To the expectant parents out there considering hiring a doula, there are a few things that we as experienced doulas think you should know.
1. Our job begins long before labor does.
When people think “doula” they think support during labor. We will certainly be with you for labor, but a huge part of our role is to be available to you in the weeks and sometimes even months before labor. We will answer questions, lend support, encourage you, give you information and offer suggestions to help you become ready for labor. You should never hesitate to contact us with your concerns and questions, day or night, nor should you ever apologize for doing so. We juggle a lot of different things in our lives and we may not be as good as we should be about touching base with you, but we always want you to contact us whenever you feel the need. Having a baby is a big deal, and especially if you haven’t done it before, it’s hard to know where to turn for guidance. We love being involved in your journey leading up to labor, so please, use us!
2. This is about you. Not us.
We are here to support your birth experience and your choices. We want your family unit to be strengthened and bonded through our presence, and it is always our goal to be in the background making things better for your experience, not in the center or forefront. We are aware of your goals and choices and we are going to be there to remind you of them and help you achieve them. But if circumstances prevent this, or if you choose something different during your labor than you had originally planned on, our support for you will not waver. For example, if you wanted an intervention-free birth, but you change your mind and ask for an epidural during your labor, please don’t apologize to us or feel guilty. It’s not about us and we are going to be there for you with 100% of our love and support. No matter what.
3. Please understand our position.
You have hired us and we have no obligation, loyalty, or responsibility to anyone else. You’re our client and you’re the boss. We do not work for the nurses, the midwife, the doctor or the hospital. We work for you. However, please realize that we are professional labor support people, not bodyguards, decision-makers or medical care providers. We are there to support you, not protect you. Therefore, we cannot throw ourselves between you and your care providers, interfere with anyone trying to do his or her job, or speak to medical staff on your behalf. If we did, we would not be welcomed back to support the next laboring mother and long-term consequences would impact many more women, as well as the doula community. We need you to take responsibility for knowing the policies and procedures in the birth place you have chosen, and understand that some things come with the territory (and we will discuss these topics at length in our prenatal meetings so you are prepared). If there are things about the hospital that you do not want (i.e. continuous monitoring, mandatory IV, confined to bed), please do not expect our presence to “protect” you from these things. We can discuss your options privately, remind you of your preferences, and suggest alternatives, but it is up to you to refuse or accept these things.
4. Align your goals and choices.
It is challenging to serve clients who have certain goals and desires for their birth, then proceed to choose a hospital and/or care provider who do not support those goals and desires. If, for example, you want an intervention-free, mother-centered birth with the option of a water birth, choosing to go to the biggest, most impersonal hospital with a 60% cesarean rate that doesn’t have birth or bath tubs and hiring the doctor with the highest epidural rate, may lead to disappointment, since these choices do not necessarily set the stage for the most effective support for your goals. If, on the other hand, you are not all that concerned with rates of intervention or plan on an epidural in labor, this setting and care provider may be perfectly appropriate, especially if this is the choice you are most comfortable with and we completely support your choice. Just be aware that you will be better off if you align your goals and your choices.
5. We cannot do this for you, but we can help.
Having a doula with you for your birth will help you be encouraged, empowered and will ensure that you have continuous support at every moment. We will make sure you are well cared for and that you have the information you need to make the best choices for yourself and your baby. But having a doula in no way guarantees you a birth without complications, and we cannot do the work for you. Labor is hard with or without a doula. We will do everything we can to keep you as comfortable as possible. We will suggest positions, use massage, heat, encourage you to use the shower and the tub, employ counter-pressure, squeeze your hips, have lip balm ready, keep cool washcloths on your forehead, and remind you that you are strong and capable. All of these things will not necessarily make your birth pain-free or easy. They will help, but ultimately, this is your body, your baby, your experience, and your mountain to climb and you can do it! You will look back on this experienced and be amazed by your ability. This is a gift that we want for you so much.
6. Our relationship is for a defined set of time.
It is not unusual for us to form strong bonds with our clients. By the time baby arrives we have a solid relationship and care deeply for one another. But please understand that we serve a lot of clients and it is very difficult to maintain a long-standing relationship with each one. Sometimes our good friends develop out of a doula-client relationship, but please don't take it personally if we neglect to stay in touch or cannot make it to a birthday party that you invite us to. We care deeply about you and your family, but this is a result of the time constraints of our line of work and the nature of the job.
Finally, we are honored to be with you for your birth and have a deep respect for the work you will do to bring your little one safely into this world. There is nothing more sacred and special than witnessing the birth of a child and we thank you for trusting us and hiring us. Happy birthing!
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