I love being being doula, being able to provide support, reassurance, practical assistance and a fresh focus for a woman in labour. every labour has of course been different, as have been the needs of my client and her partner.
The idea for wanting to train as a doula was planted when I was pregnant with my second baby and I knew I would benefit from more support during the birth. Labour was quick and intense and, inbetween my contractions I asked my husband to call a friend of ours to attend. I was at home, in the birthing pool, experiencing contractions which were long and close together, I felt like I was struggling a bit and all I felt I needed was more support, not hospital and not more pain relief.
My labour was so quick, my friend arrived for the birth of the placenta rather than the baby but I still felt reassured knowing she was on her way. I had a midwife I trusted, I had my husband yet I still felt I needed female support. Whenever I have worked as a birth doula, I have been there alongside a partner and a midwife – I have never felt out of place and I have never taken over their role because I am there to supplement the medical care of a midwife and the loving care of a partner.
During the latest birth I attended, last week, it reminded me of why the support I provide is different to that of a midwife. We had brilliant midwives from the assessment of labour to the birth, they were informative, confident and caring so what was I needed for?
I knew my client from her first pregnancy and I had also seen her a few times throughout this, her second, pregnancy included twice during the few days before she went into labour, so I knew what she wanted and she trusted me. I was able to communicate with her midwife during her contractions and I was able to focus all of my attention on her to help with breathing, to hold her hand, to help her change position, to maintain eye contact when she needed it, to keep her calm and focused when she felt scared.
Even the most brilliant and attentive midwives cannot focus their attention on a labouring woman all the time – they may need to be in and out of the room and when they are in the room they will often have paperwork to fill in, as well as clinical checks to make and they also have to focus on your baby. As a doula I can observe and offer more practical support when it is needed, I am totally focused on my clients. In this last labour the five most important things I did was: maintain eye contact to prevent panic; give her a hand to hold during intense contractions; talk her through her contractions and remind her to slow her breathing down; hold the gas and air during contractions; offer a drink of water with a straw inbetween contractions as she rested. And this all meant that her husband didn’t have to leave her side when she was in the pool, he held her throughout. It was perfect.
I don’t provide medical checks or medical assistance, that is the midwife’s role and they do this brilliantly while also providing information, support and reassurance. Having a birth doula just means that everyone can do what they need to do, there is less pressure and juggling, a doula takes care of all the small things and that can make a huge difference to everyone.
As a birth doula my priority is my client, the pregnant woman, the woman in labour who needs to be confident, calm and reassured. But it is also her partner who also needs to be calm and reassured because this makes them a less worried and anxious birth partner.
Having someone you know and trust with you as an additional birth partner can help to keep you calm, reassured and focused so booking a birth doula is an incredibly worthwhile investment.
Janine, Birth & Baby