Doula? What's That?
Absolutely! We also work with doctors. You choose the medical team that you trust; we work with them to support you. Doulas attend births in hospitals, birthing centres, and homes.
Not exactly. A midwife is a medical professional, with the necessary training and expertise to ensure the health and safety of parent and baby throughout pregnancy and delivery. A doula does not have medical training, and does not diagnose, prescribe, or provide medical treatment. The doula’s job is to do everything possible to ensure that the parents feel supported and have a positive birthing experience.
The word “doula” means “female servant” in Greek. For the past few decades, it has been used to refer to a professional birth support person. Doulas support people who are giving birth before, during and after their labour, providing physical, emotional, and informational help.
Kinds of Support
Yes! I am happy to support same-sex and same-gender couples, and trans and non-binary parents. Although I can’t claim to belong to the LGBTQ community, I am continually learning and increasing my awareness of the particular issues faced by members of these communities as they build their families.
I help you advocate for yourself. I’m not going to insert myself between you and your care provider. But I do serve the important function of having had time to extensively discuss your hopes and plans beforehand, so that if you’re confused, upset, or tired, I can help remind you of your goals, or think through decisions that may need to be made during the birth process.
I know a lot about pregnancy and childbirth and love nothing better than talking about it! As my client, all my knowledge is at your disposal, and anything I don’t know, I’ll help you find reliable information on. My goal is not to influence your choices but to help you be informed to make your own decisions.
Childbirth is also a very intense emotional experience. Not only is your body flooded with hormones, but you’re welcoming a new child into your family, a transition after which your life will never be the same. Having accompanied many people on this journey, I can help you and your partner work through your feelings, anticipate the emotional stages of labour (which are as real as the physical stages!), plan what words will help each of you to feel supported during the birth process, and then hold space for your growing family with a calm presence and encouraging words as you bring your child into the world.
Childbirth may well be the most intense thing your body has ever done. I help you to prepare with positions and stretches that you can practice during pregnancy and then use while in labour. During your birth, I will be as hands-on as you want me to be – rubbing your back, squeezing your hips (or encouraging your partner to do so), advising on positioning, and looking into your eyes to help you focus through contractions.
Mindfulness-Based Childbirth Practice
Unlike (for example) a one-day childbirth class through the hospital, MBCP comprises 30 hours of class time, plus practice at home between classes. It is an extensive immersion into preparation for birth. The tools that MBCP gives you apply not only to your birth, but also to your experience of transforming into a parent, and in fact to all of life. Although in this particular class they are geared toward new parents, the skills of mindfulness are honed by thousands of years of experience being used by people around the world. Many of those who have participated in MBCP classes have described them as life-changing. In addition, as well as preparation for birth and parenting and mindfulness skills for life, most MBCP groups become tight-knit communities of new parents going through an important life transition together, and provide tremendous support to each other, often many years into their children’s lives. The class is set up to facilitate this network creation, and includes a reunion after everyone has given birth, to meet the new babies, reflect on the practice as it applied to the participants’ birth experiences, and continue building relationships.
Absolutely not! In fact, one of the most useful aspects of the MBCP approach is that the mindfulness practice it teaches is not just for dealing with contractions. Even if your birth plan includes an epidural or other interventions, or if birth story ends up being something very different from what you planned and envisioned, the practice can help you cope with whatever your experience is as it occurs in the present moment.
In addition to providing essential information about how birth works, MBCP supplies powerful mindfulness-based coping methods that help you to connect with your body while managing the intense sensations of labour contractions. Mindfulness techniques help break the fear-tension-pain cycle that causes the pain of childbirth to become overwhelming. Part of the class is actual “pain practice” in which the techniques are applied in a real-life situation (immersing the hands in a bucket of ice water) so you can trust that they will actually work!
MBCP is Mindfulness-Based Childbirth & Parenting, an approach to childbirth preparation developed by midwife Nancy Bardacke and based on the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction approach of Jon Kabat-Zinn. MBCP harnesses the power of mindfulness to approach the specific challenges of birth and of parenting a newborn.
Training and Certification
What does it mean that you’re a “certified doula”? What do the letters “CD(DONA)” after your name stand for?
CD(DONA) is the designation used by doulas who are certified through DONA International, one of the oldest and most reputable doula certification organizations. (DONA stands for “Doulas of North America” but the organization expanded beyond the US and Canada quite awhile ago.) Being certified means that I completed a formal training course on childbirth and birth support, and then underwent additional education including attending several births and being evaluated on them, reading books, researching resources, and completing webinars. I then wrote up all of this learning and submitted the complete package of materials, which was reviewed by the teachers at DONA before they approved my certification. As a certified doula, I am accountable to the professional organization and to its code of ethics and standard of practice.
What Doulas Do
I’ve been fascinated by birth and babies ever since I can remember, especially after my youngest sister was born when I was 13. In 2014, during a time of professional transition, I took the plunge and (on the advice of trusted colleagues who unanimously encouraged me) participated in the DONA training course. When I attended my first birth in January of 2015, the sense of rightness – of being exactly where I was supposed to be, doing what I was supposed to do – was overwhelming.
I’ve seen doula care aptly described as “being your birth Sherpa.” But it’s another image that resonates most with the way I practice: I describe myself as “the steward of the story.” It was fascination with birth stories, in all their depth and variety, that got me into doula work in the first place, and it’s the possibility of making birth stories better than inspires me in this work. If I have done everything I can to ensure that the couple can tell the story of their birth with joy rather than with trauma, then I have fulfilled my expectations of myself as their support person.
Having moved from the US to Montreal only in mid-2018, my French abilities are not yet up to the task of providing labour support exclusively in French. I understand a good deal and speak some, but am most comfortable with Anglophone or fully bilingual clients who are willing to receive the bulk of support in English.
Although I am trained as a postpartum doula, I currently work a full-time job in addition to my doula practice and therefore simply don’t have the hours available to undertake postpartum contracts at this time.
Knowing ahead of time that you’re having a cesarean section makes it possible to plan the experience to be a gentle and joyful birth. I can support you in talking to your provider to find out the options for what’s known as a “family-centered” cesarean: using a clear drape so you can see your baby as soon as he or she is delivered, and providing immediate skin-to-skin contact. If permitted, I will accompany you into the OR and talk you and your partner through the procedure. As with an unplanned c-section, if at any point during the process you and your baby must be separated, I will remain with you if your partner accompanies the baby, or vice versa, and I will provide all the customary postpartum support. In addition, since for a scheduled cesarean I don’t have to be on call 24/7 around your due date, my package will include 10 hours of additional postpartum doula support at no additional charge, once you return home.
If you plan for a vaginal birth but end up having a cesarean section, I will continue to accompany and support you to the best of my ability. Not all hospitals allow more than one additional person in the operating room during a c-section; naturally, you are most likely to choose your partner if you have to choose, in which case I would wait in the delivery room to perform all the usual support tasks immediately following the birth as soon as you are brought back to the room. If I am allowed in the OR, I will remain by your side along with your partner, to provide emotional and informational support. If at any point during the process you and your baby must be separated, I will remain with you if your partner accompanies the baby, or vice versa.
Once your baby is born, I will help with immediate postpartum bonding and first breastfeeding. I normally stay about two hours after delivery, though for some of that time I will leave you and your partner alone to cuddle your newborn together. I provide at least one postpartum visit, typically when your baby is about two weeks old, to check in, reflect on your birth experience, and answer any questions you may have; and until the postpartum visit, I continue to be available by phone and text.
I will be available by phone and text 24/7 from the time you send in the deposit until you go into labour. When labour begins, I will normally plan to meet you at the hospital or birth center, or, for a planned home birth, when the midwife arrives. Under some circumstances, I may come to your home to support you in early labour. Once you are in active labour, I remain with you continuously. If labour is prolonged such that I must rest, I will call a backup doula to maintain continuous support. At all times during your labour, I will follow your lead in helping you achieve the birth experience you are hoping for.
If you choose me to attend your birth, I will meet with you for at least two prenatal sessions. In these sessions, we talk through everything from the basics of the birth process, to your hopes and plans for the birth, the specific ways you desire me to support you (physically, emotionally and informationally), and your partner (if you have one)’s questions and concerns. We may also practice some positions and techniques to be used during your labour, and, if possible, introduce you to the backup doula who will be with you if for some reason I am detained.
Why a Doula?
My partner is super involved and very eager to be supportive during my birth experience. Why should I consider hiring a doula as well?
We love involved and supportive partners! Your partner is the person who knows you best and whom you trust to be on your team. However, most people do not have specialized knowledge and experience of the birth process and techniques for supporting someone going through it. That’s what a doula provides, and we will be delighted to work with both of you to make you the best possible team to have a smooth and rewarding birth experience. We can help your partner understand what will be happening in your body and emotions, and learn tips for how best to help you as you go through it. And, crucially, we can support your partner as well – they will be undergoing a very intense experience themselves, and may need to take breaks to rest, eat, and decompress in order to be as helpful as possible to you.
Yes! The evidence continues to accumulate that people who receive continuous labour support have overall shorter labours, fewer unplanned interventions and c-sections, and more positive self-assessments of the birth experience. And there are no known downsides to the presence of a trained support person. Some of the evidence is summarized here.