Ramblings by Rach - Ramblings by Rach
 
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At the beginning of my pregnancy, I knew  that I wanted a natural birth experience. I tried to get a Calgary Midwife- I was even willing to drive into the city for each and every prenatal appointment, but unfortunately I was placed on a waiting list at every single clinic. (Current statistics for the city state that they turn away 9 out of 10 women who contact them).

So I knew that if I was going to get the birth I desired, I would have to approach it a different way. I started to think about hiring a doula. I did a lot of reading, some research on the cost of having a doula, but that was the end of it. The typical cost for a doula in my area is $400-$700…or $1000 for a doula out of the city. After Blair and I attended natural birth classes through Healthy Birth Choices in Calgary, we decided that we could do it on our own, because the financial burden was just too much for us to swallow.

As my labour approaches and anxiety builds, I am reconsidering this decision. Last night, we met and interviewed a doula, and I could not be happier.  She was everything I imagined she would be, and I loved her philosophy.

What exactly is a doula?

The word doula comes from the Greek word for the most important female servant in households throughout ancient Greece. These servants were often the women who supported the lady of the house through her childbearing years. The word has now come to mean “a woman experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother (and father) before, during, and just after childbirth” (Klaus, Kellen and Klaus, Mothering the Mother).

Why do you need a doula?

Over the last several decades, husbands and other partners have transitioned from not even being allowed in the labour and delivery room, to not only being in the room, but being expected to be the primary labour coach. Think of it this way: if you were going to hire a soccer coach, would you hire someone who had never played soccer in their life? Someone who had never even seen a soccer game, and who would never in their life be able to play a soccer game? Probably not.

Women deserve to be supported in labour by a professional labour support person who is on board with their birth choices, and with whom she has established a trusting relationship. The Dr. is not going to be with the women throughout her labour- he or she is only going to arrive once the woman has completed the longest and toughest stage of labour (stage 1) and has moved onto the pushing stage (stage 2). Nurses can be a great support to labouring women as well, however some nurses are inexperienced, have different philosophies, and shifts always change. Having a constant, supportive, knowledgeable friend to help a woman and her partner through her labour can make all of the difference.

What do doulas do?

Before labour, doulas meet with expectant mothers to discuss their birth plans, get to know one another, and take care of other practical matters. They decide the role the doula will take during the process, discuss any anxieties or concerns, and establish a plan for when labour begins.

During labour, doulas join the mother and any other support persons. She accompanies them to the hospital and stays with them through the entire process, providing support (be it physical, emotional or spiritual) and suggests ways to help manage pain or speed up labour. She uses relaxation, visualizations, massage, body positioning, hot or cold packs, baths or showers, patterned breathing, and attention focusing techniques to help. She also gives partners support and guidance. She stays until after the baby is born and the mother and baby are settled.

After labour, the doula helps the mother through the postpartum process and assists with early breastfeeding. She provides support and resources and answers any questions new parents might have. A doula is up to date and educated on the most current procedures, is always available by phone, and will often make return visits to mothers who experience difficulty during the early postpartum period. Some doulas may provide a birth story, recalling details of the process that both parents may have forgotten and photos.

*They also

  • Remind you of what you really want – when things happen during labour and interventions are offered, a doula can be a wonderful resource to remind you of your goals, and your options.
  • Relieve your partner during long labours- everyone needs a break once in a while, be it for the washroom or to grab a quick bite to eat.
  • Know that pain during childbirth has higher meaning – seeing a loved one in great pain can be torture. While partners cannot experience birth pain with you, they may experience a great deal of emotional pain or have feelings of helplessness when they cannot put an end to your suffering. Doulas can help partners by working through this together and offer ways to help reduce pain.
  • Support your partner – some men may not realize that the birth experience can be frightening, even as a bystander. They see their wives and partners make noises they have never heard. They hear them scream in pain and worry about the safety of their wife and child. When partners have the support of an experienced birth professional that attends to their own fears as well and lets them know that what is happening is normal, it can make all the difference.
  • Focus on the labouring woman while everyone else focuses on the baby- the actual moment of birth can cause a few moment of panic if the baby fails to breathe right away or there is some other complication. Babies can be whisked away to the other side of the room and the attention of the medical professionals shifts. A doula can bring the mother observations of what is going on and provide reassurance.

*Adapted from Natural Hospital Birth by Cynthia Gabriel

I think it is quite clear that doulas can do a lot to help and support couples through the birth process. Sure- it might seem a little bit expensive, particularly to those who are short on cash, but considering what they can offer, I think it is a small price to pay.

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