Interview With A Doula
What is a Doula?
In short, a doula is a childbirth assistant. They differ from a midwife, nurse or doctor. Doulas have a place in any birth setting, and work with the mother and father rather than assist in delivering the baby.
I had a doula for 4 of my children’s births. Each birth experience was so different, so her role was a bit different at each one. I was so grateful to have here there! I remember feeling the presence of another woman at my birth, who was focused on my well being was SO comforting to me. My doula was able to help my husband be more involved by guiding him to what he could do to be helpful to me.
One of my very good friends happens to be a fabulous doula, and she agreed to let me interview her! Her name is Tracie and we have known each other for about 30 years! She is amazing and has such a warm heart and beautiful way of expressing herself that you will want to read every word of this interview! And did I mention, she does a killer henna mandala! I was able to watch her in action and then photograph the beautiful belly.
If you decide you want to contact Tracie, you can find her at Labor of Love Birth Services. She is located in Queen Creek, AZ.
Without further ado I present to you… an Interview With A Doula.
What do you love about being a doula? This is such a hard question to answer because the simple answer is that I love every single minute of it. But if I had to narrow it down; I think the most satisfying part of it is watching a woman become a new being as she transforms into a mother. I have the opportunity to witness the impact that having an empowered supportive birth has upon the confidence of that woman and her family. There is a domino effect because when a couple is empowered in their birth they subsequently feel more empowered in the care of their baby. It is extremely rewarding to see them make confident and informed parenting decisions and then say, “I just thought about what I learned from my birth.” Also I confess I love the babies. 🥰 That goes without saying I suppose.
How do you choose a doula? Is it ok to “interview” a few people before settling on someone? I think referrals are probably the most common way that people *find a doula. Choosing one is very personal process and YES! I absolutely believe an interview Is essential to selecting a doula. I think the “fit” is a very important element in order to form the intimate relationship that exists between doula and client. You want the person who is supporting you to be someone you are comfortable with and trust.
How do you support my partner in labor? This is a great question! A good doula should be there to support the birthing couple. Obviously the primary person is the mother in labor who will need physical and emotional support but dads are experiencing a lot of emotions as well! Aside from the typical nerves of becoming a father they are also concerned for their partner. That can be scary to navigate alone. As a doula I provide reassurance to the fathers that what their partner is experiencing is tough but normal and that they are doing great. Sometimes fathers feel a pressure to do something to “fix” things when often all that is needed is their presence and perhaps physical support. I also might offer suggestions for things the dad could do to provide those things. I might help show him how to apply counter pressure or quietly suggest he slip in where I may have been fanning a mom or offering her a drink between contractions. I look at the birthing couple as the team and I am there to sustain that.
How do you support my partner in postpartum? Postpartum is another area where dads feel a bit lost about the best way to help sometimes. Again I make suggestions for things that might alleviate the stress on the mom which in turn helps alleviate the stress on dads. I also always just ask them how they’re coping. I find that many times I’m the only person who has checked in on dad so that question is received with a lot of relief that someone is aware they’re transitioning into fatherhood as well. I can particularly recall one dad getting emotional when I asked and he opened up about how hard it was to watch his wife struggle with nursing and postpartum recovery and feel helpless. We talked about ideas he could do to help out but mainly I pointed out that actually he was already doing so much by being close to her and holding space. All he needed was validation and reassurance to gear up and go back into dad mode. Watching this tough guy get vulnerable and open was so special. This is one reason I feel strongly about holding birth preparation classes with both partners present. Aside from the technical education that takes place my higher goal during preparation classes and antepartum meetings with a birthing couple is to create a circle of safety and trust. This interaction with this dad solidified my understanding of the importance of this.
What do you not do as a doula? I do not perform any medical procedures or interventions.
What training do you do to become a doula? I presume the question is to ascertain how someone who is interested in becoming a doula can accomplish that. There are a variety of paths of training that a prospective doula can take including attending conferences, online courses and correspondence but ultimately attending real births is the best training one can get.
My own personal path was unusual in that I had no idea I was already a doula until years into it. I have always had a passion for birth and started reading pregnancy and birth books as a young teenager. By the time I was 18 and a friend of mine was having her first baby I was well versed in the subject so she was asking my advice and for information so I rather fell into the supportive role naturally. When it came time for her to have her baby she asked me to come along and be her “birth coach”. After that other friends who became aware of that I had some knowledge and experience asked me to their births. I had personally been attending births at the request of friends for probably 5 years before I ever heard the term doula. To me this is a testament to the intrinsic nature of the work. Women have been intentionally surrounding themselves with other women (mothers, aunts, sisters, grandmothers) since long before we gave it a name and an institution. Having a compassionate female support person nearby to hold space and provide comfort measures seems to me, to be an innate element of how women desire to birth. Many of my birth worker peers describe their work as something they felt called to them. I can attest this was my experience as well. I’ve always felt God leading me to this sacred work.
Back to your original question about my training: I began my “training” by reading everything I could about pregnancy and birth. Again this was not really my intention to train but sheer interest (or perhaps more aptly; obsession) early on. Of course as I said I was blessed with the experiences of attending births and eventually I was able to have a brief apprenticeship with a home birth midwife for a while. I considered that path briefly and always still have that in the back of my mind but I really felt led more toward the idea of supporting my clients who were birthing in a hospital setting. Most women who birth at home have ample support from their birth team and I personally felt a need to help advocate for and support women who had less support in the hospital setting. About 10 years into my career, out of curiosity I took a certification course through CAPPA (Childbirth and Postpartum Associates). I think that was an effort to challenge myself, improve my credentials and test my own knowledge. I find that the credentials have proved to be of little consequence to me as my clients usually hire me based more on personality fit and our ability to communicate more than on the history of my training. I’ve never been asked about my credentials in and introduction interview but I am grateful for having taken that experience in. I learned a few new teaching techniques and I think more than anything it boosted my confidence to know that I was on par with the technical training. We all need validation now and then.
Who can benefit from having a doula? Every woman/couple. Everyone! Every mother and father who are planning for a baby. I feel that everyone benefits from the education, advice, support and care provided by doulas. I would venture to say it has even more widespread benefits as I have had grandparents come to me and express gratitude and that they learned new things and were changed by the experience. Birth is a whole family life event. The impact is greater than many people realize.
Do you (pre covid) attend births at hospitals as well as birthing centers or homes? I primarily work in the hospital setting. I addressed this in another question but I can elaborate in saying that going into the hospital to give birth with a doula is like taking your own personal tour guide on a trip. There will be so many decisions to navigate and it can become very overwhelming at one of the most vulnerable times of your life. Having a doula there to help discuss options and to comfort and remind you that what you’re experiencing is normal and healthy brings such a different level of confidence to the experience. That confidence and autonomy is already highly present in a birth center or home birth so although I have been blessed to be invited to many of them it was more in a capacity of a guest or witness.
Have you ever missed a birth? One time! In 26 years just once and it is still my “DOH!” moment!! My client had a homebirth and she lived in a zone with terrible cell service. She actually had actually hired two doulas and she texted both of us to say she was ready for us but neither of us got that text until 3 hours later! There must have been an opening in the drop zone that allowed the texts to go through at the same time because we both arrived about 5 minutes after her baby had been born! Fortunately she had a loving and supportive husband and amazing midwife with her and had a swift birth so although us doulas were sad we missed it she was not lacking for wonderful care.
What are the shortest and longest births you have attended? The shortest birth was when a baby came less than 3 hours after I arrived at the couples home. The mom was trying to resist pushing as we rolled into triage and her baby slipped out under the sheet as she transferred from a triage gurney onto her labor bed. As for the longest; I frequently work with primips (first time moms) and those labors tend to be longer on average than second or third labors so I’m used to being there for a long haul. I have been with one mom in labor for three days. I was at their home with them overnight the first two days and then the couple was eager to get to the hospital I think presuming it would speed things up. It didn’t of course because babies don’t care about location. We were at the hospital for around 40 hours. It was long and exhausting and most people who hear that assume that means it was awful but honestly it was calm and peaceful and we kept busy and laughed and talked. It is imperative in a long labor to keep busy and carry on. The mom had some regret about having checked in so early and retrospectively she would rather have been at home until later but hindsight is 20/20 and it was a learning experience for both of us. I have since added a unit to my preparation courses talking about the “what ifs” of a prolonged labor.
What if your client has a c-section? Did you know that studies show that having a doula present lowers the chances of having a c-section by 50%? That is a very slim category so in 26 years I have only ever had one client who ended up with a cesarean. In that one case, the dad was obviously the one person who was able to go into the OR with her so I was not present at the moment of birth but of course I was there for childbirth education classes and in labor and postpartum. With that said, I think it’s important to note that even with a planned cesarean, having a doula is invaluable in the preparations before hand and of course postpartum support.
Do you stay after the birth? Yes. I am with my clients a minimum of 3 hours postpartum. The first hour or so postpartum is what we call golden hour. I help encourage staff and family to give the birthing parents and their baby the space and time to bond and get to know each other skin to skin without disruptive tests or interventions. After that golden hour at the parents discretion most will opt to have some measurements and evaluations done on the mothers bedside. During all of this I stay to help get mom get up to go to the bathroom and shower off, and help her and her baby settle into their postpartum room, get her some nourishment and assist with establishing nursing. How long I stay depends completely upon how the mom is feeling and when she’s ready to settle in to rest and have privacy. I’m very communicative with birthing parents about their needs and desires and those vary wildly from family to family.
If you have any questions you want to ask Tracie, feel free to contact me and I will pass along her information to you. Or hop over to her facebook page.
THANK YOU, Tracie!! It was a pleasure getting to know all about doulas – what your role is and how you help moms and dads going through childbirth.