Last week, I got to sit down and chat with a Doula that I had recently met and let me tell you guys, after that chat I was left in awe! How do women go through labor without a Doula?!? You may or may not know what a doula is or does, but if you keep reading I will be sure to answer all questions people like myself have!
First, meet Josie, the Doula I got the chance to speak with and answered all my questions! Josie received her education and certification from DONA. She had to attend at least 3 births before attaining her certification. Josie didn't stop her education there, she continued taking classes on breastfeeding and postpartum depression, is a member of Evidence based birth and she is the owner of Birth Blessings, check out their page!
Okay now lets get into the interview!
V: What is a doula?
J: "A Doula is a professional labor coach, at least that's how I like to define it. It derived from the Greek word meaning servant, so woman servant. Some people may see it as offensive, but I think it's not a bad word, it may carry negative connotations, but it has the right meaning, I am serving families in helping their birth experience be more comfortable"
V: What is the difference between a Doula and a Midwife?
J: " Doula's don't have any clinical duties. Midwifes are medically trained to help with labor."
A doula can add extra help through the labor process, coaching the mother through labor. A midwife is a health care provider that can deliver babies at hospitals, birthing centers, and even the mothers home.
V: "What does a doula do?"
J: " Doulas are physical, emotional, and informational support to families during their birth experience. We offer our services before labor, during labor, and postpartum as well."
V: What are the benefits of doulas involved in postpartum?"
J: "We offer two services, 4 hour postpartum doulas for the day and 8 hours for overnight. There are a lot of benefits with the extra help around a new baby. Some of our patients need us to go get groceries before we get to their house and tidy up or just need help if there are older children and the newborn, it varies with clients. For our overnight shifts, mom can really go into deep sleep. New moms have very light sleep where they can hear their newborn just wiggle and they can wake up, its an instinct. However, having us around for overnight we wake them up when baby needs feeding and then mom can go back to bed and we change the baby's diaper, burp, and soothe the baby to sleep, this allows for mom to have a deep sleep and get as much rest as possible. Some have us around postpartum to help around during the baby's fourth trimester."
Fourth trimester? I didn't even know that was a thing!?! I got to do some research on what exactly it means for the baby. Well the fourth trimester is from newborn to 3 months. This is the baby adapting to the outside world and figuring out what is around them. Think of the big change a baby goes through from the womb! At birth, the baby's senses are still developing, the vision is blurry, the sounds are difficult to distinguish, etc. The fourth trimester is time for your baby to adapt to the changes and its helpful to have support from the parents so baby can easily adapt. To read more on the fourth trimester, click here.
V: Why do you think it is important to have a doula?"
J: "Doulas are there to provide constant support. During birth, the family has so many factors to consider and it can get hectic, so being the constant and helping families stick to their birth plan is important."
V: What is your intake on chiropractic care and pregnancy?
J: "It is practical and has a lot of benefits for moms. From what I've seen or heard, it helps in the positioning of the baby, making labor shorter and easier. It works when the right technique is used, not just popping the bones and all done, but working on the ligaments and muscles to all work together and adjust in preparation for birth."
Seriously, so much information to take in!! A few stats: 41% shorter labors with a doula, 39% increase in spontaneous vaginal deliveries, there is a decrease in babies admitted to NICU, and there is a 38% increase in babies APGAR score increases!! These statistics are crazy to think about! How much help a Doula can bring into a women's birth experience and even so many benefits for the baby! Now for more information on Josie and her experiences.
V: Why did you become a doula?"
J: "Many years ago my niece became pregnant at 16 and it was a big deal, she had considered abortion, and people were like 'no, you can't do that, thats our nephew, that their grandchild..." I was actually pregnant at that time. My husband and I talked about it and we both thought of adopting. So we approached them and said 'look we want to adopt' she said 'you're pregnant, you already have a lot of kids' so I said "well, whats one more? we'll take the baby whatever," they thought about it for a while and then she eventually decided to keep the baby. But when she had the baby, she decided to nurse, I was so excited because when things aren't going the way you plan and specially for a teenager and having a lot of information, there tends to be detachment or just a gap between the mom and the baby. So when she decided to nurse, I thought thats awesome, she'll reconnect with that baby. She nursed the first day, I called to check up on her and see how things were going and she said "oh yeah everything's good, just gave a bottle to the baby today." And I said "oh yeah? why?" she said "well the nurse said it was the same thing," so I tried explaining to her and she said "oh well you're just my aunt, she's a nurse, she knows what she's talking about." I hung up with her and called the desk, "you don't understand the implications, you know, they're doing whats convenient for them" she informed me that it was a busy day for them, they didn't have a lactation consultant. So she connected me with the lactation consultant, we talked for like two hours and I told her she needed to go see my niece. My niece decided not to go through it, which was heart breaking for me, but the lactation consultant and I became friends. She told me to look into childhood educators at the hospital and I wasn't sure if I want to do that. So I went to the training and absolutely fell in love with it. Through the training, I was the only non-nurse there. It was coming up that a lot of the patients I had taught were having very successful births. Not too much after that, my friend told me about the Doula program and that there is a training to add to what I was already doing. It was a perfect continuation to what I was already doing. And then I didn't have to do advertising because they hired me right there, so I got really busy and well thats how I started being a Doula."
V: What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
J: "Helping parents gain confidence with their parenting. A lot of our clients are nervous throughout the experience and being there, providing support, courage, and information really makes them gain confidence for becoming parents and through labor."
V: What techniques do you use to help move through labor?
J: " Oooh quite a few. Breathing exercises, movement, counter pressure, encouragement, aromatherapy, relaxation, and information, so going over the birth plan or what is expected if something changes and causes mom stress. Just being the constants and reminding them that they are capable of going through with their birth plan."
V: What do you think is the hardest stage of birth?
J: "The transition stage. The contractions increase in intensity. It is around 90 seconds that the contraction lasts, but the peak of the pain is at 10, and then 30 seconds of recuperation are too short for the pain peak to decrease. So for moms the pain is during that time because its at the highest pain level, with a short amount of recuperation where the pain doesn't have time to decrease or really they feel no break. Once that is done, then it is the pushing and that can also be painful but with experiencing the peak of pain during contractions, for most moms this is a less painful stage."
V: How do you interact with the moms birth team?
J: "I make sure everyone is on the same page. I give them a copy of the birth plan and be sure to constantly remind what mom wants. Sometimes it gets hectic and they ask mom if she needs medication and I just ease the transition of no medication questions, she'll be the one to ask if she does. Just making things palatable to the team, within a busy room. At the end of the day, we all want mom and baby to be happy and healthy and we all work together to make that possible."
V: What is the most memorable moment as a doula you've had?
J: "One of the first families I helped. The mom and dad were both in the healthcare field and already had two kids, both c-sections. The mom approached me letting me know no one had really been on board for her to have this baby through vaginal delivery, so I got to think about the risks and I let her know I was going to think about it, really be at peace with the decision. I didn't want any complications to occur or be an accomplice to where something went wrong, without being at peace with the decision. I went home thought about it and really weighed the factors. I felt at peace with it and she found a midwife in birth center that was also on board with her birth plan. The whole time before labor, she did everything over the top, all great, very conscious of her and the baby with every decision she made. once it was delivery time, we got to the birth center and to decrease her pain level, there was a lot of movement and talking, a little bit of everything. She then transitioned to the bathtub to lay and as she is laying her husband is stroking on her hair. She looked up at her husband and says "Do you think my body isn't broken? I can do it?" and every time I remember this, it brings tears to my eyes. It broke my heart, I turned around and started crying and I looked around and everyone in the room was crying. Not long after that she felt the urge to push and so she wasn't comfortable in the tub anymore and so she came out to squat on the chair she's pushing and pushing, so she pushed for quite a while. As soon as the baby came out, she kept crying, she said 'I did it! Did I do it? Wait a minute, is this a dream?' She couldn't believe it was happening. I was able to take pictures for them. It was overwhelming. you know birth is powerful, it's not just a bout pushing a baby out, but its a living person that you've grown in your belly and now its outside in the world."
Josie is so sweet! From the reason she became a doula to the way she makes sure everyone is on the same birth plan for her clients. Her most memorable moment still brought tears to her eyes and she was so passionate telling us how she was able to help through this rewarding experience. It is amazing to hear all of her experiences and how passionate she is for her job. Although it sounds tough to do and keep up with her clients, her past clients have said nothing but great things about their experience, she is kind, empowering, knowledgeable and someone you want by your side through this experience!
V: What is a takeaway message you have for future moms?
J: "Take ownership of your body and birth plan. It is a natural body function and you don't need assistance, if you want to go natural. I would never suggest to give birth by yourself without any assistance, it is good to have supportive assistance and if there is an emergency thats why the doctors are there. A lot of women think its a medical procedure, but it is a natural process women go through and you still have choices so speak up! If you want the delayed cord cutting, then it's something you should speak with the birth team previously so everyone is on the same page. It can be a dehumanizing experience if you don't take action and initiative to backup what you believe in and what your plan is. There is a syndrome called "White Coat Syndrome," not just during labor, but in general, where you allow the doctor to do anything, but remember it is your body and you are in charge of your birth plan. Own it."
Honestly before this chat, I never knew what to expect in the future when deciding to plan for kids. This conversation opened my eyes to so much to anticipate when that time comes. Talking about the expectations each couple has about timing, ways of labor, and what to expect after postpartum (ie. what the mom expects from the dad and vice-versa). Like Josie said, "It is not just about pushing a baby out but because you love someone so much you produced a person."