Childbirth Education Articles and Resources – Tagged "doula" – Plumtree Baby
Planning Your VBAC (Part 2 of 2)

Planning Your VBAC (Part 2 of 2)

In Part I of Planning Your VBAC, we introduced the background information for a vaginal birth after a cesarean section (VBAC). Now, we’re ready to share some concrete steps you can take to prepare your body, mind and support system for a trial of labor after a c-section (TOLAC) and VBAC.
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What to Wear for Birth

What to Wear for Birth

As with every step of planning for and going through your birthing journey, you want to be true to yourself when choosing what to wear. There are no hard and fast rules, but there are some tried-and-true pieces of advice to help make you comfortable from early labor until the moment you’re cradling your newborn in your arms. Here are our suggestions:
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100% Doula Business Training

100% Doula Business Training

I have known Alice Turner, owner of YourDoulaBag.com, for many years. She is incredibly smart, genuinely nice and an excellent role model for birth professionals. She has an online training program to help doulas advance their businesses called 100% Doula.
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6 tips to help you find your doula

find a doula tips

You’ve decided you want to hire a doula for your upcoming birth, but you’re not sure how to go about finding one, especially finding the right one for you. Use these guidelines to help you in your search:

  1. Ask other moms. Word of mouth is powerful. The past experiences of your like-minded friends and acquaintances with their doulas are often the most accurate reflection of a doula’s services. Talk to people you trust who share similar philosophies and goals for labor and birth and find out what they liked or didn't like about their doula.
  2. Find a doula who is respected in her community. It takes time and skill for a doula to build up trust and respect for herself, both among parents and among health professionals, but once she does, this reputation can be a useful guide for you. (Of course, newer doulas who are well on their way to earning respect can be a good fit too.) Ask your midwife, doctor, childbirth educator or other doulas for recommendations and they are likely to point you to the most reputable doulas in your area.   
  3. Make sure her only agenda is your birth. Sometimes, doulas have negative feelings toward a certain care provider, birth place or even the medical establishment in general. As a doula, she must not let her own personal feelings play any role in supporting your labor and birth experience. Her job is to support you and give you resources and information to help you make choices for yourself. You should never feel like you need to apologize to your doula for your choices or feel that you are not receiving her full support. When interviewing doulas, ask if there are places they will not attend births or if they have any opinions about your care provider. Their answers will help you weed out doulas who might let their bias get in the way of your birth experience. 
  4. Consider her certification. Some doulas have gone through formal training and a certification process and others have not. This does not necessarily reflect on how good she is at her job, but being certified through a recognized organization such as DONA International, CAPPA or ToLabor does mean that she has committed to uphold the organization’s code of ethics, stay within her scope of practice, and is accountable for her actions. Certification also gives you an avenue of recourse if anything happens that you feel should be reported. These organizations also have online directories of their certified doulas where you can find some names that will help start your search.
  5. Consider her experience. There are some excellent doulas with a natural ability to help and comfort a laboring mother, who have only attended a few births. We support and applaud these doulas as they get started on their journeys, and often you may be able to find a new doula who will offer services at a lower cost so that she can gain experience. But, do keep in mind that experience is the best teacher, and a seasoned doula who has attended hundreds of births will have learned from many different situations and may be better equipped to help with whatever situation your labor brings than a brand new doula.
  6. Trust your gut. One of the most important factors in hiring a doula is how you feel around her. Do you connect with each other? Does her personality suit yours? Does her presence put you at ease or make you uncomfortable? Can she answer even your toughest questions? Everyone is different and the same doula is not going to be right for everyone. Trust that you know yourself best and know what you need. Labor and birth is a time when you are vulnerable and you’ll need someone who you trust completely and whose presence is calming and comforting.

What other tips would you share with moms to find the right doula?

 

Copyright 2015 © All Rights Reserved

Plumtree Baby, LLC

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Why we became doulas

Why we became doulas

Every doula has her own unique story of motivated her to become a doula. We are usually motivated by our passion for and deeply held beliefs about pregnancy, birth and babies. This passion may have been there for as long as we can remember or it might have been created by circumstances in our lives, like the birth of our child. Regardless of where or how we became interested in this field, there are a few things that have probably not been part of our motivation. 

We are not doulas because...

It is a glamorous job. Generally, our line of work involves bodily substances of a variety of forms, colors, and consistencies. We often have to find creative places to sleep or shove something to eat into our mouths as quickly as possible between contractions, trying not to let anyone notice. Sometimes we go a night or more with no sleep, only to catch a few hours and get called out again. After a long, challenging birth, we can find ourselves feeling grimy and smelly, with greasy hair and fuzzy teeth. Our clothes and shoes get stained and stripped off the minute we get home. We get into all sorts of positions to try to put pressure on the right spot while letting the laboring mother do what she needs to. We drive home at 3 a.m. after a slightly scary journey through a dark, abandoned parking garage, shivering until our car warms up. It is a wonderful, miraculous, rewarding job, but it’s not glamorous.

It's quick and easy money. On the contrary, being a doula is hard. A doula is “on call” day and night, holds a tremendous devotion to her clients’ birthing experience, and sometimes has to miss out on family events or cancel plans that she was really looking forward to. It is true that a labor and birth is sometimes quick, but other times, it can take many long hours or days. And we don’t just show up in labor. Rather, we spend a lot of time meeting with clients ahead of time, checking in, taking phone calls, answering texts and emails, keeping notes and of course we always follow up after a birth, with both calls and an in-person visit. Sometimes the hourly rate is pretty good and other times, it is a fraction of a dollar.

So why do we do it?

Because it matters, and we want to make a difference. We are a group of people who recognize that the birth of a child is one of just a few events in life that will be forever engraved in the hearts and minds of parents. We want to do whatever we can to make it a day of joy and love, one that parents look back on with happiness and without regret. We can’t always make things perfect, and we definitely can’t control all the circumstances, but we will do whatever we can to make sure parents have the information, support and encouragement they need. One of the things that can drive a doula crazy is the phrase “The only thing that matters is a healthy baby.” A healthy baby and mother is at the top of the list of priorities, but there is more to birth than getting everyone through it alive and breathing. We want new mothers to be strong and healthy physically, mentally and emotionally, and this is difficult if she was mistreated or felt afraid or lonely during labor and birth. We want to make sure that her needs are central at every step of the journey. Anna Verwaal said it well: “A woman, as long as she lives, will remember how she was made to feel at her birth.” It matters, and we want to help make it an experience that is the best it can possibly be.


Because no one else can bring quite what we can. Our job is unique in that our one and only responsibility is to encourage, comfort and support the family and laboring mother. A partner, spouse, friend or family member can do this, but usually don’t have the training, experience and objectivity of a professional doula. Nurses can provide support, but they are also responsible for procedures, monitoring baby, and other tasks. A medical care provider can be as giving, supportive and well-intentioned as possible but they too have other responsibilities that may take them away from the labor support role. Many of us have seen situations where something scary is happening. At these moments, the care providers will be doing their job, the family will be scared too, and the doula’s job is to offer reassurance and explain what is happening. In many ways it is a blessing to be in such a clearly defined role. For more reasons a doula is helpful see I’m not sure… Do I need a doula? 

We asked a few doulas what they love most about doula work and this is what they said:

  1. What I love most about being a doula is serving, supporting and loving parents through the journey of meeting their child. -KF
  2. I love helping parents achieve the birth they dreamed of. -MW
  3. I love being with a couple when they welcome their first baby and being able to literally watch a family be born! -EP
  4. I love being invited into some of the most intimate moments of a family’s life. This invitation requires a deep level of trust and I love being honored with that trust. -KI
  5. Birth is a sacred environment, and being invited to be there as part of the birth team is both an honor and a privilege. -DK

Leave a comment below with your answer to what motivated you to become a doula/birth professional and what do YOU love about what you do? 

Copyright 2014 © All Rights Reserved

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All Kinds of Doulas

A doula is usually defined as a woman who provides physical, emotional and informational support to a woman before, during and after childbirth. But did you know that a doula’s role may go well beyond this definition, or in some cases, her role may not involve labor at all? Just like other professions, doulas often have one or more “specialties.” These are a few of the various hats that a doula may wear:

Labor/Birth Doula

This is the traditional doula role and the one that most associate with the name. The birth doula usually meets with a mother or couple several times before labor to become familiar with one another and learn about the mother’s preferences and goals for her birth. She is on call for the birth and joins the mother during labor at the mother’s request. Some birth doulas work through a hospital system, and in this case the mother may not meet her doula until she is in labor. Either way, the doula stays with the mother and provides constant encouragement and support until the baby has been born and everyone is comfortable and resting. A doula will usually stay in close contact in the days after the birth to check up on everyone, and go to at least one home visit in the week or two after birth.

Postpartum Doula

A postpartum doula provides support and help to the mother and family in the first few weeks after a new baby’s birth. Sometimes, a labor and postpartum doula may be the same woman, or these may be two different people. A postpartum doula is on call as the baby’s arrival gets closer, so that she is ready to step in and help as soon as the baby is born. Her role may include breastfeeding support, emotional support, or physical support such as meal preparation, laundry, child care for older children, running errands or housekeeping.

Antepartum Doula

An antepartum doula serves a mother who is experiencing a high-risk or difficult pregnancy. She provides emotional and physical support with the goal of lowering levels of stress and anxiety, and helping the mother be as comfortable as possible during her pregnancy. The doula also assists with preparing the mother for her birth experience and can provide valuable information when important decisions or issues arise. Some antepartum doulas may also transition to serve as a birth doula when labor begins.

Sibling Doula

A sibling doula is on call as labor approaches to provide child care to the new baby’s older sibling(s). However, in addition to her skills in child care, the sibling doula is usually also an experienced childbirth professional and helps the child understand labor and birth in an age-appropriate manner, and prepares them for baby’s arrival. A sibling doula will usually have several meetings with the mother and her child(ren) prior to labor so that they can become familiar and comfortable with each other and to discuss the plans for labor and birth. The doula is then on call to come at any time of day or night and stays with older siblings until several hours after birth. She handles all the necessary transportation, feeding and care while parents are busy with labor and birth. She may also be available to bring older children to the hospital, if the parents desire.

Bereavement Doula

A bereavement doula provides support to mothers who have experienced or anticipate a loss, such as miscarriage, stillbirth, or a terminal diagnosis during pregnancy. A bereavement doula provides encouragement and physical, emotional and informational support as a mentor and friend through the journey of loss. This support may be provided during pregnancy, birth, and after the loss.

Geriatric Doula (and Beyond)

More recently, the value of a professional supporter and encourager has caught on in areas beyond pregnancy, labor, and postpartum. Some women have taken steps to become a doula for older people who are experiencing health crises, or have little time left on earth. This doula may spend many hours providing company, conversation, comfort and encouragement to the person in their last days or hours. Everyone has a time in life when an “on call encourager” with experience, information and special professional training on how to help would be a tremendous help.

The value of doula care is becoming more and more recognized and appreciated. In what other areas in life can you see doula services coming about?

Copyright 2014 © All Rights Reserved

Plumtree Baby, LLC

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More signs you might be a doula

More signs you might be a doula

When eating out, you wonder why the person at the next table is giving you that look, until you realize you are discussing a placenta a little too loudly.

You frequently have your hands on another woman’s breasts and/or compliment her on her latch-friendly nipple structure.

Your 8-year-old daughter’s favorite video is National Geographic’s “In the Womb.”

After a birth, you get really excited when you realize you can have a beverage with alcohol in it sometime in the next three days, before you go back on call.

You frequently sleep in the back seat of your car (and keep a pillow and blanket in the car at all times for just such an occasion). Or you’ve ever been very thankful to sleep in a hospital bathtub.

Your children knew all their reproductive anatomy, proper names for every part, and where babies come from as soon as they could talk.

You want to have another baby, just so you can go through labor and birth again. You recognize that this is weird to a lot of people.

Your husband talks to his friends about epidurals and midwives.

Every single thing you commit to has a caveat attached to it (“unless someone is in labor…”). The people you make plans with most frequently don’t need to be told this any more. It is a given.

When it comes to birth, you understand that there are those who “get it” and those who don’t. All your closest friends “get it.”

You have really hard moments when you wonder why you do this job and if you are really making any kind of difference, then a client sends you a beautiful thank you card and tells you she couldn’t have done it without you. Then you remember, and you’re good to go again.

Copyright 2014© All Rights Reserved

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You might be a doula if...

You might be a doula if...

The words “bloody show,” “mucus plug” and “vagina” make their way into your conversations several times a week.

“Visit The Farm” is on your bucket list.

You’ve started a list of “nurses to request” at your local hospitals.

Your phone automatically adds “cm” every time you type in a numeral and frequently auto-corrects words to “dilation.”

You can only go for so long between attending births before starting to experience withdrawal symptoms.

You used to not handle vomit well, but you’ve been utterly and thoroughly de-sensitized and no longer bat an eye when someone loses their lunch. You’re totally cool with poop too.

You secretly hope that sometime while caravaning to the hospital with a client in active labor, someone will get pulled over and you’ll both get a police escort for the rest of the drive.

It has dawned on you that if ever someone has a baby out in public as a result of a very fast labor, there is a good chance you’ll be the most qualified person around to help with the birth.

You totally want a pair of these earrings

When people ask what you do, you patiently explain that no, you’re not a midwife, and no, you don’t catch babies. You generally say you’re a “professional labor support person” because no one knows what “doula” means. But every now and then when you start to explain, someone says, “Oh, so you’re a doula?” and you have an instantaneous new friend, just because they know the word.

You understand that even an extremely difficult labor and birth can still be joyful and empowering for a new mother if she is surrounded by people who show her respect, love, patience and options.

Want even more? 

 

Copyright 2014 © All Rights Reserved

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Tips for a Great Doula Interview

Tips for a Great Doula Interview

doula interview tips suggestions

Meeting with potential clients can make even seasoned doulas a little nervous, and the stress level is even higher for doulas-in-training. It may be difficult to completely eliminate the jitters, but there are things you can do to prepare for these meetings and help them go as smoothly as possible.

Offer to schedule a phone call - Many potential clients make the first contact with a doula through email or text. While this is a good starting point, electronic communication has its limits, since it tends to be brief and makes it difficult to get a feel for someone’s personality. It may be  helpful to follow up the initial exchange with a brief phone call before you meet in person. Meeting together is time consuming for both you and the potential client, so it is mutually beneficial to spend a few minutes getting to know each other first. Sometimes a phone call can weed out a mis-match (and save you both time) or a great phone conversation may help you make a positive impression from the beginning. Talking on the phone can help you get a feel for the clients’ personalities, goals for birth and particular situation. The more you know, the more comfortable you are likely to feel during an in-person meeting.

Find a good location to meet - When setting up a meeting, pick a location that is mutually convenient, easy to find and will have the right atmosphere for a long chat (not too busy, too loud or too empty/quiet). Usually public spaces are the best (and safest places) to meet complete strangers. Coffee houses, parks, or libraries can be great spots. You could offer a few location suggestions and allow the potential clients to pick or just have a “designated spot” where you hold meetings. Sometimes going to a new location for every meeting is stressful. Traveling may take longer than you anticipated, you may have challenges finding parking and/or the seating or environment doesn’t work well for a personal meeting.

Some doulas will offer to meet at a potential client’s home, but this can be risky or uncomfortable. Some potential clients may not want to invite you, a stranger, to their home or you may be unknowingly walking into an unsafe situation. It is wise to speak on the phone first before agreeing to go to someone’s home to help you gauge if this is in fact a legitimate potential client. Pay attention to your instincts if the situation doesn't feel right or insist on a neutral, public location for your first meeting.

Prepare for your interview - It doesn't hurt to practice your interview a few times out loud before the day arrives. Ask yourself some questions as if you were a potential client and practice your answers:

  1. Why did you become a doula?
  2. How long have you been a doula?
  3. What is your training and experience (how many births have you done)?
  4. What is your philosophy about birth?
  5. In the births that you have attended, what role did the husband/partner have? 
  6. When do we call you in labor, when do you typically arrive at a birth and how long do you stay after?
  7. What is your role should we choose or need interventions or a cesarean?

Be yourself - Potential clients will hire you when your personality, style and experience fit their expectations. There are no “perfect doulas.” Allow your unique personality to shine through and trust that the clients that are good fit for you will hire you. Some won’t be a good fit and that is okay. It doesn’t mean that you did anything wrong, it just means that they were looking for something a little different. Who knows, they may refer a friend to you or even hire you for their next birth. If they don’t hire you, ask for honest feedback about their reasons.

Keep the conversation going - A good interview will strike a balance in the conversation between all of the people. If you find yourself talking a lot, pause and ask the potential clients some questions. Be sure there is a ebb and flow and that you are not doing all of the talking. Have some open-ended questions ready to ask the potential clients:

  1. Why do you want a doula?
  2. How do you think a doula will be helpful to you and your partner?
  3. Describe your ideal birth.
  4. What are you doing to prepare for your birth (taking classes, reading books, etc)?

Bring paperwork - Have business cards and brochures available for clients so they can easily remember you and have access to your contact information. Many doulas also have a packet they give to clients that includes their doula contract, a contact sheet and/or a prenatal questionnaire. Not all doulas give out their “packet” at the first interview (because it can be costly to print copies for potential clients that do not hire you); however, it is a good idea to have everything ready to go in case clients are ready to hire you after your interview. If they hire you at a later date, you could meet again to give them the packet, email it or send it in the mail.

As you conclude your meeting, you may find it helpful to discuss what happens next. If you are a busy doula, let them know that you will hold their due date for a certain period of time (such as a week or two) to allow them time to make a decision. Then, a day or two after your meeting, follow up via email, text or phone and thank them for their time and offer to answer any additional questions they may have. If you haven’t heard back after a week or so you could casually touch base again to see if they have made a decision. Be careful to not come across as “pushy” or try too hard to sell yourself. Remember, if you are the right fit, they will hire you.

Looking for more tips? We highly recommend the 100% Doula Business Foundation course to help you start and grow your doula business. You can read my review of the program here

See a preview and learn more here.

 

Copyright 2013 © All Rights Reserved

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I'm not sure... do I need a doula?

I'm not sure... do I need a doula?

do I need a doula

Parents who consider hiring a doula often ask some of the following questions. In response, we are exploring and clarifying the doula role and some of the reasons for hiring one. 

1. What exactly does a doula do? 

The “textbook” answer – that many of you have probably already heard – is that a doula provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a laboring mother and her partner throughout the labor and birth process.

But what this looks like in practice spans a very wide spectrum of scenarios. Since a mother doesn’t often know ahead of time exactly what will be most helpful to her in labor, probably the most important trait that a doula brings is the ability to be adaptable and adjust her style according to the individual needs of the mother and of the moment; to read the situation and act appropriately.

Sometimes, a mother needs to be left completely alone to feel safe and secure – any noise or touch creates more stimulation than she can handle in addition to her labor. Sometimes, a mother needs to have continuous eye contact with her partner. Sometimes the couple is doing well on their own and the doula can help carry bags, fetch water, and take care of other errands so that the parents never need to be separated for a moment. Sometimes a mother needs to be held, massaged, loved and encouraged by another woman who understands what she is going through. At times, labor support requires some trial and error for the doula to figure out what is most effective and as labor progresses, the doula may need to adjust her role, style or technique based on the mother’s changing needs.

2. Why would I need a doula when my partner/husband is prepared and wants to support me?

This can be a tough question to answer. It is true that the partner knows the mother well and has a very intimate connection with her and the baby; however the partner is also very emotionally involved, most likely not an experienced birth attendant and may benefit from some support, reassurance and guidance him/herself. Many parents have expressed concern that a doula will take away from the partner's role or experience. On the contrary, doulas want the partner to be intimately involved and work to keep the couple connected throughout the labor. Ideally, the partner and doula working together create the ultimate support team.

It is also important to realize that there are some unique elements that a doula can bring to the birth that may be difficult for a husband or partner:

    1. Experience. A seasoned doula has usually attended dozens, sometimes hundreds of births and can draw upon those experiences to guide her support. A newer doula has read countless books and websites, attended a training(s), and/or watched birth films and is knowledgeable and eager to help. For the partner, the birth is likely the first or one of a small number, so it may be difficult for him/her to establish a helpful frame of reference. Situations such as a baby in an awkward position, a mother battling nausea, a mother who panics, or other unexpected events, are likely situations that the doula has seen in the past and has learned various methods that can help.

    2. Instinct. Many doulas have had children of their own and have a love and passion for birth and helping other women have a positive experience. Attending many births and/or having given birth to her own children gives a doula a powerful personal experience from which to draw ideas and tools for support. Often, though not always, it is easier for women, especially those who have gone through it, to instinctively know how to support a laboring woman than it is for men.

    3. Objectivity. A doula will be able to maintain a bit more emotional distance in the midst of the passion and intensity of labor than a husband or partner. It’s not that she doesn’t care about the laboring mother, but rather that she is able to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, keeping a more objective viewpoint. This will help her provide the information that parents need to make a decision based on evidence and experience rather than out of emotions or fear. Parents who are given tools to be at the center of the decision-making at every step of the labor and birth process are more likely to come out on the other side feeling respected and cared for. This will create a joyful and positive experience and get the family off to a healthy start. 

If a mother does not have a partner or other support person, the doula’s role possibly becomes even more critical, ensuring that the laboring mother will never have a moment when she will face her labor alone.

3. I get the idea of labor support, but won’t my midwife or nurse do that?

Maybe. Some labor and delivery nurses and midwives provide wonderful labor support, while others do not consider that to be part of their role at all or are too busy to have much time with the mother in that capacity. The problem with counting on the nurse or midwife for labor support is that no matter how wonderful she may be and no matter how much she may want to support her patient or client, that cannot be her primary concern. She has a job to do that includes monitoring, paperwork, and protocol. Ultimately, ensuring baby and mother’s health and safety is her primary focus, not providing comfort, support and encouragement to the laboring mother.

4. I’m not sure about having some stranger at my birth; wouldn’t it be better to have someone I’m already close to for support? Like my mom or sister?

Friends, moms, sisters, aunts, cousins and many other possibilities can make great labor support people. Anyone a mother chooses to invite to the birth that is going to enhance her experience, create a safe and secure space for her, and support her goals can make a great asset to the birth team. Doulas often work with family members to enhance their support or step in when they need a break. For a mother who finds companionship comforting, it is terrific to have a number of people nearby. With friends and family, it is important to keep in mind that some of the same limitations exist as with partners; it can be challenging for them to maintain objectivity, and without having attended many (or any) births, they may lack experience. In addition, your doula should not be a “stranger” by the time labor comes around. By then, she should have a well-established understanding of your goals, perspectives and personality, and the parents should be completely comfortable with her.

5. I plan to have an epidural or I may need a cesarean; is a doula still necessary?

No matter what your plans are for labor and delivery, it can be very beneficial to have an experienced, professional person with you whose primary task is to provide you with information and support. Sometimes suggestions, positions changes or a comforting face can make all the difference. 

These questions are great starting points for conversations that can help you decide what is best for your birth experience. If you agree, please share this with your friends! 

 Copyright 2012 © All Rights Reserved

Plumtree Baby, LLC

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Parents: Six Things Your Doula Wants You to Know

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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Updated 9/6/12

Copyright 2012 © All Rights Reserved 

Plumtree Baby, LLC

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"The Dark Side" of a Doula's Job

"The Dark Side" of a Doula's Job

If you are a doula, chances are you have heard statements along these lines from your non-doula friends and family: 

“You have the best job ever.” 
“What you do is so cool! I wish I could do that.” 
“You’re so lucky you get to see miracles all the time.”


All of those things are true: being a doula is a blessing and an honor. Sharing in some of the most powerful, profound, intimate and influential moments in the life of a mother and her family is not something any of us take lightly. It is sacred and beautiful. The emotions that go through us as we are walking away from a glowing mother who has just discovered her inner strength, fallen deeply in love with her partner and her baby, and is now happily nursing skin to skin, well, there just aren’t words for those emotions. Knowing that your presence made a difference, hearing her say how wonderful you were and how she could not have done it without you are moments that remind us of why we do what we do. But there is a lesser-disclosed side to doula work: ”The Dark Side”, the messy side, the not always beautiful or fun or sacred side.

For example, you deal with a lot of bodily fluids as a doula. Babies come out in the same general area and in the same general manner as a bowel movement, and it is not at all unusual for a mother in labor to pass gas, sometimes loudly, or to clear out those bowels to make way for baby. Sometimes, this happens in a pile on the floor or bed, or with some serious force. This has the potential to fill the room with a strong odor and the professional doula’s job is to completely ignore this occurrence and display absolutely no awareness of the odor filling the room. She may, however, need to quickly and discreetly throw a new chux pad or towel on top of the pile when no one is looking and alert the nurse or midwife. If the mother is laboring or pushing in a tub, the doula will look for a fishing net or another object to scoop any “floaters” that may appear and continue to act like nothing is amiss.  

Often a woman in labor belches and may vomit, sometimes repeatedly. Similar to when she passes gas, a doula pretends she didn’t hear or smell a thing, even when face to face with the mother. If she vomits, sometimes with little or no warning, a doula will need to be quick on her feet to get out of the line of fire. The quick-thinking doula will grab a nearby container of some sort, but it may be too late, or sometimes the mother misses. Sometimes a doula may be holding a bucket or basin with one hand and applying counter-pressure with the other, potentially for hours at a time. A wise doula always keeps an extra change of clothes in her bag and scouts out the vomit containers well before the nausea arrives! 

When the laboring mother gets hot toward the end, as most do, many a doula will adjust the thermostat, get a basin of ice water, a couple of washcloths and repeatedly apply them to the mother’s head or the base of her neck. It does not take long for her hands to go completely numb or for her to go retrieve the extra sweater she packed in her well stocked “doula bag” before her teeth start chattering. 

Then there may be the client who gets to a point in labor where she does a 180 from her original birth preferences and a doula has to consider whether this mother needs support in her new choices or encouragement to remember her original goals. If needed, the doula switches gears and make this new plan as positive as possible for the mother. She reminds her that her labor is not something she can control and that she is going her best to give this baby the safest start to life. 

Another challenging situation arrives when the doula has just poured herself into bed two hours ago following a long birth and then her phone rings at 2:00 in the morning. Another client is in labor and asking her to come. She will curse herself, desperately wish for just a little more sleep, then drag herself out of bed and try to find some ways to look alive before she heads out the door. She may have to figure out who she can call or text to come over in a few hours and get the kids up, then review the plans she had for the day and figure out how to juggle and rearrange, and more importantly, how she will reach the people she needs to if she cannot get away to call at a more decent hour. Then she will meet her clients looking perky and happy as she gives all she has to this mother. 

Doulas take the birth experiences of their clients personally. If there are any problems or concerns with the baby after the birth or if the mother is upset or traumatized by the events that unfold, a doula will feel those feelings along with her client. She will cry, she will question and she will grieve the experience in her own way. Often a bond is formed that goes beyond the birth experience 

Yes, being a doula is wonderful. It is amazing. It is beautiful. It can also be, at times, messy and thankless and down right hard. But those messy moments fade and we hold onto the incredible times when we know we made a difference. We want to give a special shout-out during World Doula Week to all the doulas who work hard to make birth better. You are appreciated!!! 

What have you experienced on the “dark side” of doula work and why wouldn’t you trade it for any other job in the world?

Copyright 2012 © All Rights Reserved

Plumtree Baby, LLC

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