“Stories are the lifeblood of existence.” -Sarah Clarkson
A lot of life experiences change a person. I’m not sure anything changes a woman physically, emotionally, and so very completely like child birth. I truly believe the story of a woman’s birth experience is as important as the moment itself. She spends months preparing for that instant when she will meet the tiny human who has been growing inside of her. For the first time she will make eye contact with the little being who will alter the course of her future in innumerable ways. The choices she makes, or in unfortunate cases are made for her, will shape the way she sees herself, her partner, and her child.
The story of birth has been major part of my decision to become a doula. A doula is a major character in the saga of birth. Mothers are obviously the main characters. Every good story, though, has a cast of supporting players. In the case of birth, those supporting characters should be people a mother can lean on, both figuratively and literally. So many birth partners desperately want to help, but they often feel they do not have the knowledge or skills necessary to give the mother what she needs. A trained doula can fill that gap with knowledge, training, and hands-on assistance throughout labor and birth.
Unfortunately there are some misconceptions about what doulas do. Many women believe they only need or can have a doula if they are having a “natural” birth. The thing is, there are a lot of definitions of natural. In my opinion, every birth is natural. Whether a woman chooses (or ends up with despite her best efforts) pain medication, an epidural, induction, or c-section or is willing and/or able to have an unmedicated birth with no medical intervention, there is something very primitive about a baby traveling from womb to woman. Every mother needs and deserves emotional and physical support during labor. Some women will find the support they need in their family or friends. But every woman can benefit from the skills of a trained doula in such an emotionally charged environment.
Some women believe that if they are uncomfortable with outsiders a doula would be more of a hindrance than a help. The good news is that doulas come in every shape and size. If you aren’t sure about how you would feel about a doula, the good news is that most of us will meet with you (for free) before you ever hire us. We want to be a good fit for you! A good doula will tell you if she doesn’t think you’re a good fit and will refer you to other doulas who might work out better. Honestly, I’m not super crazy about touching strangers. Something about being involved in someone’s birth story, the preparation time a doula and her client spend together, and the intimate setting of a birthing suite make “stranger danger” disappear very quickly.
For those who need a less feely and more factual approach, let’s talk statistics. According to a research summary by Rebecca Dekker, PhD, RN, APRN:
When continuous labor support was provided by a doula, women experienced a:
- 31% decrease in the use of Pitocin*
- 28% decrease in the risk of C-section*
- 12% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth*
- 9% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief
- 14% decrease in the risk of newborns being admitted to a special care nursery
- 34% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience
The decision to choose a doula, as every decision in child birth should, lies in the hands of the mother and her partner. A doula can help write a birth story that you want to read for the rest of your life. As a doula I long to graft many stories into my own. I want to walk with women down this path that brings a new life into the world. I want every woman to love and be changed by her story.