Doulas provide a very important and supportive role for our patients, that helps to improve birth outcomes and the postpartum experience for the whole family. We had the opportunity to chat with one of our patients who is also an incredible Birth and Postpartum Doula in our community!
Q: Why did you become a Doula?
I became a doula because I believe that having empowered births is how we shift our culture. How we are born as humans and as parents matters. These two moments matter so deeply that we’re only beginning to discover how they leave an imprint on how our nervous systems function, how we relate to one another, and how we might build long-term health and wellness.
I found out I was pregnant the day we were issued our first stay-at-home order for the COVID-19 pandemic. My entire pregnancy was framed by fluctuating COVID-related restrictions and an ongoing, evolving fear I’d be unable to protect myself and my baby from a threat we’ve yet to fully understand. I attended nearly every prenatal appointment alone, and I was isolated from friends and family at a time I needed them most. What’s worse, though, is I am only one of an expansive cohort of new parents who underwent what is arguably the most dramatic developmental phase of their lives against the backdrop of a public health crisis that continues to pull back the veil on our nation’s most shameful series of moral crises as well.
While the circumstances of my personal situation were certainly exacerbated by the pandemic, the broader strokes of my experience are not unique. Parents of all generations, especially those closer to the beginning of their journey, often speak of feeling isolated, lost, even fearful. Millennial parents are using the tools uniquely available to them like social media platforms and other virtual communities to speak up and out about their experiences, which is remarkable. I also find that this generation is undergoing a serious unlearning having been raised by a generation of parents who were not as prepared to talk openly about social and racial justice, to bust open the binaries that bind us, and demand equity for the most vulnerable members in our communities. To say it perhaps more plainly, we are at once reparenting ourselves in order to flourish in today’s society while parenting our own children to do the same. We’re tired. We’re hopeful. We’re isolated, and we need each other.
I became a doula because I believe birth, the moment that transforms us into parents, is how we heal.
Q: What is a Doula’s role to you?
You often hear that a doula’s primary role is to support the birthing person in any and every choice they make. While I agree with and practice this, I believe it is also important for a doula to equip their clients with both evidence-based resources and informative, common narratives that can aid their client in making informed decisions and realizing that their fears, concerns, anxieties, joys, and questions related to their birth are the very fibers that weave them in to the growing, historical tapestry of humans who birthed before them. As a doula, it is my responsibility to give my clients the permission, space, and tools with which to make meaning of their pregnancy and birth, to transform however they wish to transform, and to walk through the threshold of matrescence (the process of becoming a mother) or parenthood with clarity, wisdom, and grace.
It’s important to understand that a doula does not replace the support person or spouse. Instead, a doula leverages the relationship between the birthing person and their primary support as a means toward their birth plan or vision. One example of how a doula does this is coaching the support person on how and when to provide specific comfort measures that can make pregnancy and labor more ease-ful. A doula also provides tailored support for the support person; it’s really hard to guide your partner or be strong for your partner through an experience you’ve only ever seen in the movies (and the movies are often very, very wrong about birth!). A doula can reassure the support person that what they are feeling, seeing and hearing throughout the birth is normal and hold space for any responses that may arise.
Q: Tips for a mama searching for a Doula?
- It’s never too early or too late to start looking for a doula: Studies show that having a doula at your birth significantly reduces the rate of anxiety, pain, and trauma experienced by the birthing person (read more about the evidence behind doula support here). The sooner you hire a doula, the sooner you can navigate your pregnancy with unconditional support from someone who actually wants to hear about all of your aches, pains, worries, and victories. Each trimester calls for different support, and having a doula on board earlier rather than later can only lift up your experience. Also, some doula support is better than none! Even if you don’t feel called to hire a doula until you’re 38, 39, 40 weeks pregnant, you can still benefit greatly from having them present for your birth.
- Interview multiple doulas: while doulas are generally caring, wise, empathetic people, you deserve even more than that. Take your time getting to know several doulas in your community. Be as specific as you can about what type of support you are seeking and what kind of coaching to which you respond well. Kalamazoo is so lucky to have a wide, strong community of doulas at your ready- the perfect one is waiting for you.
- Trust your gut: Who you choose as a doula is an incredibly personal choice that no doula worth their salt will ever take personally. Especially when birthing in a hospital, you don’t have control over who will be available when you go into labor or arrive for your scheduled cesarean or begin the process of labor induction. So make sure the team member you do get to choose is a great fit for you and your support partner. Pay attention to how your body responds to their presence during the interview. Note how you feel after speaking with them. Is this doula a person you are interested in building an intimate relationship with, someone you feel like you can be vulnerable with? Is this doula someone who seems capable of supporting the type of experience you want?
Q: What would you tell your friend who has never heard of a Doula?
In short, a doula is a non-medical support person who provides a pregnant person and their support partner with multiple forms of support:
- Physical: comfort measures for pregnancy and labor, body balancing, labor positions, breathing techniques, massage
- Emotional: phone calls, texts, emails, meetups
- Educational: podcasts, books, peer-reviewed articles, data, statistics, and published studies
- Spiritual: meditations, visualization, affirmations, ceremonies or rituals
Doulas center the wishes of the pregnant person and hold space for their wishes to shift as the pregnant person may evolve throughout their pregnancy and birth.
Q: What is the best part about having a Doula?
The best part of having a doula is the assurance of knowing another human being walking this planet witnessed your strength, your discernment, your ascension into parenthood. Your doula will carry your story with deep reverence and great care, even when you can’t, even when it feels too heavy, and will enter back into that space to unfold and turnover every corner until you’ve found the meaning you seek. The best part of having a doula is having someone forever in your corner cheering you on as you continue to grow and heal into the parent you aim to be.
Q: What is the best part about being a Doula?
For me, the best part of being a doula is playing a small part in the collective healing and cultural shifting our children deserve to inherit from us. As a doula, I can look my daughter in the eye and say, “Here’s what I did to try and make this wild world a little more safe for you.”
Q: Where can mamas reach you?
You can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can be followed on Instagram @mindfulmatrescence.
Prenatal and Postpartum Yoga Teacher (E-RYT 200)
Birth and Postpartum Doula
Healthy Birth Ambassador
Certified Breastfeeding Specialist