I have long known I wanted to give natural, unmedicated birth a go. Yes, I’m crazy for not wanting to take advantage of all the wonders of modern technology. Yes, I’m especially crazy for not wanting to get the epidural the second I get to the hospital. And, yes, I may be forced to have a c-section because of the baby’s position or my own health. But, I still want to at least plan to try it. For the record, I do not fault anyone who takes (or, because of medical intervention, is forced to take) an alternative birth plan. Who am I to judge? I’ve never given birth! I haven’t had a complicated pregnancy! My philosophy is the same as the contributors and founders of the Birth Without Fear blog; they support all birth stories and believe all births are beautiful and worth celebrating. That said, I’ve pondered the idea of hiring a doula to help make labor and delivery easier. Some people say doulas are “like angels in an unknown land,” but they are so much more. With so much noise around what to do (and what not to do), when I’m pregnant, I decided to set the record straight. So I did my own research to see if a doula would be right for me. Here are four truths about getting a doula that I wish someone told me before I got to 6 months.
1. WHAT IS A DOULA?
I wondered how I would get through what could be a long labor and painful delivery without drugs. Then, I learned about doulas. What is a doula, you say? A doula serves and supports expectant women, their partners and families with the emotional and physical aspects of childbirth. A doula will not deliver your child or make health care decisions for you, but she (usually a “she”) will inform you about your birth choices, suggest comfortable laboring positions and breathing tactics, massage your back, set up aromatherapy, and, most importantly, be with you from the time you go into labor until a couple hours after the baby is born. She will be there the WHOLE TIME. Your doctor won’t; your obstetrician will check up on your periodically and show up to deliver the child. You may have a nurse present at all times, but the nurse will not be helping you labor; he or she will be monitoring you regularly and also treating other patients.
2. WHAT WILL THE DOULA DO BEFORE LABOR?
A doula will meet with you a couple times before your due date to get to know you and your partner and to help you devise a birth plan. If you’re type A like me, you’ll be excited about getting help with a plan to do one of the most mysterious and yet commonplace actions of all time – giving birth! It eased my nerves a bit to know I could at least research my birth options and put together a tentative plan to share with my care providers. My beef with our medical system is that, too often, birth is something that happens to a woman instead of the woman being an active participant in her birth. Doulas are only currently involved in about 10% of American births. They are generally not covered by insurance (obvs, they should be). Anyone can be a doula in the loosest sense of the word and, in fact, you may even ask your mom or spouse to be your doula. But, if you’re like me and know you won’t listen to your spouse or mom when they are trying to calm you down, you may choose to hire a doula who is experienced in the labor room and can manage your emotions while you navigate the beautiful, painful process of birth. Also, ironically, it may be easier to take directions from someone you don’t know that well.
3. HOW DO I FIND A DOULA?
I didn’t really know where to start to find a doula. No one in my network of local friends had used one. I checked Yelp! (I know, so weird) and found a few, but quickly learned that only the most expensive/fancy doulas get enough reviews to pop up on Yelp!. Then I found out about Doula Match (doulamatch.net), a website where you can find listings of doulas, their credentials, number of births attended, pricing, photos – everything an obsessive researcher like me would like to know! After doing a little more research, I also learned that you can interview various doulas so you can see which one is the best fit. Ummm, what do I ask a doula? Google knows! I researched a couple interview questions and started sifting through profiles. I picked a few candidates based on price (I don’t have a big budget; average fees range $800-$1,200) and experience. I interviewed a few ladies and got more comfortable with the questions. It was especially important for me to know whether the doula had had experience with my obstetrician and at the hospital at which I was going to deliver. I also wanted to know whether the doula would do placenta encapsulation (more on that in another article coming soon).
4. WHAT DOES THE DOULA’S PRESENCE MEAN FOR MY SPOUSE/PARTNER?
I could sense my husband was a little uneasy with my whirlwind tailspin into doula researching. He’s an M.D. I think he sees birth as a means to an end (healthy baby, healthy mom) as opposed to a means within itself (rite of passage for a woman). We talked a lot about what his role would be vis-à-vis the doula, and whether he would feel/be obsolete in the birthing room if the doula were there. Based on my research, the doula would only help the labor process and make both parents comfortable. After all, my husband and I are both new to this labor thing. And, just because he understands the mechanics of birth doesn’t mean he won’t freak out to see his wife in pain, or that he won’t need to take a break. The doula can help with both of those situations.
Anyway, I found my doula at last! I connected with Bree quickly when she called me while walking her dog. I asked her a million questions and she answered them quickly, with humor and comfort. She was available for my due date (doulas only take 1-3 patients per month), had reasonable rates, and was easy to get along with. That last point is key because you need someone you know is a good communicator because you’ll need a good rapport during the trials and tribulations of birth. She agreed to meet with me and my husband in-person the following week. Again, she was easy to talk to, answered my husband’s questions, and was prompt after our meeting to send me a contract and to answer any questions. She’s even sent me pediatrician recommendations already! I’ll keep you posted on how my doula and how I do in the actual birthing process. In the meantime, scroll down to take a look at some of the items my friends have suggested I get to help facilitate pregnancy and my time at the hospital.
Have any questions about pregnancy and childbirth? Tell us in the comments below and we’ll answer them next!