Congratulations! You’re expecting. Now what? It’s your first child, or it’s been awhile and you’re not exactly feeling confident that your partner or your family members (if you have any) are up to the challenge of fully supporting you through a labor and delivery. Don’t worry. You’re not the only one.
A doula (or birth assistant) is someone who is there for you before, during and potentially after your birth to be your guide, advocate and support. If you don’t know what to expect, or are sure everything you learned in your birthing class is going to fly out of your brain the moment you have your first contraction, or just want an experienced person to support you through the process, a doula may be right for you.
If you don’t have family nearby, or have family you’d rather not deal with during a challenging moment in your life, a doula can help provide support a mother figure would traditionally give or help to redirect any family members who decide they simply can’t stay away on your big day. Either way, it’s been scientifically proven that just having another woman sit in a room with a female in labor eases the process even if that woman is doing nothing. Bottom line, it’s better to have a partner than to go it alone. Oh, and doulas are also handy when it comes to keeping the hospital staff (not just family) focused on your needs and wants.
You may also be worried about the first week of having a baby at home, after the hospital stay. When all of the Doctors and nurses are gone, WTF do you do with a newborn?!?!?! There’s so much to know about, breast feeding, sleep training, “Is that sound normal?”, etc… It can be scary and overwhelming. Especially with all of the hormones still coursing through your body.
All very good reasons why a doula may be right for you. Of course, you don’t want to choose just anyone to be with you during your special time. This is a beautiful, private experience you will remember for the rest of your life and having the wrong person at the hospital or in your home can potentially be worse than having no support. So keep the following in mind when choosing a doula.
Do you trust this person? Do they make you feel completely comfortable? Do they seem to judge you for any of the birthing or child rearing choices you want to make (i.e. pain medication or formula feeding)? A doula should be there for YOU. Whether you want to put a breast or a bottle in your baby’s mouth, they support you in what you want and are your advocate in your choices, not in theirs. Doulas can be your best ally. You invite them into the most intense, intimate moments of your life and they will always understand. Even if you unintentionally flip out on them in a hormonal rage (don’t worry, they’ve seen it all before).
The price for a doula can vary based on multiple factors. Usually a doula you really connect with will work with your budget to make their services affordable. It’s not an easy job and it’s not something one can easily do while holding down a 9-5. They will usually work 24 hours or more at at shot when they are working. A doula has to he ready for their clients at a moments notice and can’t take on too many clients in any given month, or they run the risk of 2 mommies going into labor at the same time.
Here are good questions to ask a doula during an interview:
- Tell me about your training and experience.
- What is your philosophy about supporting the mother and father during labor?
- Where do you live and how long does it take you to travel to the hospital?
- How many meetings do you provide before the birth? After?
- Are you available for phone calls before and after the birth? Unlimited?
- Do you have other clients within 2 weeks of my due date? How many?
- Do you have a backup? Describe her.
- What are your fees?
- Will you help us develop a birth plan?
- What are some of your most utilized comfort and pain relief measures?
- Do you teach breast feeding techniques? What is your training?
A postpartum doula will come to your house and usually stay (or visit) up to a week (or few) and help you and the new baby get situated. They will often do nights, so you can get some rest during the darkest hours of the night. They are there to teach you techniques for feeding, swaddling, sleeping and coping. They may even do the dishes or laundry if you’re really nice (or if you’re a hormonal mess but they like you anyway).
“We have a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.” -Laura Stavoe Harm
I hope this article helps you to decide if a doula is right for you and how to choose a good one.
May the Schwartz be with you