What do I need a Doula for?
By Meghan Bowser-Taylor, Doula extraordinaire
This is a common response I used to get when I told people what I did for a living. It was usually accompanied by either a confused or skeptical look followed by the inevitable follow up question of “isn’t that the same thing as a midwife”? The short answer is no.
Luckily the times are a changing! Hi! My name is Meghan and I am co-owner of Family Doulas of Ottawa. I have been a doula for a little over twelve years and though doulas are way more recognized now than they were twelve years ago, both in the parenting and medical communities, I still find myself doing some explaining every once in a while. I’d love to share exactly what we do and how we support families.
Doulas are usually identified by being either a birth or postpartum doula (or both)! Let’s start with birth, since that’s what comes first!
Birth doulas are non-medically trained birth professionals. We provide labouring Mamas and their partners with emotional, physical and educational support before, during and after the baby is born. During the months and weeks leading up to the big day we develop close relationships with our clients. In this time we discuss their wishes during birth, our role, and answer any questions regarding birth procedures.
During the birth we stay in close proximity to Mom and use different non medical techniques for pain management. This may include massage, counter pressure and changing labour positions. Even if Mom has decided to have a medicated birth we offer emotional support, help the parents advocate their wishes to the medical staff and assist in the pushing phase. We stay for approximately two hours after the baby is born to support Mom and help with feeding if necessary.
You may be thinking at this point, “but what about my partner? Can’t they do all these things!” This is a common question we get during our consultations. Our role as doulas is to never take the place of the partner. This is a momentous occasion and we feel privileged to be a part of something so amazing. It can be difficult to see someone you love in pain, even if it’s considered a “good pain” which results in a baby! For this reason it is nice to have someone there who has seen this many times and has the knowledge and training to deal with it. We often have the partner to help us with the position changes or counter pressure or send them out for ice chips and water. The great thing is that we are also there to support the partner. They will need to eat and use the bathroom and maybe even catch a few minutes of sleep, all knowing that Mom will never be left alone.
The baby is here! Now what?
There is so much truth in the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”. As a society we spend a lot of time focusing on pregnancy and childbirth (and so we should) but it is unimaginable to expect new parents to be sent out into the world with a new little person that they have been tasked to keep alive without any support system in place. Postpartum doulas are trained in newborn care, recognising the signs of postpartum depression (and the difference between it and baby blues) and how to emotionally support new parents. Postpartum doulas do so many things I don’t even know where to start or if I am allowed that many words in this blog post! But I will name a few!
● Support and educate feeding choices
● Advise on resources in your community
● Assist in maternal care
● Help with newborn care (bathing, feeding, swaddling, sleep etc)
● Recognize postpartum depression/baby blues and advice on where to seek help
● Someone to share concerns/fears/victories with
● Light household chores
● Sibling care
● Babywearing education
● Newborn product education
● Car seat information
● Light meal prep
● Overnight doulas take on all babycare during the night so parents can get some well needed sleep
At Family Doulas of Ottawa we focus on non judgemental care. We support all families and all choices. Your family your way.
If you are pregnant or know someone who is, we would love to hear from you! You can contact us for a complimentary consultation at any time during your pregnancy or after your baby arrives.
Bottom line. Forget about giving new or expecting parents yet another receiving blanket or sleeper. Give them a doula. Greatest gift ever!