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.