This is the first in a series on tools we bring to a birth. Subscribe to be notified as future installments become available.
Many doulas bring a variety of tools to the birthing room - massage tools, lotion, heat packs, etc. - but the tools that will be the most useful won't fit in the suitcase. Who your doula is as a person and as a professional has a far more profound influence on her ability to support you than any device she has in her possession.
A doula's hands are the most versatile and powerful comfort measures she provides. They massage tight muscles, provide counter pressure to relieve discomfort, and bring water and snacks to keep you and your partner nourished and hydrated. They pull your hair back and bring cool washcloths to keep you refreshed. They teach your partner how to hip squeeze so he can feel secure that he is helping in a meaningful way. They change chux pads while you’re in the restroom so your nest is fresh when you return. They adjust your pillows and the lights and the music to make your environment comfortable as you do the work of birth. Their touch reminds you to let your muscles relax and connects you to her strength so that you know you are never alone.
A doula's experience and education will help you feel confident that her suggestions will be beneficial in your situation. She has been to trainings, she has read piles of books, she has talked with experts in the field - she is a professional and takes her work seriously. She continually expands her knowledge base so she can provide you with scientifically sound information which allows you to make the best decisions for your family. She will know how to communicate with your birth team to maintain a peaceful atmosphere so that you won’t be distracted by tension between members of your team. She will relieve the stress on you and your partner to remember everything from your childbirth classes - she will be your walking wikipedia. She will remember methods to help get your baby in the optimal fetal position for the best comfort and progress. She will remind you of positions to try to increase your comfort and decrease your time in labor. She can translate the medical jargon and humanize the environment.
A doula's heart is a servant's heart. She recognizes that this is your birth and not her time to be in the spotlight. She provides empathy and encouragement in your vulnerable moments. She trusts you, your body, and your baby. She is aware of your partner's role and makes sure that he is supported during his experience as well. She knows when to give you a pep talk and when to help you rest. She can draw on her strength to lend you in the rough moments. She will use her softness to help you feel safe expressing yourself.
As you search for a doula for your birth, be aware that there are wide ranges of expertise, and not all doulas provide this ideal. Make sure that your doula has honed these tools. They will be the elements that help you walk away from your birth standing tall, feeling supported, honored, and confident as you begin the next phase of life with your new baby.
Melissa and Ellen are birth doulas, childbirth educators, placenta encapsulation specialists, and Parent Effectiveness Training instructors serving the Denver, CO area. They are passionate about pregnancy, birth, baby care, and parenting. They bring over twenty years of combined experience to their premium childbirth classes, doula support, parenting classes, and placenta encapsulation services in the metro Denver area.