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Just Doula-ing It

Yep, I just made that pun.

I realized today I haven't really written that much about this next chapter of my education/career/passion/life that I'm entering into, and that a lot of my friends might not know a whole lot about what this new position really means.

In late October, I'll be attending a childbirth class and doula training program under Debra Pascali-Bonaro, author and director of Orgasmic Birth (both a birthing book and an eye-opening documentary) and experienced childbirth educator and doula.  I've already started the process of reading everything both on and off my reading list, and I have quite a few more hurdles to climb before I'm an officially certified doula, but I'm jumping in with both feet.

Super exciting, right?  But what's a doula?

The word Doula comes from ancient Greek meaning a female servant.  It is a woman who is literally there before, during, and after labor and birth to support the mother and partner through the process.  Most women in this country give birth in a hospital where the staff is almost certainly overworked and overseeing multiple patients at a time.  For a lot of couples, this can breed a lot of anxiety and uncertainty - even when the staff is excellent.  Most women wind up being hooked up to some kind of fetal heartrate monitor and staff (and partners!) can run the risk of paying much closer attention to the printout of the monitor than the actual mother in labor, leaving her feeling isolated and ignored.

Having a doula as a constant, attentive, knowledgeable, comforting presence, whether in a hospital, birth center, or home birth, can make the couple feel more at ease, can make the partner more confident in how he is helping the mother, and provides the couple with a whole host of nonmedical techniques to alleviate pain.

Nowhere is the mind-body connection more potent and powerful during childbirth.  If you have someone supporting you and your choices (whatever they may be, as it is not a doula's job to judge or push an agenda) and helping to guide you through this most intense and overwhelming physiological event the human body can experience where emotions are inevitably running high, you are going to come out the other side having had a more positive experience.

My sister laboring in the tub with the support of one of her
two fantastic doulas, Maggie Gentilini
My sister and brother-in-law experienced that first-hand after having two excellent doulas attend them during the birth of the twins this past summer.  They cannot sing their praises high enough, and I know it absolutely made all the difference in the world in making the birth experience a positive one for them.  Not to mention, the second doula took some phenomenal pictures that we'll treasure forever!

So what does a doula actually do?  The short answer is, whatever the mother and/or partner wants or needs.  Helping inform and educate the couple on normal birth processes before or during, sneaking a turkey sandwich into the hospital, showing the partner how to perform helpful massage techniques, giving the nurse the birth plan, remaining a steady face of calm in high intensity situations - you name it.  Doulas are not medical professionals, however.  Unlike a doctor, nurse, or midwife, they do not perform medical procedures or give medical opinions.  Their job is to be the stalwart support system for the couple.

Why pay money to a stranger to support you when you could get your mom or your friend in there for free?  There are lots of potential answers to this one, but two that pop up are - 1. Your doula is going to be trained and experienced, so when she says what you're experiencing is normal, you may put more stock into her answer than someone else's.  2. Your doula has practical techniques at her fingertips to help birth proceed smoothly.  3. There aren't years of potential emotional baggage with the doula, which there almost certainly is with other family and friends.  This doesn't mean you don't love your mother, sister, or friend, but it's kind of like seeking a therapist's advi
ce for your problem's rather than your friend's.  The therapist is an impartial party whose only job is to do what's best for you - not necessarily what you're going to want him or her to say or do, and not anything guided by his or her own personal preference.

That's not to say you'd have a doula at the expense of another friend - but it is an invaluable option that statistically is shown to reduce medical interventions and increase a feeling of satisfaction in one's birth experience.  (This study is just one of many that support this statement)

I could easily write about this all day, but instead I'll close by promoting an amazing event I'll be attending tonight.  If you're expecting or know a couple who is, please send them this information!

We are having our popular Doula Speed Dating Event tonight at Karma Kids Yoga, where couples can meet doulas who work in the tri-state area and possibly find the right one for them.  You can interview them, learn more about what they do, and maybe win a prize in our raffle.  It's incredibly fun and for the first time I'm excited to attend not just as a birth junkie but as a potential doula.  Call 646-638-1444 to register!  It's so fun and could change the way you bring your baby into the world.  What's not to love about that?

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