One of my favorite questions to be asked is, "What is a doula?" One of my least favorite responses is the rushed, elevator speech because it was the cashier at Target that asked the question and there's 10 (already agitated) people behind me in line. I wish for everyone who asked me what it is a doula actually does, there was a button I could press to pause time; just stop life right where it was. This would allow me to explain just what it is that keeps me coming back to the L&D over and over again. This would allow everyone who ever ventured to ask me "What do you do?" to see the radiating passion for birth, parents, and babies pour out of me; heart and soul.
"Gross...so you watch babies actually come out?"
Simple answer, yes. Deeper answer, no. "Watching babies come out" is a very small part of what I do as a doula. The shortest description I can give someone to describe what I do is "I empower birthing parents to have the birth experience they want and deserve." This doesn't even scrape the surface. When I first meet an expectant parent, I listen; intently, intentionally, and without judgement. I ask questions to understand why and to understand what experiences brought an expectant parent to the decision or thought they hold. I listen so deeply. After listening to birthing parents describe what they envision as their perfect birth, I begin to explore options with them. It is amazing (and a little bit startling) how many birthing parents feel strongly one way or the other, yet end up choosing something completely different because they didn't know that was an option. It is mind-blowing the number of parents who are uncomfortable asking their doctor for alternatives or questioning the reasoning behind a procedure or hospital protocol. This is another part of what I do. I help birthing parents find their voice to ask questions and advocate for themselves. I help them understand how to communicate with their healthcare providers in a way that fosters shared decision making rather than a dominant-submissive relationship. Finally, I help birthing parents (and their partners, if applicable) realize their potential. I help them understand that if you trust your body, trust your baby, and trust the process-- you are able. You are strong. You are capable. You were meant to walk this journey and I'm honored to be walking beside you. I won't let you forget how strong you are.
"Do you have children of your own?"
Unbiased support is one of the hardest thing to, not only find, but also provide. Having someone judge you when you are trying to make the best decisions for your body, your baby, and your family while wading through unfamiliar waters can be detrimental to your birth experience. Not having kids myself is one of the most powerful intricacies of my practice as a doula. I pull from this part of myself on a daily basis when supporting expectant families. I am able come to the table with knowledge that is set in facts and research, but zero preconceived notions created from personal experience. I am able to support birthing parents and families without having an emotional connection to one choice over another. All decisions really do lie in your hands. Doulas who have children are able to bring personal experience and a level of resonance that I can not yet provide--and there is something special about that level of connection between an already-mother helping an expectant parent. It is inspiring to me to have the opportunity to witness births who are as unique as the families I am serving. Your birth experience should represent what is important to you and your partner, what you believe is best for your body and your baby, and what you feel is the best way to bring your child into this world. I will stand behind you in whatever you choose. I hope to one day collaborate all of my birth stories into one that I can call my own and pull wisdom from all the women I have served.
Because the birth of your baby isn't about anyone, but you.
The birth of a baby can be so overwhelming. It can overwhelm your "audience," too. All of those family members and friends who are anxiously awaiting the birth of your baby can be so consumed in the arrival of your tiny human that they forget the endless hours you just worked so hard to make this moment possible. They don't realize the depth of support your partner just provided you. They don't even think about how tired you and your partner might be. They want to cuddle, kiss, hug, hold, and take pictures of your new baby. One of the topics I help expectant parents explore is the period following birth. This could look like anything; from no visitors to opening the flood gates. The restriction of visitors lies solely in your hands. I always suggest a "lying-in" period and the importance of considering restricted visitors for the first few days to the first few weeks. This doesn't mean no visitors, but might look like only immediate family for the first week and then only extended family for the next two weeks. Then after the first month, you can invite co-workers, members of your book club, and fellow parents at the country club to come get baby snuggles and selfies. The birth of your child is about you, your partner and your baby. As for everyone else, they will adhere to the suggested space and respect your idea of family time.... or they will busy themselves being huffy and puffy and you'll never know because you will be too busy loving on your new babe.
So, why do I do it?
To serve and empower birthing parents. To help expectant parents learn what options they have in controlling their own birth experience. To help all parents feel comfortable branching out from culturally derived social norms and "what is expected" from expectant parents. To be inspirational to and inspired by parents finding their own voice. To have a positive impact on Women's Health and improving the lives of women (and Fem-Identifying people) all over our nation (and hopefully our world, one day). To provide each and every postpartum parent with a village to turn to when s/he has fears, doubts, worries, concerns, but also to celebrate their achievements and accomplishments in plenty. To help families in this transitional time. I do what I do so that bringing your baby earth-side is the magnificent and breath-taking event that I know it can be, yet so many birthing parents don't get this opportunity. I doula to give hope.
"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."