard to that, but somethings have changed since Kellen's birth. Emily now owns Green Bay Doulas
and I was able to have two doulas this time around, Emily and Nakita. I really liked the structure of the agency because I was able to meet with both women and knew there would be no scrambling (not that there was the first time) and one of them would always be with me. Emily also has a great relationship with Dr. Swift and it was awesome to have a web of support when preparing to birth my baby. If you ready my account of Rowan's birth you know that it did not go to my initial plan. However, I was so supported while making my decision by my team it was easier for me than the first time. Emily and Nakita also supported me while Rowan recovered in the NICU. I also had my placenta encapsulated for the second time and it was another positive experience for me. I again was lucky enough to recover from birthing my baby while being mentally healthy. I think a lot of this was due to support and ability to process the experience and birth.
I know many people hire a doula with the expectation it will be during labor. After 4 pregnancies and 2 births I have found the value of hiring a doula to be in the before and after for me (not that the labor is nor helpful too!). I know that is not the case for everyone but, for me, having to support in place and stable gave me the ability to make decisions during my labors and to feel good about them after. Emily is also my postpartum doula and helps me a few hours a week around our house to take some of the load off and allow me to focus on myself and our family. A postpartum doula was not something I opted to use the first time, but I am so happy that I did it this time and will do it again if we decide to have a third child. There are also sibling and bereavement doulas as well. We have not utilized those services at this point, but if we have a third child I will likely look more into a sibling doula to help with the boys.
I am a big believer in setting yourself up for success. Having a good team in your corner (in my case that was my husband Ron, my doula Emily, and my OB Dr. Swift- plus the amazing nurses at our hospital) makes the biggest difference in a labor and a recovery.
So, what do I think are important things to look for when hiring or considering to hire a doula? First, I think looking at certification is important. Not all doulas are certified and they are not required to be, but I think there is something to be said about a professional that values continuing education. In my line of work things are always changing and new ideas and strategies can be utilized- why wouldn't I want that from the person who is on my team to birth my baby? Second, interview your doula before you commit. Be prepared with questions (no question is a bad or silly question- it is your birth) and don't feel bad if you are not the right fit. Somethings you might want to ask about are birth plans, placenta encapsulation, postpartum care, laboring at home and hospital, renting a birth pool, when to call, how their business is set up, certification, costs, maximum hours before breaks are needed or a back-up is called, breastfeeding support, ect. Third, be skeptical of a person that is negative on the OB. Working as a team with your medical professionals will be a blessing- trust me. If you are birthing outside a hospital it is still good to have a working relationship because you never know what will happen. Finally, pick someone that you really like. The relationship between a doula(s) and a mother is very personal and they will know things about you that you would never tell anyone. They will see you in your most vulnerable state and potentially one of the best days of your life. A good doula will celebrate your victories with you and give you tools to review your options to make your best choice. You will grown to care very deeply about them because you respect and cherish what they have done for you.
One of my favorite sayings is a good close: "my doula was worth the moula!".
Preview for next week: a case for encapsulating your placenta.