What does a doula (pronounced doo-la) do, exactly?
Imagine you are at the foot of a tall mountain. And you've got to get to the top. It's going to be tough, but you've got to go up there. You've got to see the view.
If childbirth is a mountain, your doula is your friendly guide. She'll encourage you, pass you your water bottle, and remind you of that beautiful view. Most of all, she'll just be there. And that's what doulas do. We're just there. And just being there can make a big difference.
Okay okay enough with the poetic metaphors. Here's what we do for real:
During your pregnancy your doula will come to your home, get to know you, and give you a chance to express your wishes, concerns, doubts, or excitement. She can help you create a plan for your ideal birth.
She may walk you through relaxation exercises in order to facilitate connection between you and your baby. She may meet your other children and speak with them about the big event that’s about to take place. A doula may explore positions for labor with you, even explaining to your partner how he can be useful (strong arms are always useful in labor!)
A doula can do a hospital tour with you, or maybe 2 or 3, until you find the hospital that’s right for you.
You can call your doula whenever you want. She’s there for you when you need her.
What do doulas do during the actual birth?
If your doula has gotten to know you well during your pregnancy, she will know exactly what relaxes you and what makes you tense.
And she'll do everything in her power to make the relaxing stuff happen and keep the tension stuff away.
During contractions, she can support you physically and emotionally. With her eyes and her demeanor, she can confirm what your may already know deep down: that you can do this. That you are strong.
Once the baby arrives, the doula makes sure that you are feeling okay, that you are comfortable and relaxed for initiating breastfeeding. If you have chosen not to breastfeed, she will support you completely.. really and truly.
What do doulas do at home after the birth?
During the following days the doula can be with you as you establish your nursing relationship. She’ll listen as you relive the events of your birth, once, twice, or a million times if that's what you need. She wants to hear what was incredible for you, what was hard, easy, interesting. She’ll help you to find peace around unexpected things that may have happened.
She can also do practical things like make you a meal, do a little laundry or hold the baby while you (finally!) take a shower.
I think that the most special thing that a doula does in the postpartum period is that she creates space around the mother. She'll give you the space to figure out what you need.
Because only you truly know what's best for you and your baby.
Did you have a doula? How was your experience?