Deciding who you want standing by you in the important moments of your life can be difficult. Do we invite great-aunt Mary to the wedding? If we invite second cousin Alice, will Sally be offended if she doesn’t get an invite? Much like a wedding, the birth of a baby is a big deal. Who you choose to invite to be with you in that special moment could greatly affect your experience. Inviting someone into that moment who is likely to bring fear and anxiety in with them could have profound negative impact on your birth experience. Birth is a vulnerable event. You should be surrounding yourself with love, calm, comfort and people who can bring all three into the room. For most women in North America now, having their partner with them through labour and birth is a given. Some women may also have a family member or friend that they feel would be a helpful presence. What about a doula? I could give you a long list of reasons why having a doula attend your birth is a great idea, but instead, I’m going to talk about some reasons that you might be unsure about hiring a doula and explain why I don’t think you should let those things hold you back.
1. “A doula will take over and do the job that my partner should be doing.”
A doula and a partner come to the birth with two very different roles. Both are there to support you during labour and birth, but one cannot replace the other. A partner comes into this experience with an intimate understanding of YOU. They know you. They love you. They know how you like to be comforted when you are sad or hurt. They know how to make you laugh. They know you. A doula, though you’ll spend some time getting to know each other before you go into labour, doesn’t know you the way your partner knows you. She does however, know birth really well. She knows what to expect and what is normal during the process. She knows what can help to ease the discomforts of labour and what positions might help move things along smoothly. She is familiar with the choices you will need to make and can help you better understand your options. She can give your partner suggestions of things to try and can help keep them calm if they start to panic. A doula is there to support you, but also to support your partner. She’ll make sure that your partner remembers to take care of their needs too (because let’s face it, if you have a long labour, they might just need to grab a snack or a nap somewhere along the way). With a doula in the room, your partner is able to suppport you better. They don’t need to know what to do, they just need to know YOU.
2. “My partner and I want the birth to be a really intimate/private event”
I get it. Birth is a very intimate experience and has the potential to be an amazing time of boding and strengthening your relationship with your partner. A doula can help create an environment that will foster that. She “holds space” for you and your partner - almost like creating a protective emotional bubble around the two of you. By giving your partner some tips and tricks, your doula helps equip your partner to support you well, strengthening that bond between you. Having a doula doesn’t mean you’ll have someone in your face and your space through the entire processs. When she sees that you and your partner are coping really well, your doula is happy to sit back and stay out of your way. Even when she’s sitting back and not seeming to do much though, she’s always looking for what you and your partner might need next.
And as for privacy, unless you are having a totally unattended home birth, there will be other people there during your birth experience. If you are birthing in a hospital, your doctor or midwife along with nurses will be present. Though you may have a good relationship with your care provider (doctor or midwife), chances are you won’t meet the nurses who will be there until you are in labour. And if your labour happens to last beyond a shift change, you may see multiple nurses throughout your time in labour. Now, most maternity nurses are lovely, but that doesn’t change the fact that they will be lovely strangers. Having a doula means you have a familiar face by your side among the lovely strangers.
3. “I’m not planning to have an unmedicated birth” (or “I’m having a planned cesarean”)
No problem! Birth is birth, no matter how it happens. Regardless what choices you make for your birth, a doula can help you have a really positive experience. Whether you plan to have an unmedicated birth or make use of all of the medical interventions available to you, a doula can still be a key part of your support team. She can make sure you have the information you need to confidently make decisions, help you prepare for what to expect with different interventions or procedures, and support you in the ways that you need for your individual birth experience.
4. “It’s too late... I’m already X weeks pregnant”
Unless you’ve already had your baby, it’s not necessarily too late to hire a doula for your birth. Obviously, the sooner you look to hire your doula, the better your chances that she’ll still have space in her schedule for you, but even if you’re late in the game, you might be surprised to find that she’ll be able to squeeze you in at the last minute. Check out my blog post from April about “Dial-A-Doula” services for those who decide they want a doula once they’re already in labour.
5. “It’s too expensive. I can’t afford it.”
If you really want doula support, but think you can’t afford it, check out the following ideas to make affording services possible: