“Superheroes With Invisible Capes”

I’m sure that if you Google the question “what is a doula?” you’ll see the definition that a doula is “a woman who serves.” So, I thought I’d give you my take on what a doula is, what we do, and what we don’t do. Now, if you’re wondering about the “superheroes with invisible capes” reference, it was something one of my mentors said and it really resonated with me. The doula is fundamentally a support player- we come with ideas of how to make everything work out- but we are not the star of the show. You are.

Doulas do a lot…

A doula is someone you can think of like a very skilled friend or family member…who comes without emotional baggage. Why is this important? Well, because pretty much everyone in your personal life is going to have emotions about the birth and the baby- your partner is becoming a parent and they often don’t know how to best support you. Your parents are welcoming a new grandchild (possibly the first) and may have trouble seeing you labor. People will have opinions about how to do things, when to do them, and what not to do, during birth and postpartum.

A doula is completely free of those emotional ties…she shares her compassion, empathy, knowledge (always based in evidence), physical support (like squeezing your hips, sifting your belly, getting you in the tub, massaging your back, doing acupressure or bringing you water and cold compresses to name a few). She holds space for you, listening to your concerns, supporting you with her energy, being quiet when needed and encouraging when you need to hear how strong you are. Our single and only goal is to help you have the best, most fulfilling, empowered birth experience you can have. While we can’t guarantee that you’ll get everything on your preferences list because, let’s face it, birth is unpredictable, we can guarantee that we will be by your side the entire time with a single-minded focus. You, your family, your baby.

…but we don’t do everything

A couple things we don’t do:

  • We’re not medical professionals. This means we’re not going to do cervical checks, take your blood pressure, prescribe medications or anything that falls in the realm of your care provider. We can educate you about what normal labor and postpartum looks like, and what types of medical options might be offered to you in the course of your journey, but those decisions are yours to make with your care provider.
  • We’re not going to speak for you. While we want you to remain as focused on your birth experience as possible, and will make sure you have education about what informed consent means before labor begins, the ultimate decision of what is or is not done in the course of your labor and postpartum is yours. We are happy to help you navigate the options but we won’t make the decisions for you or tell a doctor or nurse what to do.

The best doulas, in my opinion, see themselves as a part of the birth care team. That team is made up of you and your partner (and other support people you may choose), your care providers, and us. We all have the same goal- to work together in harmony to create a fulfilling, memorable, beautiful birth experience and smooth transition to postpartum life. Many doulas, like myself, have additional training and certifications in breastfeeding (if that’s something you are choosing) so that we can help you navigate that potential source of stress in the early days and weeks.

We want you to focus on the thing only you can do- birth and grow your baby- and it’s our job to make you feel safe, supported and free to focus on doing exactly that.

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