Mom Story

Finding the right support before, during and after your birth - Part I

By Elizabeth (Eli) Holmes 5/26/2018 5 minutes

What is a Doula?

I’m always stumped when someone asks me what a doula is. We’ll be talking about the birth of my son, now two, and wild, and naturally my life-saving, apple-bringing, kitchen-cleaning wonder-women come up. I had two doulas, one that followed me during the pregnancy, and visited postpartum and another that came for my babe’s birth. My pillars of strength throughout pregnancy, delivery and postpartum. Finding a doula is the first recommendation I give anyone who recently found themselves with a bun in the oven.

Every doula-mom experience is going to be different. This is the most personalized, and intimate relationship you will form with a provider during the transition to motherhood. A doula is going to articulate your needs when you can’t, support you when you feel weak, and ultimately see you at your most vulnerable.

Alright, so you’re pregnant, and you hear about these magical doulas. But when asked what is a doula, the answer is so complicated. A doula is a person trained to assist women during childbirth, and may provide support after the baby is born. Really vague right? How does one summarize being a stable support system, an advocate, a knowledge-bank, and pregnancy-encyclopedia, a hand-holding, caregiving source of strength throughout pregnancy and postpartum? We’re going to break down some of the mysterious roles doulas play in pregnancy, and prove why you need to find one as soon as that pee stick says “positive.”

What Does a Doula Do?

When you have that first initial meeting with a doula, they may recommend a few resources, like The Birth Partner (click here for the book), or local birthing classes, and help empower you with what to expect over the next few months. Your doula may discuss who your OBGYN/midwife is, what discussions you, and your OBGYN/midwife have been having, and any further questions you may have. The first trimester can be a rollercoaster of symptoms, and unpleasantries, and your doula may have a few solutions for you, or resources to point you in the right direction.

As you move through your relationship with your doula, they may help you craft your birth plan, learning intimately what decisions they should be expected to advocate for. Sabia, our amazing birth doula, was eligible for certification at the end of our birth, allowing us to give back to our two doulas who did so much for us. Although she didn’t provide services during my pregnancy, Sabia met us at the hospital, and continued to stay with us until well after our son was born. When I wasn’t able to articulate my needs, Sabia was there, with an unwavering confidence, to articulate them for me. Having her meant that I was supported in my decisions regarding my birth unconditionally.

When I needed quiet between contractions, and no one in the room understood that, she was able to get folks to stop talking so that I could gather my strength, and focus to make it through each of those final pushes. Given my strong ability to advocate, the most valuable thing Sabia did was engage my son’s father in the delivery. A split household, he wasn’t particularly engaged in the delivery, although physically present. Sabia made it clear he needed to engage in the delivery of our son, and that sitting in the corner wasn’t an option. Had she not stepped in, and grabbed him to rub my back to relieve back pain, I’m not sure he would have felt the capacity to be involved in our son’s birth.

Our antepartum, and postpartum doula Kerry was a godsend. My unwavering pillar of support, Kerry was a constant wealth of information. When something wasn’t explained well by my OBGYN or a nurse, Kerry was always able to either figure out the answer or point me in the right direction. As things grew closer, Kerry kept me accountable to building the resources I needed for delivery, and postpartum - frozen pads, and meals, a diaper station, the hospital bag, finding a lactation consultant (for the love of lactation consultants blog post), lactation teas, and more. Postpartum, Kerry visited just a few days after arriving home - our first, and only home visit from a provider. Walking in the door with a bag full of honey crisp apples (my favorite, and a huge craving), she went to work cleaning my house, walking my dog, and giving me a break to shower myself. It was the first shower without my son since giving birth.

There is no true exclusive list to what doulas will do for you. A personalized care provider, doulas are there to individually support you - which means you’ll determine what that looks like. Do you need help crafting a birth plan, and advocating for yourself with doctors? Do you feel more comfortable asking your doula questions, than your doctor? Would spending time meditating help? Do you need a bag of honey crisp apples post partum like I did? Unlike any other care provider during your pregnancy, a doula is going to individually support your needs throughout pregnancy.

We will cover how to find the right doula for you in the next blog post - STAY TUNED!

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Elizabeth (Eli) Holmes