I remember the first time I was exposed to the world of “doulas”. It was before any of my babies were born, and I only hoped to be an expectant mother some day. A friend of mine had just given birth, and I was introduced to her “doula” during a visit at the hospital with her new baby in arms. The brief conversation we had about the support she provided left me believing a doula was a labor masseuse! Who wouldn’t love that?! I didn’t realize the extent of what a doula actually did, and why my friend was raving about the incredible help her doula companion was, during what had turned out to be a long and complicated labor.
Fast-forward a few years; my husband and I were preparing to meet our first child, doing what most pregnant couples do – childbirth education classes. The prenatal instructor teaching the class was an informative and passionate doula. She prepared us for birth in a way I don’t imagine all prenatal instructors would. I remembered seeing in her in action during my pre-labor hospital tour, and admiring the job I knew she was there doing. My interest in this profession grew over the years, and I became convinced that this was important work that I was created to do, and needed to do.
Doulas are nothing new to the birth scene; their work is a centuries old practice. They’ve been getting more attention and exposure in recent years, and for good reason. Historically, this type of continuous support through labor was a normal event; it has now become the exception. Parents and health professionals are rediscovering the benefits of doula care both through personal experience and research. The Cochrane Review is one of the largest studies, which uncovers the huge benefits as result of continuous support in childbirth. The outcomes of doula supported birth include reduced rates in length of labor, higher rates of spontaneous vaginal birth, reduced chance of cesarean birth, and a greater satisfaction with the whole birth experience.
My own passion comes from my experience and understanding of the positive effect a doula can bring to birth. Many women have incredibly supportive family and partners who can and will provide irreplaceable care through the birth process; others do not. My role is to compliment whatever circle of support that exists, share my knowledge about birth, and prove continuous physical and emotional support throughout labor. My role is very different from that of a primary caregiver, whose utmost focus is to ensure a safe birth for both mom and baby. I get to help hold the space in which life is being welcomed, fostering a supportive atmosphere where the mother and her partner are honored in their wishes for this experience, and made to feel safe, capable, and cared for.
This is the work I love; using the hands and the heart I’ve been given to care for women in the ways they need most, helping them to see they are strong and able as they bring life into this world.