A doula will help you prepare for all the different ways your birth may progress, and will help you to sort out your preferences for various interventions, pain relief options, emergency situations, and more. She will help you create a unique and clear “birth plan,” stating your personal preferences for your birth. Many women go into the labor room uninformed of the many options they have, and may become overwhelmed and confused during the intensity of labor. Sorting all of the details out before your birth begins means that you will feel much more in control during the birth itself.
Your doula wants you to have the birth you want! She will work with you, your partner, your midwife or doctor, and anyone else involved in the birth so that your birth can run as smoothly as possible. The nuances of being your birth advocate may range from gently asking your loud sister to please talk on her cell phone outside, to reminding the hospital staff: “Please refrain from speaking to the mother during contractions” and “No, she does not want an epidural now. We will let you know if we change our mind. Thank you!” Your doula will do everything in her power to gently (or sometimes firmly) keep the birth on your terms. The role of birth advocate will vary greatly from the home to the hospital. In a hospital setting the role of birth advocate will most likely include explaining your birth plan to the changing medical staff, and explaining requested procedures to you and your birth partner.
Your doctor or midwife is there to make sure you are medically and physically sound; your partner is there to support you and experience this transition with you, and your friends and family are there to support as well. Everyone in your team has various roles to fill, and your doula will help each of them support you in the best way possible. Imagine your doula as an “event planner” of sorts for your birth: making sure all the details are taken care of so you can focus on your journey.
Supporting the mother through labor is its own job! A good doula knows various labor positions, pain relief methods, as well as visualization techniques to keep the mother’s strength up. It can be easier to lose sight of both the end result of birth (the baby!) and of appreciating and honoring the process. When it gets rough, a doula will help you keep your journey in perspective. Having continuous support by a knowledgeable and loving companion is proven to greatly improve the labor experience. Just like a sports coach or trainer, she will keep you focused and inspired during the long and intense birth process.
The doula’s job is physical as well as mental. Holding up a laboring mother is no easy task! She, along with your partner and/or midwife, will guide you through various labor positions, massage you, rub you, comb your hair, and do everything to support your physical comfort.
Doulas can also act as you and your partner’s personal assistant during birth. Births can be long laborious processes, and not everything stalls just because you are in labor! Although we stress multiple times that doulas are there to provide continuous labor support, in some situations a doula may be more valuable helping out in other ways. For example you may ask your doula in some cases to walk your dog, water your plants, or keep the lighting in your birth room at the same hue as the sun rises or sets. She may become good friends with your mother on the phone as she calls her hourly to keep her informed of your progress. She may spend an hour away from you as she helps your toddler daughter get ready for bed and fall asleep. A good doula has no ego, and knows that there is no task beneath her if having it done brings you a sense of calmness.
Your doula’s role may simply to be your biggest cheerleader during your birth. Nothing you can do can phase her. She will hold your hand as your body convulses and wipe up vomit, urine, or defecations without blinking. You can scream, cry, laugh, and curse, and she will still tell you that you are a champion. She is your biggest fan, and she will cheer you until your final push.