This is hard to write.
But it's true... Your mom is not a doula!
I think experience helps me write this, so let me share with you my story!
Lets start with your midwife is not your doula...
I was excited to be birthing at a birth center run by midwives, I thought that by having a birth attended by a midwife that I was setting myself up for an amazing natural birth experience. Little did I realize ALL the things a midwife does while a mom is laboring. Sure, she is supportive, sure, she is encouraging, but she didn't really have the time to do hip squeezes for hours straight. She was very busy charting and making sure that the wellness of mom and baby were not compromised. It was when I was transferring to the hospital for an epidural that I learned, my midwife is not a doula.
Ok, round two... Your mom is not a doula.
I was doing a lot of planning for my second birth - I thought the experience of my first gave me new perspective and understanding about how to approach my second birth better. I made plans to have my mom present as my physical support, while my husband was my emotional support. When I was told at 38 weeks I needed a c-section, I didn't know what to do. I didn't have anyone to bounce this new intervention off of, I didn't have a doula to help me know my options, and I hadn't taken a good childbirth class... it was just me, all alone, with fear being the loudest voice around me. So I ended up with a cesarean.
Onto round three...
Your mom, your sister, your bestie are not doulas.
Well, that is, unless they are a doula - then sure they can be, but unless they have training, then they really cannot fill the role of doula.
I was planning my third birth, a VBAC, but I could not afford a doula (what I didn't realize was that I could not NOT afford a doula). I had a plan though. I had read every book I could get my hands on. I had sat down with my mom and diligently rehearsed scenarios. We practiced comfort measures. I talked with my sister over the phone - she is midwife, but unfortunately wasn't local (and trust me, she tried to encourage me to get a doula). I ended up having my mom, my best friend, my cousin, and a few other women present to support me at this birth - my goal was a natural, vaginal birth - but even with all that support, I did not feel that any of them stepped into the role of doula. Comforter - YES! Encourager - YES! Prayer support - YES! But never did any of them remind me of my options when interventions were considered - in fact, you could often see their fears and concerns override them. When things got tough, they didn't know what to do. When I hit that point in labor when you want to give up and no longer know how to comfort yourself, no one knew how to help me press through. I am thankful though, I did have a vaginal birth and a successful VBAC, but I did get an epidural at 8cm.
But why should I expect my sister, mom, bestie to know how to help me? They were never trained in the role of a doula.
But a DOULA... she can be your doula!
Finally at my forth birth, I hired a doula (a little late in the game, but I am so glad I did). When I was faced with a unsupportive care provider, my doula reminded me of my options, and empowered me in my choices. When my care provider was saying I would need another cesarean, my doula helped me understand how my body hadn't failed me, she encouraged me to listen to my intuition, she sent me so many evidenced based articles so help me make informed and educated decisions. She encouraged me to try chiropractic care so that my pelvis would be in the best alignment possible for birth. When I considered transferring to a home birth, she helped me find a midwife. When my labor went on for multiple days, and my chiropractor was out of town on vacation, she helped me find a pregnancy friendly chiropractor. She came over 3 days in a row while my labor lingered on, she spoke with me on the 4th day when I cried that a baby hadn't come yet. Again, she reminded me of my options - like therapeutic rest, induction, and lots of at home remedies. She encouraged me to remember what my goal was and that I could do it. On the 5th day, when labor took a turn and I didn't know if I could do it, she testified of my strength and how far I had already come! She held my space, limiting visitors. She got me snacks, drinks, reminded me to go to the bathroom, had different essential oils that helped me in different ways at different times. When my labor would slow, she allowed me rest, and then we would try different positions, maneuvers, and my labor would kick back up. When my labor stalled for 6 hours at 8cm, and she heard the doctors talking at the nurses station that I would be getting another cesarean, she was aware that I was mentally arrested and helped me break through that zone.
She did all that and so much MORE...
Since we are at it...
Your Husband is not a doula!
At our first few births, my husband felt the pressure to help me be strong, to make sure everything was in order, to support me in more ways than he was prepared for or capable of.
But at our last birth with a doula, my husband was able to enjoy watching his baby come into the world, no stress on his shoulders, no sweat. My mom was able to tickle scratch my back and know that I was safe and supported. My doula was exactly what I needed, but it was because she had the training, the awareness, this was something she was practiced in, had experience in. She was not emotionally entangled in my world, instead she was my rock, something I knew was unshakable and could hold me up. Even in the midst of everything, though she was present and highly needed, she gracious stood in the background, so my husband and I could have bonding moments, she gave my mom jobs to do that helped her support me, so she didn't feel left out of the birth support.
Being a doula takes work, takes practice, takes effort... it isn't something you just call your mom or sister or friend and hope they fill the role.
If you want your mom to be there, let her be there as your mom - she will comfort you in ways only she can.
Your husband... let him love you through this beautiful journey, but release him of the pressure to make sure this goes perfectly.
Your best friend... invite her into the most intimate of spaces, share in joy together, welcome her to witness you in your strongest hour.
And hire a doula.
Want more information about hiring a doula and building your best birth team, click the button below.
My name is Jillian and I am a Doula, Childbirth Educator, Placenta Encapsulator living in the Wilmington, North Carolina. I believe in women and that they deserve support throughout their pregnancy and births no matter what method of birth they desire. I myself am a mother to 4 girls, pregnant with a 5th (that is a boy); each of their births were vastly different.
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