A year of supporting birth adventures: A Doula’s reflection

by Samantha Chadwick

 

So this week is World Doula Week. And I am just a few days away from celebrating the birthday of the first baby whose birth I attended as a doula. I am so grateful to have been invited by families this year to support them on their adventures.

 

And OH how far I have come! I remember nervously peeking around the corner of the wall in my house to try and watch the birth videos on my yoga DVD while I was pregnant. Now, I cry and laugh and breathe and moan alongside laboring women sometimes for hours (or days) on end and I really enjoy it. It’s strikes me as sort of an odd thing to love doing, but I do! This week my toddler has been asking to “see a baby get born” so I finally downloaded The Business of Being Born and showed her some. She loved it.

 

I know firsthand that pregnancy and birth can be simultaneously amazing and very difficult. As a doula I help families find resources, prepare for labor, and help work to ensure they have a positive birth experience. I see my role as supporting the birthing mother (and her partner or other companions), playing the role desired by that particular family. A lot of times that means providing information and resources during pregnancy and preparing for birth, being a good listener and helping the mother/couple discern their own wishes for the birth, and then providing emotional support and physical comfort during and immediately following labor and birth. I can assist the family in getting information that the mother and partner want in order to make choices.

 

Sometimes I’m in a hands-on, very active and physical support role or occasionally more hands-off, background role depending on what is needed. I take pictures and write down key moments and refill water bottles and hand out Tic Tacs and chapstick. I give the partner a thumbs up or confident head nod and swap in when they need a rest from squeezing their partner’s hips. I tell it like it is. This is probably the hardest thing you are every going to do, and it’s a amazing thing you are doing for and with your baby.

 

I see myself as working to create a positive, encouraging, and supportive environment for the mother and her family to birth a baby, recognizing that this is an experience she will probably vividly remember for the rest of her life, and it matters how she is treated, supported and believed in.

 

I believe that birth works – that women’s bodies are meant to carry and birth their babies safely, and in many cases nature works best when a laboring woman is comfortable, feels safe and loved, and is allowed to follow the wisdom of her own body without much interference. As a doula I can help facilitate this kind of environment and preparedness for what to expect and how to cope. That said, birth is unpredictable and different for every mother and baby. Just as important for me as doula is to support the mother/family no matter what comes up, to affirm the choices she makes, to listen to her and help her process what happens, and to help her remember how amazing and strong she was during her birthing time.

 

“There is a secret in our culture, and it is not that childbirth is painful. It’s that women are strong.” –Lisa Stavoe Harm

 

I am in on the secret. It’s true.


I am Your Doula: A Poem

 

I don’t work a typical 9-5 shift
I am on call 24/7
It is not uncommon to spend a day away from my own family
I get to witness your special moments and see you become a family
When you are happy, I am happy
When you are sad, I feel sadness too
I live for that next surge and the next phase of labor
I live to see the moment when you meet your precious child
I put all my energy, time, tears, and joys into your special day
I am overjoyed to be a part of your birth story, no matter what path it takes
I love to learn and see what changes the birth world will bring us
I love the passion I feel when I am working and connecting with new families
I do all of this, because I am your doula

-Danielle Cincoski

Danielle Cincoski  is a certified birth and hypnobirthing doula. She also does placenta encapsulation. When she is not “doulaing”, she is Mum to 2 crazy and cute toddler boys Charles (3), and  Graham (1).She lives in Forest Lake with her Husband Joe who is a veterinarian. And yes, they have 4 animals.


Journeying with mothers when you are not: Reflections from a doula without children

Doula Support

by Karen Schultz, CD(DONA)

In pre-natal meetings or in the early hours of labor I learn a surprising amount about my clients, and they about me.  Inevitably, our conversations turn to family, the birthing stories of our mothers, and the dreams for our own babies.

There is always a thoughtful pause in the conversation when they ask, “Do you have children?” I smile and always offer the same response: “No…not yet.”

It is often the case that a woman comes to work as a doula after experiencing her own labors and realizing what a benefit that extra support was or could have been.  She either didn’t have a doula and wished she had, or did have a doula and was inspired to follow in her doula’s footsteps.  But for some of us, the call to doula comes without our own transformative birth journeys.

Doula Support

I am the only daughter in a family of six.  My mother birthed naturally in hospitals and breastfed all of us for two years apiece, an oddity at a time when breastfeeding, for any length of time, was frowned upon.  My mom’s influence was subtle over the course of my childhood, but by her example I slowly came to the conclusion that 1) birth is sacrificial, sacred, and beautiful, and 2) women are strong enough to labor well, to breastfeed well, and to nurture well.

I had always been interested in childbirth (I think most women intuitively are) but I hesitated in considering it my life’s calling.  What could I, a woman who had never experienced labor, offer a women in the throes of childbirth?

I considered nursing school for a time, but I didn’t want to be bogged down in charting and paperwork when my real love was building up the bonds within families and communities.  Science was also a passion of mine, and eventually I did teach high school anatomy & physiology, along with biology and a host of other subjects.  Inevitably, when the time came for classroom lessons about fertility, fetal development, and childbirth, my female students would moan about the anticipatedpain of birth, while my male students would acknowledge the fear they had of simply supporting their future wives during their labors.

I thought, “Is this how our young people should face one of the most transformative experiences of their lives?”  Surely not!  It just didn’t seem right that our society was priming them to believe in the weakness of the female body, rather than in its strength!

It wasn’t until I left teaching and returned home to Minnesota that the doors to birth work began to open.  With a bit of nervousness but firm resolution, I attended my first birth on New Year’s Eve of 2012.  It was remarkable!  In every birth I attended since then, I’ve been struck by how comfortable I’ve felt in the birthing room, how confident I was in the mother’s ability to birth well, and how touched I was by the love between parents.  I also became more practically aware of the advantages of my singlehood: I didn’t (yet) have to juggle the responsibilities that come with motherhood–no worries about getting a sitter for a long labor or finding a back-up doula when a little one catches a fever!  My responsibilities, in large part, are to myself only.

I also realized that being a doula who hasn’t birthed carried another benefit: I am not burdened by my own “birth baggage”.  I don’t have, for instance, the memory of an epidural followed by regret of that choice, or a c-section that I felt could have been avoided.  I can pretty safely say that I don’t have any expectations of how labor “should” go because I can’t judge based on my personal experience.  I know that every labor is different because every mother is different and every baby is different.

Of course, I hope it goes without saying that I know dozens of “doula-mothers” who successfully leave their own birthing experiences at the door of the birthing room and only retrieve wisdom from them if it is of benefit to the mother and her particular need.  I also know with certainty that there are doulas who, having not personally experienced the intensity of labor, might struggle to have compassion for a laboring woman in great need.  There are strengths and weaknesses of both states in life.

So what is it, then, that makes for a stellar doula?  Is it simply a matter of knowing what labor feels like?  That seems far too simplistic; having a baby isn’t just about getting through contractions or learning how to push.  It’s about realizing the gift of our femininity, discovering a deeper bond with our partner, and trusting in the strength of our created bodies.  It’s about relying on those whom we love and trust for a firm and steady hand and the unfailing reassurance that we can do it.

For many expectant parents, I think it’s quite natural to ask the question, “Will my doula know what to do if she hasn’t had her own children?”  But I would urge these parents to instead think of the qualities necessary for an exceptional doula: Compassion.  Understanding.  Presence.  Wisdom.  Joy.  Having birthed or not having birthed, it is these qualities that are most important.

Doula on a Postpartum Visit

Karen Schultz, CD(DONA), is happily settled in the Twin Cities after a hiatus in Washington, D.C. where most recently she taught science to high schoolers.  Read more about her at http://filiabirth.com.  


Current Doula Status of Twin Cities Hospitals during Covid-19