Doulas: Your Best Birth Friends
Okay, picture a confused dog.
Come on, you know the face I’m talking about: the pup’s brows furrowed as it tilts its head from side to side in response to an unusual noise—equal parts fascinated and skeptical.
This is the same reaction I experienced the first time I heard the word “doula.” It is an unusual noise, after all. “You’re a do-what?,” I thought.
Now that I am on the other side of that question, I see the same expression on others’ faces all of the time as I begin to tell them about what I do. It’s either that, or they smile and nod, and then say, “so, like a midwife?” (short answer: no.)
While doulas have been around for a really long time, I understand that their popularity in the modern-mainstream is only just gaining steam. There is bound to be confusion surrounding their actual duties.
So, if you’ve come here because your head, too, is tipped to the side in both interest and dubiousness at the thought of a doula, keep reading.
LET’S GET TO IT: WHAT IS A DOULA?
I like to describe a doula as a sort of “best friend for hire.” Think of all of the great things about having a best friend: they answer when you call, they really listen when you talk, they make you feel good about the decisions you are making.
Now, imagine that your best friend has been professionally trained to do all of those things in the birth space: this is what doulas do! They are knowledgeable about the processes of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, and they are able to use this knowledge to support you during this incredible time in your life.
You may be wondering, “How do doulas do that?”
THE SHORT ANSWER? WITHOUT JUDGMENT.
The long answer? Doulas are skilled at the art of attunement. What this means is that they are empathetic to your needs and feelings, and able to respond appropriately and effectively in order to support you (Erksine 2018).
Sometimes that response includes helping you understand an upcoming procedure, and sometimes it’s a swift squeeze of the hips as you cope through a contraction. In either instance, the doula is ever-aware of your changing desires (and those of your partner!), and is prepared to meet you where you are.
This also means that no matter what your birth looks like—whether you rock an epidural, or you do it med-free—your doula is behind you one-hundred percent. In fact, she’s got tips and techniques to support you either way!
SO WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORD DOULA, THINK OF THEM AS YOUR BEST BIRTH FRIENDS.
You get all of the perks of a best friend with the added benefit of an additional support person who understands birth and body language, and is able to help you through the process by personalizing their support to your individual experience.