by Julie Colby, LAC, BD
As a birth doula, mother of three, and a feminist, I view birth as a journey of self-discovery. The birth journey is an opportunity to travel deeper into one’s being and explore all aspects of it. Ask any woman who has birthed and she will confirm that the birth journey compels her to fully embrace every aspect of her being. Having witnessed multiple births, ranging from unmedicated home births to surgical hospital births, I have deep reverence for how birthing mothers hold their own space during this journey.
The role of the doula is to serve birthing mothers and their partners physically and emotionally during birth as well as being a resource and supportive influence in the prenatal and postpartum phase. One advantage of having a doula present, of the numerous reasons, is that doulas are there only to serve, which allows partners or other family members to actively engage in their respective role of partner, sister, mother, friend, and so on. With each birthing experience that we, as doulas, get to witness, we fine-tune our own awareness more and more precisely.
I have come to know that women honor their strength and challenges in birth and labor differently. Some women want their partners to be actively involved while others prefer less physical involvement from their partners and lean more heavily on the doula to support them. Some women like massage, touch, verbal affirmations, while others yearn for no physical touch, stillness, and absolute quiet. All of these preferences all completely valid and normal, and as doulas, we will protect a birthing mother’s wishes with every thread of truth in our being.
To support families as a doula means that we allow them to birth intuitively. We acknowledge their own wisdom and power while offering continual support during their birth journey. While we do not influence their decisions, we sense when they are struggling or need more information about their birth. We truly act as a birth team to form a solid and trusting relationship prenatally. If and when questions or concerns arise, families know we are offering wisdom based upon their birth plan and of the multiple meetings that have transpired prior to birth.
Another important attribute of the doula’s role is to honor a birthing mother’s wishes regarding her body, her pregnancy, her birth, and her amazing newborn. Our intention is to promote awareness of the choices that are available along the journey from a nonjudgmental perspective. Just as we believe there are no two births or pregnancies exactly the same, no two women are the same and we all have our own unique opinions. It is impossible for any woman to know how she will feel during her birth journey, what noises will please or disturb her, what aromas will appeal to her, or what comfort measures will feel just right until that moment arises.
That is why, doulas have grown to become observant, aware, and mindful of the present moment when serving families. It is because we have deep reverence for the transient nature of the emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects of birth and we trust that women know their bodies better than anyone else. The role of the doula, in the words of a very wise midwife, is of the utmost importance to all birthing families!
Julie is a birth and postpartum doula, a Licensed Acupuncturist, and teaches Sacred Pregnancy. She is mother to three incredible boys and she loves her Circle of Women. Find out more about Julie at ladysslipperwellness.com.