If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.
John H. Kennell, American Professor of Pediatrics
It's been a good couple of weeks for doula's. Last month; the whole 'did-she-didn't-she' around Meghan Markle’s birth of Baby Archie. Then Amy Schumer acknowledging that women 'are the shit', and recommending that women get a doula (if they can... recommendations on how to find *your* doula at the bottom, even if you think you can't afford one). Doula's seem to be the next trend for women seeking to make the whole birth experience a bit more, well, bearable.
So why didn't I hire a doula? After all, I'm a tub-thumping advocate for positive birth. I've known about doula's since I was first pregnant in 2010. I know some absolutely incredible, inspiring, preconception-challenging doula's who've changed my world (Steph Grainger, Lauren Derrett & Louise Daniels, I'm talking about YOU, Ladies). I know exactly what doula's do, and why they're important - and yet I STILL didn't have one at any of my 3 births.
The answer? Well, there are two; Susie and Tina.
Women's strongest feelings, positive and negative, focus on the way they were treated by their caregivers
Annie Kennedy & Penny Simkin,
Doula's support women. Our purpose is to quietly & gently lean in. To bolster women. To nurture them & focus on them. Practically, we inspire confidence by sign-posting to resources, groups & information. We hear concerns, reassuring where we recognise common experiences, and gently prompting & referring to the appropriate support. We listen to women, giving the space & time that is no longer afforded pregnancy, so that thoughts, feelings, expectations & assumptions can be processed. We NEVER make clinical assumptions, recommendations or opinions. Perhaps most importantly of all, we provide continuity of care.
That continuity is important because we learn about the whole woman, and the context she comes from. It means we can see her fully, and facilitate the environment she needs to have her baby in. It's not just hippy dippy doula's that believe this. Last month, to coincide with International Day of the Midwife, NHS England announced the doubling of funding to maternity services to £40 million, with a focus on the provision of a named midwife for pregnant women to see throughout their pregnancy.
Safety for childbearing women and their partners and families...means emotional, psychological, and social safety. This holistic sense of safety is what (women) receive through continuity models of care.
All these reasons above are why I trained to be a doula AND why I didn't need to hire one for my own births. Because from the moment I attended my first ‘booking in’ appointment in 2010 I have been lucky enough to be cared for by the same two women. These women - Susie & Tina - kept skilled eyes on me & my babies for nearly 120 weeks over 5 years. They listened in, they dipped sticks in wee, they palpated, and they measured. More than that though, more than the numbers & the graphs, they listened to me. They visited me at home. They gave me options. They didn't ridicule, patronise or deride me - quite the opposite. They gave me the information & the protocols and explained why things were as they were - and then they listened to what I wanted and why, and they helped me get it. They were practical and rational, and empathetic. They trusted me, and so I trusted them. They lit candles around my bath. They held my hand and eye contact. They smiled at each other and my husband as I disappeared further into myself & my labour. They whispered love into my ear. They became part of my family, and I became part of theirs.
So you see, I didn't have any need for a doula at all. My midwives doula'ed me beyond anything I could ever have imagined I might want or need.
And not just me. I live in a community of women who have deep love for Susie & Tina. Women who well up on the street corners when they realise I know them, and who recall quiet words, small moments and powerful memories months & years old. Because birth marks us in ways beyond measure.
So I know how lucky I am not to have needed a doula - and I will always pay that forward in any way I can.
You can find a doula at the Doula UK website. If your budget is limited, talk to mentored doula's who may be pleased to support you as they work towards their recognised status. They may also be able to refer to you to the Doula UK access fund.