On the list of six Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices, Bring a loved one, friend, or doula for continuous support comes right after Let Labor Begin on It's Own and Walk, Move Around, and Change Positions Throughout Labor. Why is this so important? Why would you need to bring anyone else to your baby's birth when you will have your doctor there and a hospital or birth center full of helpers? right? Not so much. Read on.
I meet a lot of pregnant families in my work as a birth doula. I get a sense that the partners of some pregnant women don't want an audience watching as they attempt to "be all" for their woman - in a situation that is just as scary to them (and maybe more so) as it is for their birthing partner. Many couples feel that this intimate event should be shared only between the two of them. And I couldn't agree more! Not only is birth a very intimate event, labor progresses better and is more comfortable for the woman when she feels respected, safe and loved. So why would Lamaze's Bring a loved one, friend or doula for continuous support be so high on their list of healthy birth practices???
Because if you are going to a hospital you will not have privacy! You will have virtually no intimacy! Of course your Labor & Delivery nurse is probably a lovely person, she does L&D because she loves babies & mommies. But she/he is a person you've never met, a stranger. She may have had a bad day, she may have just come from a cesarean section, she may be at the end of her shift. Which means you'll be meeting another nurse...stranger. You will also meet the admin person who needs your forms and the person who draws your blood/places your heplock. The list goes on. Your nurse is also taking care of many laboring women. She's charting (typing into a computer screen) and usually too busy to sit a spell. Oh by the way, your doctor doesn't usually show up until it's time to catch a baby (you've been pushing awhile).
These type of interruptions play havoc on the hormones of labor and the flow of contractions, slowing down labor, not to mention making mom more uncomfortable. I was raised on a farm and even then was fascinated by birth. I tried to watch the farm animals give birth. Guess what!? They never give birth while being watched. Animals wait for quiet, dark, uninterrupted moments before birthing. WE ARE ANIMALS TOO. A partner, friend or doula can help you remember what tribe you belong to. They can turn down the lights, turn on your music and make your birth place a more familiar environment.
The advantages of having a experienced labor support person, or doula are many and are documented. First, a doula is someone who you interview, hand select (there are many good ones out there) a few months before you're due date. She will meet with you a few times and be available by phone to answer any non-medical questions and just give lots of TLC, emotional support, and encouragement to your whole family (yes, even the nervous partner). Some clients have selected me because their toddler liked me. Others hired me because the animals seemed so calm when I came in. Whatever your need, you can find a doula to address that specifically. The best part is that your doula is NOT A STRANGER anymore! When you go into labor she will join you at home and you can get into a birth day party groove together. She will be as invisible or as hands on as you like. Then when you move to your birth place she is right there helping you integrate into your new surroundings and protecting you from unnecessary rituals and hospital rigmarole. She honors the significance of your partners role as your lover, co-parent, and best friend. Your doula will gently guide your partner in ways of massage, counter pressure, soft affirmations, etc. One key advantage that I find as a doula is that moms often cannot relax when they know their loved ones are tired, hungry, or worried. Your doula is there is give your partner a bathroom break, a dinner break, or reassure him (and you) how wonderful you are doing!
Postpartum - After your baby is in your arms your doula will snap some great family photos, help baby breastfeed and make sure the new mommy and daddy are fed. Your doula will probably visit you after you get home. I love this visit. I might get to burp the baby! We share about baby's birth day and I present a birth story by the doula. I don't often share those stories here on my blog but Kendra let me share Cole's birth story. Here it is just as an example.
Women's bodies know how to birth. We were born with a uterus and great intuition. From the beginning of time women have gathered around the birthing woman, supporting, protecting and celebrating her. In those days all young women were familiar with the birth process and honored it for what it is - a natural occurrence. I call birth a simple miracle. Today technology can be a help but also a hindrance. Take along a witness, a women friend, a doula, one that is not a medical person but someone that will listen with her heart, encourage with her words, a familiar face who honors the work of birth.