Being a Benefit
Before I reached 5 centimeters with my first baby, I knew with every fiber of my birthing being that the next time I gave birth, I was going to do it very differently. There I laid, flat on my back, legs spread oceans apart, supported by stirrups with every Tom, Dick, and Harry, and their mamas, gazing down at me in all my bare naked glory. I felt like every person that could possibly be in that room that day was--that is, everyone except a trained doula.
A ‘doula’ is a professional and compassionate woman trained in labor support, essentially concerned with all things birth. You say, “Press harder.” She says, “Is this the spot?” You say, “I can’t do this anymore.” She says, “You are doing amazing and everything is normal.” You say, “I’m thirsty,” and she says, “Coconut water or Gatorade?” You cry, “I can’t get comfortable!” She guides you to the perfect position that helps you cope through the next stage of contractions. You ask, “What does ‘zero station’ mean?” She breaks down the medical mumbo jumbo into a language you (and your birth partner) can comprehend, empowering you to experience this day as a mother, as opposed to a ‘patient.’ You say, “I don’t want anyone talking,” and so without words, she speaks volumes of love and care through her eyes, her hands, and her respectful presence.
Before you can utter the words, “I did it! I gave birth to my baby,” she’s already running you a sitz bath to soak your sore perineum, and simultaneously preparing you a nutritious meal to help you re-energize and bond with your baby. Before you have a chance to thank her, you find her thanking you for inspiring her and allowing her to serve. Are these women for real?? I am here to tell you, very much YES! They really are.
They are for real, and they love every sacrificial aspect of what they do. Their passion and love for mothers and babies fuels their activity to empower families toward a smooth and fulfilling transition into parenthood. A doula exists solely to serve the birthing mother in pregnancy, the entire duration of labor and birth and thereafter. Regardless of what kind of birth--vaginal or surgical, and regardless of birth location, whether hospital, home or birth center, a doula is an invaluable resource for any birthing woman, and because of this, every woman deserves one.
Although it’s a seemingly fresh and modern idea to the western world, the utility of a doula is not an unfamiliar practice for the world at large. For new mothers in most cultures, it has been an ancient ritual to surround themselves with wise, maternal support in childbirth. Women choose to have their babies among the helping presence of other women seasoned in childbirth, who know just how to support them, emotionally and physically, throughout the birth process.
In my labor experience, I had expected my poor husband to be all things to me, and by ‘all things’ I mean, all things 'doula'. I assumed such supportive instincts would come automatic for him--he is the baby daddy, after all. I have a need in labor, he meets it, right? Not quite. His attempt to be everything I needed was precious and made me fall in love all over again, but in hindsight, he was nervous and robotic-like as he tried to keep up with each new command I barked out.
One second I needed him rubbing my back, the next I needed my rice sock reheated, then I needed my music playlist turned louder, then I needed a drink, then more back rubbing, then more ice, and then a cold washcloth for my head, and then more verbal affirmations! Most importantly, I needed him to do all these things (and more) without somehow EVER leaving my side! I needed him to be superhuman. I needed a doula! We both did.
Despite our efforts as first-time parents to attend childbirth classes in hopes to prepare ourselves, we both agreed after the birth that the only missing piece to our labor labyrinth was a doula by our side. Oh, how a doula would have enhanced and eased our experience. She wouldn’t have just been there assisting me, she would have assisted my husband to better assist me, allowing him to even better enjoy the experience himself, which was really what we both wanted anyway.
With a doula nearby, everyone wins--the expectant parents, the baby, extended family members, and even the obstetricians, midwives, and nurses involved. Everyone involved in the birth reaps the benefits of the doula’s service. In essence, that is why she is there --to serve and be a benefit--humanizing everyone involved.
For the skeptics out there who would appreciate further evidence concerning the benefits a doula provides, the studies have been done and the numbers speak for themselves: 50% reduction in risk of cesarean, 60% reduction in request for epidural anesthesia, 31% reduction in oxytocin use, 25% shorter duration of labor, reduced incidences of maternal fever, reduced the number of days newborns spent in the NICU, resulted in higher rates of breastfeeding, resulted in more positive maternal assessments of maternal confidence, resulted in more positive maternal assessments of maternal and newborn health, resulted in reduced rates of postpartum depression. (The Evidence for Doulas. Evidence Based Birth. (2013) Mothering the Mother, Klaus & Kennel. (1993)
NOVA Birth Services is a local team of midwives, educators and doulas, working to humanize mothers and babies in pregnancy and birth. Together we serve expecting families in the greater Nashville area, through a wide variety of services –everything from midwifery care to education to photography. We also work to extend our training and services further to families in the developing world, including East Africa, Southeast Asia, India, and Latin America, where maternal and infant mortality rates are devastatingly and unnecessarily highest. A percentage of our profits derived from serving women locally go towards our efforts in addressing the maternal and infant health crisis on a global scale.
Tara Garner, Founder of NOVA Birth Services