May is International Doula Month so I thought I would talk about what doulas do. I get a lot of people assuming that a doula is a midwife and that I catch babies. The ensuing blank look I get when I say "actually I'm a doula, NOT a midwife" warrants a more detailed explanation.
Perhaps I'll start with what a doula DOESN'T do: blood pressure checks and other vital signs; fetal heart checks; vaginal exams; inductions; intravenous therapy; give medical advice or medications etc. You get the point.
I like to think of the doula role as a trail guide who provides encouragement on a difficult hike and helps you and your birth companion(s) to see the beauty along the way. You'll be provided all the water and ice you need for the journey, cool wash cloths to wipe the perspiration; someone to lean on when movement gets difficult and massage to work out the tense muscles as you work hard. You'll be quietly and gently told you're doing a wonderful job and given tips that might help you to work more efficiently. There will be information for navigating the path and any detours (interventions) that may arise so that you will be able to make informed decisions about them. When things get wild along the trail, the guide will keep everyone calm so they can proceed safely. Your guide will be a role model for your birth companion(s) to best support you and give them breaks for food and sleep as they need.
Before you begin this incredible journey, your doula guide will meet with you to discuss how you envision the path you are about to embark on and the many contingencies that may present themselves along the way. This time will help you to prepare mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically for the work ahead. A few days after the birth journey is done, there will be an opportunity to meet again. This is a good time for processing your birth with someone who will accept your thoughts and feelings about it without judgment. You will be offered tips for getting the rest you need and for settling into a new routine after all your hard work. Of course it is also a time for your doula to admire the little bundle of marvel that is the result of your efforts.