I Don't Need a Doula Because...
I was out to drinks with a group of Doulas the other night. Yes, we like to socialize too! Sadly, when we get together over drinks the talk always circles back to vaginas, babies, breastfeeding, birthing fluids, and stages of labor.
Doulas often use one another to process birth traumas that might be triggered by a clients experience or things that we have seen in the course of our work. If we have questions about how we might have supported a mother through a trying situation more fluidly, if we're stumped at a stalled labor, if we have a challenging situation arise, we most often turn to one another. Professional Doulas honor our client's privacy. We respect care providers and our clients choice of care providers.
Because we respect our clients privacy, we often circle back to our own birth stories or those of friends. During one such discussion a Doula spoke about how her friend was not supported like she expected during a home birth. I piped in, "I'm not surprised." That seemed to be the consensus at the table. The trend of home birth is on the rise (or resurgence if you will). Many women have idealized home birth as being quiet, intimate, and lovely. It absolutely can be! I am a supporter of healthy, prepared home birth (I had my own 2 years ago). Women need to be realistic though. While a home birth Midwife's care will be very different from the care received from a hospital Midwife, and worlds different from an OB, the Midwife is still your care provider.
The Midwife's role is to monitor the mother and baby, to chart progress, and to ensure the health and well being of both woman and infant. You may notice there were a few things not mentioned there. While a midwife may absolutely offer emotional and physical support (and definitely offers informational support) it is not her primary role at a birth. If the birth partner is unprepared, or a woman hits a wall, and the midwife needs to set up the resuscitation station, then that is what needs to happen. By it's very nature a midwife's care will be more high touch, yet hands off, than traditional medical care. But you can't ask a midwife to be a Doula; you're asking her to wear too many hats. When that happens you run the risk of quality of care being reduced. Nor can you ask your Doula to replace your care provider (we're simply not qualified).
No matter what birth situation you choose, you need to be realistic about the expectations and roles for each member of your birth team. The first member of the birth team is the Birth Partner. Often times this role has SO much pressure associated with it. The Birth Partner is expected to support mom, to keep her "on track" with her birth plan, to talk to the care providers, and to process all of the emotions and issues that might be associated with watching your loved one in labor and impending parenthood. A Doula often supports the Birth Partner as much as the mother. The second member of your birth team is your care provider. OB, CNM, or CPM/DM, you pick! The remaining members of your birth team are the assistants, whether those be talented caring Nurses or Midwife Assistants, they are there to support and help the Care Provider. There are other team players too, like birth Photographers, Chiropractors, Massage Therapists, and so on.
No matter where you birth, at home, in a birth center, or in a hospital, the only member of your birth team who will support you physically and emotionally, without their own agenda, will be your Doula. No woman needs a Doula. Many women can benefit from a Doula. Don't assume just because you are planning a lovely, peaceful home birth you won't want a Doula. Don't assume just because you are birthing in a hospital you will "need" a Doula. Choose your care providers carefully. Assemble your birth team. Give yourself and your Birth Partner the support you want. Prepare and then be flexible. That's the path for a positive birth experience.
Photo Credit: Beach City Doula