When I was pregnant with my 3rd daughter my husband and I decided to work with a doula. It was an incredible experience and it profoundly changed the way I look at birth.
Working with a doula offered another level of awareness. I felt educated and cared for throughout my pregnancy and although my birth experience was completely unexpected (I basically gave birth in the back of our car), I was present, confident, and surprisingly calm because of what my doula had taught me.
Many women do not even know that having a doula is an option, so I asked Tricia Fitzgerald, mother of 5, early childhood specialist, HypnoBirthing Childbirth educator, and DONA certified doula to explain her role and how working with a doula can benefit expecting parents.
Most people have never heard of the term "doula", or if they have, they don't know that the presence of a doula at a woman's birth can shorten the amount of time she is in labor, decrease her chances of having interventions like pain medications or a C-Section, and increase her overall satisfaction with her labor and baby's birth. Having a doula is a choice that most pregnant women don't even know exists.
A doula offers emotional, physical and informational support for women and their partners during pregnancy, labor and the postpartum period. A doula nurtures and supports a woman and her partner and affirms the couple's choices. Her job is to help parents learn about all of the choices and options they have in pregnancy and childbirth, but not to choose for them.
She helps parents trust themselves and their ability to make sound decisions for themselves and their babies. She reminds parents that when they become reflective during pregnancy and bond with their baby they will begin to make the choices that are right specifically for them.
Doulas often help moms come to realize that they are individuals who have distinct beliefs, values and goals for their pregnancies and births. We help women understand that it is perfectly acceptable for a woman to search for a care provider and facility that will respect these unique needs, even if this means switching to a new birthing attendant mid-pregnancy or driving further for more supportive care.
A doula's role during a woman's labor is very unique. She provides continuous labor support and has knowledge of normal labor and childbirth and an understanding of possible medical interventions. She can help translate medical language and procedures into understandable language and she will remind and encourage couples to ask questions and have an open line of communication with their care providers.
In this way, a doula essentially ensures that moms and dads can truly engage in informed consent as they labor and birth in a hospital. A good doula does not have an agenda; she affirms a couple's goals and choices, even if the choices are in conflict with the doula's personal beliefs.
When I am hired as a doula for a family I strive to preserve the intimacy of birth by protecting the space around a laboring mom and her partner. My goal is to ensure that the family can welcome their baby into the world in a peaceful environment in which mom, dad and baby are all safe and respected.
I support the family's choices; point them toward the information they need and constantly remind them that they have within them an inner voice and power that will guide them to make the "right" choices for themselves and their baby. Every pregnant woman deserves to have her choices and beliefs respected, and a birth doula helps make this happen.
Tricia Fitzgerald lives on the southwest side of Chicago. To learn more about her work please visit www.triciafitzgerald.blogspot.com
Do you know Tricia or would you like to share your doula experience? Feel free to comment.
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.