First of all, what IS a doula? What does “doula” even mean?? The word “doula” comes from the Ancient Greek and it translates to “woman’s servant”. Now, stop right there. Do I really need to TALK YOU INTO a servant? I’m kidding, of course! We don’t treat these lovely ladies like servants, but that is kind of their job.
A doula is a person (man or woman) who is all about the mama before, during and after labor and childbirth. A doula will tend to your physical needs by giving you back massages or bringing you water while you are laboring. They will guide you through mental struggles, being the greatest encouragement when you need support. A doula will be your voice of reason. If you are laboring in a hospital and have the pressure of pain medications coming down on you, a doula is a great buffer to keep you from losing confidence in yourself.
Clinical studies have shown that having a doula present during labor and birth can shorten labor, shorten your hospital stay, and lengthen your patience with others. Well, maybe the last one I made up, but doula presence can reduce your risk of interventions and complications so it’s true by proxy!
Doulas do not replace a midwife. They are not licensed or certified to perform any clinical or medical tasks, so you will want to hire a doula aside from your midwife. Some hospitals and birth centers work with doulas, so you may be able to easily connect with one. Otherwise, you can search for one through DONA or ask around in your local crunchy mom group.
If you have your baby at home or at a birth center, you will be “on your own” a few hours after birth. A doula can help you get settled and have the confidence you need to succeed. If you might need extra support due to a nervous or absent significant other, having no family close by or having other children in the home that need tending, you should consider a doula. Many doulas offer support, information and assistance days, even weeks after your baby arrives. They can provide lactation support. They will make sure your home is clean before they leave if you have a home birth. They might even be able to make you a placenta smoothie and encapsulate that amazing tree of life. They will come check on you, bring you lunch and make sure that motherhood is going smoothly for you. Never hesitate to ask if you need something. You doula is honored to be there for you in every way that he or she can.
A doula can not only help you, but help your partner find ways to comfort you. Your doula is strong to hold you up in a moment of weakness. Your doula will lift your up and give you courage when you are ready to give up! Your doula will laugh with you, cry with you and probably take a good picture of that first glimmer in your eye when your baby is placed into your arms. Having a doula at your birth is like having the most amazing sister, brother or best friend present, but they magically know all the perfect things to do!
If you really need and can’t afford a doula, contact one anyway. A lot of times, they can introduce you to a doula in training who may be able to donate their services for learning credit or you may find one who will give a reduced cost, payment plan or barter with you. Don’t let a financial situation be the reason you don’t reach out when you want or need a doula. Every one I have ever met would go out of their way to make sure every mom who needed a one, had one.