Thursday, March 11, 2010

No One Puts "Doula" In The Corner!

Well, actually they do and that's fine with me, I prefer to blend in at a birth whenever possible anyway. What I mean by "blend in" is to not be at the center of the experience at all times. I step up when I am needed and step back when I'm not and when I do it right I don't confuse the two.

So, how does one know when they are needed or not? Good question really. That answer lies in the relationship with the client and how the labour unfolds. Sometimes I pull many tools out of the birth bag and at other times (more often) just use my hands, my voice and typically my ever trusty Omni massage roller. Sure we talk about the various comfort measures available at the birth during our prenatal visits, but we don't know if they will be necessary or desired at the time. These are options at our disposal and to use with our discretion. If a couple decides the woman's partner will be primary support then he/she can use all the comfort measures and tools and I am happy to guide if need be.

When a client and her caregiver are discussing her care I step back or remove myself from the conversation. It is awfully awkward when the caregiver keeps shifting eye contact between myself and my client as if they need to convince me that what they are telling her is reasonable or acceptable. Of course it is none of my business, but if I am in the space of the ensuing conversation they might feel like they need to include me. If a client wants to bounce the information off of me or clarify something there is plenty of time to do that once the caregiver leaves. What if the caregiver doesn't leave you ask. Well, if my client seems confused, afraid, or anxious and the caregiver doesn't address it I might ask her "How does that sound" and then follow her lead. I know that when my client looks at me and says " what should I do?" she isn't asking me to decide for her or looking for approval just trying to make a decision and doesn't have enough information to go ahead. But, to a nurse or caregiver they might confuse that with imposing my ideas onto my client so I ask if they have any questions. This is usually enough to clue the staff in that they need to give her more information.

When a client is working through contractions and is coping well I am happy to simply offer her a drink, chat in between contractions if she likes, check in with her partner or simply nothing. If she needs massage, suggestions for positions or if her partner needs reassurance I am happy to do that for her. For all intents and purposes to the casual observer it might appear as if I am doing "nothing" just sitting in a corner quietly observing, trusting and waiting until I am "physically" needed. But in doing nothing I believe I am giving her space to find her strength, space for the couple to work it out between them. That is my job as I hold the space, and model the type of atmosphere they desire.

If birth takes a path less travelled and our map is no longer helpful then together we adjust our sails and move forward. In the end the experience will be hers and she will own it. I will be happy knowing that sometimes the most valuable thing I can do for her is be a familiar face, affirm her feelings and express my confidence in her and the decisions she will make. When a woman says "I couldn't do it without you" I know what she is saying is " I did it, thank you for believing in me" Of course she can do it without me, I am there to hold the space for her, serve when I am needed and sit in the corner when I am not, because SHE is doing it.

Being put in a corner by a less than accepting caregiver, nurse or midwife because THEY don't see the value in what a doula does is not a problem to me. Disrespecting the wishes of the woman and dismissing who she chooses to invite to her birth is on the other hand and all the more reason to quietly support her, because of all the people in the room aside from her partner I might believe in her and respect her the most of anyone. So put me in the corner I don't care, but don't put the Mother there she deserves to be front and center in her experience and no one else.

Peace Out,



  1. VERY well said!! I've got a birth coming up and I'll keep all of that in mind! Thanks! ~Daleen

  2. You held the space for empowerment, confidence and calmness to pour in... i will be forever grateful to you for being there when Kazia came... doctor smochter... i NEED my doula! xoxoxo Vanessa

  3. Vanessa! What a beautiful birth of a beautiful little girl! You did amazing :)