March 22nd – 28th, 2022 marks World Doula Week. World Doula Week began as a means to empower those who undertake this work, and it now also serves to educate the public about who we are and what we do. Whenever we meet someone and mention that we’re doulas, or we meet with prospective clients, we inevitably are asked to explain more about what we do. We thought it only fitting to round out #WorldDoulaWeek2022 by providing a bit more information.
Our answers will typically begin with the tenets of the support we offer; informational, emotional, and physical. Whether we are supporting someone through pregnancy, birth, or the postpartum period those key elements are the building blocks of what we bring to our client families. Let’s delve a little deeper into what those things actually are.
What does it mean to provide informational or educational support to someone? It can take many different forms. For some it will be providing community resources to them. It could be for a breastfeeding specialist, a chiropractor, a pelvic floor physiotherapist, or where they can purchase the baby things they’re looking for. It can be recommendations for a fitness class during pregnancy, or a parent and baby group to meet new parents. For others it may be helping them navigate their options at their chosen place of birth, helping them understand what is being recommended to them based on their circumstances, or helping them navigate the current guidelines and research.
It can also be helping them to understand labour, birth, and how they can best prepare for parenting. Birth doulas work with people to develop their birth preferences. This important communication tool involves learning about options and variables that can change a birthing experience. Both birth and postpartum doulas guide expecting parents in how to strategize and develop a postpartum plan. A postpartum plan is an invaluable tool to prepare for the early days, weeks, and months of parenting and can make a significant difference in how you feel during that time.
Think of us as a personal Google when it comes to all things birth and parenting. We spend a lot of time knowing what is available to parents in Ottawa, what meets their needs, and can relay that information to them. Our resources are ever evolving as new practitioners, classes, and information becomes available. We also have our client families in mind. We get to know them and will refer them to resources they are interested in based on what will fit for them.
Emotional support goes hand in hand with how empathic doulas typically are. We are gifted at reading body language and “reading the room”. There is so much nuance in the human experience and we are always paying attention to what is being said – both verbally and non-verbally. We are often nurturers that care a great deal about people. That is what draws us to this work. You have to care about people and want them to feel positive and heard to be willing to live a life on call, and potentially be at a birth for a couple of days.
During pregnancy and birthing we are tuned in to the expecting parent(s). We anticipate their needs and quietly meet them. We don’t have a preconceived notion of what the experience should be, instead we learn about them and what matters to them. We hear them!
We see them! All too often following the birth of a baby the general focus of interest shifts to the baby. Not with us. Our focus remains on the new parent(s). We know everyone else is looking out for the baby, and we will as well, but our primary person of interest is the new parent(s). We want to know how they are and how they feel. We will ask questions and listen to what we’re being told (and also what we aren’t, refer back to non-verbal).
We are often described as a safe place to communicate things that are on the minds of new parents. We don’t judge – we are here to openly listen. There are parts of pregnancy, birthing, and parenting that are challenging. It can leave new parents feeling raw and it helps to have someone that those feelings and thoughts can be freely shared with.
The physical support we provide for expecting and new parents will vary from family to family based on what role we are hired to fill – birth or postpartum. It is also as unique as each family.
As a birth doula physical support can look like offering touch to soothe tensed muscle groups, a hug to comfort if emotional release is needed, or aiding while someone changes position. It can be practical support like fanning someone or applying a cool cloth to their skin to cool them down during active labour or second stage, offering a drink after a surge, or filling/emptying and cleaning a birth pool. We use our own bodies and breath to guide a labouring person. We’re right there with them in every way.
Postpartum doulas also provide physical support it just looks a little bit different. Along with the informational and emotional aspects of postpartum support we also provide practical help to new parents. That could be a demo on safe infant bathing, how to pump or paced bottle feed, infant soothing, or even how to wear your baby. It can also be help with never ending laundry, or meal and snack prep. It could be us caring for your baby while you enjoy an uninterrupted shower, tend to care needs, or have a much needed nap to aid your healing.
If what doulas can offer sounds like something you want for yourself the next steps to arranging doula care are simple. Send us an email to connect with us and our team to learn even more about what provide for our families. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to learn more about birth and parenting. Happy World Doula Week!