The past 3 days were amazing for me. I spent them in a fairly intense workshop for doula training. Its something I have been interested in for a while and I was so excited that everything just lined up and worked out for me to take the course. Chris was able to take Friday off to stay home with the boys, financially the money was there for the fees, and I was in the right state of mind, really ready, to do it.
What the heck is a doula, you ask? I had a misconception on what exactly the role of a doula was before I took this course. A few friends had hired doulas so I knew a little bit from them but still had the notion that doulas and midwives were essentially the same thing and that if you hired a midwife or doula you were turning your back on what the medical community has to offer.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this is not the case at all. The medical community is still very much a part of the team and epidurals, other pharmacological interventions and cesareans all have their place.
The role of a doula is to provide emotional, physical and informational support to the labouring woman and her partner. What this means is that I will be there to answer any questions the couple may have, to keep her focussed during labour and to assist her in different labouring positions and comfort measures such as counter pressure or massage.
And as much as I am there for the woman, I am also a support person for the dad as well. A lot of dads have questions about whether the pain is normal, procedures, and a lot have a hard time seeing their loved on in pain and aren't sure how best to help. As a doula, I can guide the dad in ways that will assist his partner.
Research has shown that women who have a support person with them through birth to keep them focussed have shorter labours, less problems and less drug intervention than those without support. Breast feeding tends to be more successful in a mom that has had a more relaxed and focussed labour and delivery. Mothers who have had a support person also report higher satisfaction with their birth experience than those that did not have a support person present.
This research is really very fascinating - the support person does not necessarily have to say or do anything. In some cases, the mom has reported that just having someone there was enough to reassure them.
What a doula doesn't do are any clinical procedures such as exams to determine the woman's labour progress, fetal heart monitoring, blood pressure, etc. Nurses and doctors and midwives are trained and licensed to do those things, I am not. I have no part in the actual delivery of the baby except to encourage mom and to keep her focussed.
Another important role of a doula is to photograph the process for the couple (however they want that done) as well as writing a birth story for the family as a keepsake. Oh, how I would have loved to have photos of the birth of my boys and the moments immediately after. I did write birth stories for my boys but as the woman in labour, you tend to forget some things or not even realize other things are happening. It would be interesting to read about the birth from another point of view.
So, where do I go from here?
I have taken the course and now to be certified by DONA International (Doulas of North America) I must attend at least 3 births (FREE if you are interested!) and submit summaries of those births as well as complete a required reading list and write an essay. Then I will be a certified doula with DONA and as such gives me more support and credibility in the field. I can still work as a trained doula in the meantime.
When I began the course I wasn't 100% sure that it was what I wanted to do, but there was only 1 way to find out. Now having taken the course I am completely sure that I want to assist women in labour and can't wait to get started!
I'm so excited about this new opportunity that I have chosen for my life! I could go on and on and on about the incredible amount of information that I learned this weekend but I won't. If anyone is interested in more, I'd be more than happy to share with you!
My question for you -
What was your labour experience(s) like? What could have made it better (if anything)? What do you wish happened that didn't? What do you wish didn't happen?
I ask these to try to understand better what women percieve their birth experiences to be like.