What’s a Doula and Why Do I Need One Anyway?

  Tuesdays are usually reserved for “making stuff” posts, but what’s the phrase?  “I’m so crafty I make people”?  Kid-free readers, I promise, I’ll stop with the pregnancy/baby stuff eventually, but I write about stuff as it pops up in my life, and there’s an awful lot of this little guy in my days at the moment!
  So I didn’t actually have a doula for R.  Not for a lack of trying, it just worked out that the women we were interested in working with were all previously scheduled to help with other births due right around the same time I was.  Ah well, they probably would have had a hard time living up to my first doula anyhow.
  For G’s birth my dear, dear friend Kate was my doula.  She moved to Pittsburgh about a year after that and if you’re pregnant and in the area, I strongly urge you to check out her new site and send her a message.  But!  Even if you aren’t anywhere near Pittsburgh, you still may want to find a doula.
  Basically a doula is a sort of “patient’s advocate” for the woman giving birth.  Even if you’re the most clear headed, straight spoken woman on earth, things get hairy fast when you’re in labor, and you’re liable to find yourself unable to remember your own phone number, let alone make lots of decisions.  A doula meets with you before the birth and talks to you about what you hope will happen and things that are important to you during the birth and can walk you through writing up a birth plan.  Obviously they can’t make the final call for you when you’re in the labor and delivery room, but they can remind you, for instance, that you said you preferred to not have any interventions when the nurses ask if you want an epidural and you’re yelling “I don’t care, do whatever, just stop talking to me so I can focus on not exploding!!”  They will also help you to think, talk about and prepare for the changes that will be coming in your life once the new baby joins your family.
  My labors weren’t really ideal for showcasing a doula’s talents during birth.  I was in labor for 5 hours with G and only 3 with R.  I was only in the hospital for half an hour before G was born, and the first 10 minutes of that were in the waiting room because the staff didn’t quite believe that someone having their first baby was progressing as quickly as I was.  And who knows, maybe I was acting too calm to be that close to giving birth?  Kate made the difference between my having him in a delivery room and having him in triage…or possibly the wheelchair.
  For more typical births (namely ones where the baby isn’t born like it’s been shot out of a bazooka) doulas have a whole bag of tricks for helping you through labor.  Suggestions for actions and positions that help contractions to be more comfortable, massage, aromatherapy…lots of good stuff.  Plus, because they’re not the mom or dad, they are able to have a somewhat less emotional view of the proceedings and help keep everybody calm.  They can also help wrangle friends and family to keep visitors to a manageable level if you have a clan that’s likely to overwhelm you at the hospital.
  After the birth, some doulas are available for postpartum care.  This is mostly an education based service, assisting with things like breast feeding, talking to new big brothers and sisters about their new sibling and helping families work out the kinks of finding something resembling “normal” with their darling new bundle of screams-in-the-middle-of-the-night joy.  That being said, some postpartum doulas also provide help with housework, meal prep and other day to day tasks so that mom can recover and the family can get to know the new baby without everyone being overwhelmed.
  Having done the birth both ways, even though, as I said, I wasn’t really the ideal candidate for a doula, I really missed having Kate with me for this birth.  Having her as a doula made everything run just that much more smoothly and it was a wonderful feeling knowing that there was somebody level headed on my side in the midst of the chaos.  It’s something I absolutely recommend if you’re having your first baby, but even if you’re having your second or third.
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