After experiencing pregnancy, labour, childbirth and those first magical weeks of being a newborn parent there is one piece of advice (I’ve always been one who is good at giving not so good at receiving things of the advice variety) that I would advise any of my friends, in fact any stranger for that matter, who is embarking on this painful, joyful, stressful, amazing journey, to hold onto with both hands and never let go – save your sanity, hire a Doula (with a capital D).
I did lots of research about natural childbirth whilst I was pregnant. I knew I wanted to birth my baby, I wanted to be present, I wanted to take that journey with my child and feel it (as twisted as that may sound to some of you). I read about calm birthing, hypnobirthing and I got lost in the often “crunchy” language of it all. My online mothers group (my saviours) was where I first heard the would Doula bandied around. One of the other mothers was back in Sydney interviewing Doula’s – I was, at the time, sitting in a sweaty beach shack in a remote village in Indonesia – an I started to research Doula’s. What I found, I liked… and there was no turning back from there.
A Doula is essentially the most incredible emotional support you can ever have during the one fleeting (or not so fleeting as my case was) moment in life that is the birth of your child. The work of a Doula is the age-old tradition of women supporting women, the tradition that was lost here in the west sometime before my grandmothers era where she was strapped to a bed, legs splayed and alone during the long painful hours of labour and childbirth. But now it is making a (much welcomed) comeback. A Doula is present at the birth of your child, she is there as support to you and to your husband, to guide you through your birth, to support you in any medical decisions you make, she is there whether the birth is at home or in a hospital. Whether you go drug free or you have a planned (or unplanned) cesarean. She is a guide, she is hands on and she is calming. For my husband and I our Doula was our saving grace – she bridged the cultural gap for us, she gave us peace and guidance and love, she supported our decisions, she placated me when drugs became necessary, she supported my husband, she held my hand – and in the glorious four weeks postpartum she has given us so much of her time, her generosity and her kindness. We found her without even looking, she is not just someone we hired, she is family.
I don’t like to be given too much “advice” – I like to do research, but I don’t like to be told that I should (or shouldn’t) do it the way that you did. The birth stories around me are so varied, from epidural births to home births and water births – there are the good, the bad and the ugly… I am the first person I know who has had a Doula present at the birth of my child, in fact most people I know didn’t know what a Doula was either… now they do and I truly hope they will consider finding their own for their future births not because it’s what I did but because it is right for them, their family and their birth.
Yes, women have been giving birth without doulas for a century or more. But before those centuries, women had been giving birth in the presence of doulas and other supportive women since the beginning of time. Some people say, ‘oh well, people do it without all the time, why would I spend the money?’ – all I can say to that is, ‘why wouldn’t you?’