By L. Samsarah Morgan, DD CHT, CLC
Do you love babies? I’m mean are you the kind of person who, no mater where you are you are moved and amazed by babies? Do you stop to ponder and wonder the amazing process of reproduction – the process of how we all got here to begin our work on planet earth? Would you be willing to elevate your love of babies into a passion for their well being and that of their mothers? Then perhaps being a doula is the right livelihood for you…
A doula is known by many names, birth attendant, companera, turtle woman, birth watcher. A doula has traditionally, been the woman in service to a birthing woman. Her domain is the educational, emotional, physical comfort and spiritual well-being of pregnant woman as well as mitigating the effect of technological birth processes on both mother and baby. Her work is a subset of the tremendous care provided by a midwife, who not only watches over the woman and her child in the ways stated above – but is responsible for the actual delivery of the infant.
A doula usually works with families to ensure that they are as prepared as one can be to begin their parenting journey. She provides information and referrals, she teaches childbirth and breast feeding classes. She may also have other healing skills such as massage, aromatherapy, hypnotherapy and other gifts she brings to assist a mother through her birth process.
The care provided by a doula is vitally needed in today’s technically over bearing medicalization of birth. She reminds and affirms for the woman that it is she – and not the doctor who will deliver her baby – it is she who has been given the power to birth her child and barring rare complications, she is capable of delivering her baby with grace and confidence. At present, the c-section rate in our country is 33%! Imagine that! One in three women who enter a hospital to give birth are going to have a c-section. The world health organization recommends a c-section rate of 10% or less. When you consider that true obstetrical emergencies occur in less than 1% of births you can see how our use of medical and technical means of delivery is out of balance – and not in the best interest of women and their children. The presence of a doula at birth reduces the prospect of a c-section by 50%. Her presence at the mother side and the information she has provided before labor has begun is responsible for the reduced use of pain medications and other interventions in the birth process. All medical interventions have risks to a birthing woman and her child – some of these risks extend beyond the child’s birth – but can affect the entire life of the baby –as well as the entire parenting career of the mother and her partner.
A doula assists the pregnant family in formulating a birth plan, this plan goes with them into the hospital and serves as a gentle reminder to the hospital staff of the unique personality of this family – their spirituality, their needs and desires for and vision for the birth of their child.
Sometimes, inspite of the best efforts of the well – informed family, interventions are medically necessary. Sometimes even c-sections are necessary to ensure the well being of a mother and her child. A doula is the one person at the birth with no vested interest in the outcome. She has already been paid – she receives no more money if the baby is sectioned or if the mother receives medication. Her purpose is to provide information and support the birth process as it unfolds. She is able, as a witness to the process, to provide a calm and compassionate review as to how things have been going and the path that the labor is now taking, and why. Doctors and nurses may be over worked and not as able to access the bed side manner needed to guide a frightened family through the fearsome thought of an operative delivery. They can sometimes be so focused of the need for the operation, or medication, that they can forget that these some times life saving interventions can be perceived as a failure by a family whose vision is being shattered by a change in plan. A few moments to think, feel and cry can often be all that a family might need to asses their circumstances and agree to necessary medical assistance.
Even families who for medical reasons, find themselves facing a planned c-section find a doula’s care invaluable! There are still choices to be made, so the doula will still work with you to prepare a birth plan. Also, few families know that after the c-section operation, the new born is sent to the nursery for observation and assessment. This is often done because the child born this way may need medical attention such as have breathing problems. This presents a problem, for the partner who is faced with a choice; he can leave his partner alone in the operating room as her surgery in being completed, to be with the baby or stay with the mom and have the baby go alone and with strangers to the nursery! If a doula is with the family she may be able to join the mom in the operating room to keep her company and provide support while the dad accompanies baby for the care he/she needs.
After the child’s birth, the doula stays connected with the family to provided the support they need as they transition from and expectant couple to a new family. She is a warehouse of hands-on,re as well as community information, from breastfeeding issues and concerns to immunizations, recommendations for places or worship as well as pediatricians. She can work at night to assist an exhausted family in getting some much needed sleep!
There is much more that I could write abut this wonderful and gratifying profession, which I have been blessed to call mine these 35 years, and more that I could share. However, in conclusion I will say that, in this world it is very hard to find work which is financially rewarding as well as emotionally and spiritually fulfilling, being a doula is once such occupation. This work opens you up to the true meaning of live and our purpose here on this earth. It grows your soul!
C2014 Samsarah Morgan
Bay Area Birth Keeper Doulas