I love doula work.
I will wake up early on a Saturday morning to finish up a blog post.
I will enthusiastically jump out of bed at 3:00am, sneaking into our bathroom so as not to wake up my husband, and help a client figure out if it’s time to head to the hospital.
I will hold a client’s emesis bag, get her a cool cloth to wipe her face and jump right back into a hip squeeze. With a smile on my face.
But there are some things I won’t do for my clients, and there are good reasons why.
1. Give medical advice. Doulas have a scope of practice; I did not go to medical school or midwifery school and it would be out of line for me to tell you to take a particular medication or supplement, or to ignore the instructions of your care provider. If you ask, I can give you information about medical issues or options, and then you can talk to your care provider about those if you wish.
You hired your doctor or midwife for a reason: to care for the health and safety of you and your baby. You hired me for a different reason: education, continuous labor support, comfort measures, help for your partner, etc. We each have a role, and it’s in your best interest that I stick to mine!
Now, if you describe symptoms to me that can be signs of a more serious issue, I’m going to suggest that you talk to your care provider. But again, I’m not diagnosing or treating you. I’m leaving that up to your care provider.
2. Make decisions for you. There is something about being pregnant that makes you and your partner stop and examine what’s important to you. You have to make decisions about what life will look like after your baby is born, what you will change, what you will hold onto.
This usually translates into setting up a space for your baby, acquiring gear and supplies, making plans for a temporary or permanent leave from work, taking classes, and thinking about how, where, and with whom you want to give birth.
Research is often involved, and as you learn more about pregnancy and your birth options, certain things resonate with you, and you develop your preferences and values.
Now, imagine if someone else decided those things for you. They arbitrarily picked your care provider; they told you which hospital you were going to give birth at, they told you which pain medications you would or would not receive and when. They told you that you had no control over what was done to your baby when he or she was born. How would you feel about your birth experience? Empowered? Confident? Positive? Likely not.
When you and your partner make decisions for yourselves, based on what you both value, you are in control of your life. If you aren’t sure about a decision you have to make, you can ask me for information about your options or alternatives, and I can help you figure out the benefits and risks.
But the decision should be yours to make. And for me to support wholeheartedly.
3. Replace your partner. First of all, it’s impossible for me to do. Your partner is your primary support person in labor, and in life. They are irreplaceable.
Second, I don’t want to replace them! They are an integral part of your birth experience. Their love and presence literally helps with labor progress. They are my clients, too, and we are all on the same team with the same goal in mind.
What I can do, is give them a break when they need it. You are more likely to feel relaxed if your partner gets a chance to grab a bite to eat, take a nap, use the restroom, or leave for a few minutes to attend to other kids, or run interference with family members.
What I will do, is help them help you more effectively. I will make suggestions on what they can physically do to provide you comfort during contractions. I will give them the space to support you the way only they know how, while I step in when needed. I will reassure them if things veer off course, and make them feel as safe and supported as you feel.
Sometimes partners want a more hands-off role, and that’s okay, too. Whatever the two of you need to get through labor, I’m there to provide.
4. Mess with your mojo. Often in early active labor, but sometimes throughout labor and into transition, you are handling labor beautifully. You are in a groove; you need to focus on each contraction, you may be vocalizing or moaning, but your breath is steady, your body is relaxed, and you are doing just fine on your own.
I will not interrupt this magic of yours.
I may softly let you know I’m there, I may compliment you occasionally, but this is not my show, it’s yours.
At some point in labor, it becomes apparent that you may benefit from some physical support, you may need suggestions for a position change, or nourishment, or a reminder to breathe and soften. You may need more vigorous encouragement, you may need your whole birth team to get you through to the next level.
And I’m ready to step in exactly when you need it.
I am certified birth doula, postpartum doula, and childbirth educator serving clients in Boise, Meridian, Eagle, Nampa and the Greater Treasure Valley.
Interested in learning what a doula does (and doesn't do) for you in pregnancy and labor?
I've worked in the forest, in the lab, and in an office cubicle. My favorite and most passionate work has been alongside clients as they reach inside to find their innermost strength, and give birth to their babies. Each birth is an honor to witness.