At the moment majority of my clients are for pre/postnatal exercise, but it is always during these first meet ups with them that I will mention I am also a doula and the first reaction I get is "A dou-what? What is a doula?". Even though I feel we live in a time where it is certainly becoming the age of the doula and more and more women are opting for a doula to support them through their pregnancies & births - SO many people still don't fully understand what exactly it is we do and the value it brings to have a doula. So let me tell you a little bit more about this doula thing and why I believe from the bottom of my heart it is a calling and not just a "job"
I remember when I 1st started thinking about becoming a doula - it really felt like the next logical step to me seeing as I was spending such a considerable amount of time with my pregnant clients training them and preparing them physically for birth that I thought it would be amazing if I could go full circle with them and be there to support them on the actual day of labour & birth, so I started researching and reading up about it more to see if I could see myself fulfilling this very important role for women going through a very profound experience. I ended up completing my doula certification through WOMBS and it is during this time that we had to work volunteer hours at Hillbrow MOU as well as Far East Rand Hospital and WOW what an experience it was. It is something you can't put into words for other people who haven't been able to experience it themselves, especially since this is the public sector and you will see and learn things here that you would very rarely see in the private sector.
Now I have to just mention if you asked me 2 years ago what my opinion on pregnancy & birth was I would've been 1st in line to say book me in for a C-section because I was definitely not planning on having a natural birth. Ever. And the mention of going to a birth center or having a home birth? Unmedicated? I thought those women were crazy! I now laugh at the old me - Oh how things have changed. Now I am one of those women! The power of information & knowledge is incredible.
Off course I had the "1st time doula jitters" as they call it and also not having any children myself (yet) it was quite the experience witnessing a birth for the 1st time AND having to support the woman all at the same time (keeping my composure sure was a challenge) but hey, I did it! From there every birth I attended & every woman I supported became more and more natural - and even on the days where I wasn't feeling it 100%, the fact remained that these women that birthed at Hillbrow MOU & FER doesn't have anyone else there to support them (yes, they are not allowed to have a birth partner in the room - something I think a lot of women assume is the norm) and that I get to be there for them and get to influence their birth experience and if I could in any way have an impact to make it a positive experience for them, hold their hand when they feel alone and be able to comfort them when they are in pain and don't know how they are going to get through it, that is what got me to step up and be there for them!
It is difficult some days because these are real life births and that means that they could have very unexpected outcomes - ones you can't always prepare yourself for. This calls for a lot of personal growth from my side because being a doula means I sometimes have to hide my own personal emotions and feelings to be able to fully support the mommy actually going through really tough births where complications can arise very quickly and then it is definitely not a time for me to be shocked or show that I am also feeling the weight of sometimes very sad situations - so this has really led to a lot of personal growth which I am so thankful for!
We are seeing more acceptance and value placed on the role that doulas can have in both the birth room as well as outside. Many people know doulas attend births, but may be less aware of the role a doula can play once the mommy has given birth and gone home. The value she can add by supporting the whole family during this time goes a long way. Having a postpartum doula can be of great help not only to the new mom, but to the whole family as well that is settling into this new role with a teeny, tiny new life to look after.
As a doula I help you feel confident and excited about pregnancy & birth. I help you in deciding which books to read and which ones to rather pass up, I answer all your scary questions about, well, anything, and how I love answering them! I sometimes feel like I could just go around to any pregnant woman I see and tell her all the amazing things about birth (I don't though, don't worry hehe)! I make sure you understand that this is YOUR birth and I am simply here to advocate for you and not make any decisions for you. I am not here to replace your husband/partner but add value to how they can be of help to you during this time. I am here to hug you, comfort you, be your shoulder to cry on, hold your hand, massage you, bring you snacks & refreshments and overall just create the best birthing environment so you can welcome your baby with a joy & happiness and have the birth you want.
Having a doula at your birth can take a big load off the husband/partner who might sometimes not know how to react to you when you are in pain and might feel overwhelmed by everything going on around the process of birth and not be 100% sure of how to support you.
So yes we provide physical support by holding you up, rubbing your back and helping you assume different positions to alleviate the pain - but we re so much more than that.
We provide emotional support because everything about this experience can be very emotional, we are not just the shoulder to cry on when the pain of labour becomes unbearable but we also understand the value in a follow up visit once you are home with this new, very demanding little human that can't tell you what they want. We understand the value in asking you how YOU are doing and feeling because a lot of people seems to forget the mother went through this very profound, life changing experience and shifts all their attention to the cute bundle of newborn baby in your arms (which is of course understandable- but don't forget about the woman behind the baby)
We provide informational support by being able to answer your questions about pregnancy & birth, everything I do have a very vast knowledge of yes, but most of all I am here to support everything you probably already know about your own pregnancy & birth plan and how you want to welcome your baby into the world - because at the end of the day this is your journey and I am here to support you 100% by not giving you biased information or telling you what to do. This is YOUR birth & I am going to be the best team member I can possibly be by being there in any way you need me!
A doula is so much more than any of this, a doula is so much more than just a support woman during your birth!
Becoming a doula has completely changed my perception of pregnancy & birth and my passion to be a source of information for other women has grown so much. Every woman deserves a positive birth experience, they deserve to know they have choices & they deserve to feel and be supported during this very special time in their life that will forever be remembered by them. If you look back on your birth experience, wouldn't you want to look back at it with joy, love, happiness & content rather than disappointment, fear and sadness? Having a doula present at your birth can greatly influence all of these factors and change the outcome of your experience & I look forward to all of the women who's experiences I can hopefully influence in a positive way.