We bring a lot into our relationships—our past experiences, feelings and our unique lens on how we perceive situations. This is no different for birth. While all first time moms don’t bring in a direct birth experience with them into pregnancy, they do carry the stories that they have been told by other women and by their own family members, including their own birth stories. In addition to these stories of other people come the feelings that might be elicited by them.
It can be difficult to remember that a first birth is a blank slate of your own direct experience. It has yet to be created. We can apply hopes and wishes onto the experience, but it is not something that we can plan. Often times, women forget that they are not the only one that is part of the birth experience, as there is a baby to accommodate too. A baby’s wishes or circumstances might vary differently than those of its mother. Additionally, there is a partner who might have desires about the birth experience, which need to be heard.
Birth is powerful in that it solidifies a family that is simultaneously birthed, and it can feel daunting to those that have never experienced it before. For this very reason, it makes sense for birthing women to call upon the assistance and support of other women who know the birthing process. Having someone with many births under their belt can help parents-to-be feel more calm, can make suggestions based upon knowledge and experience, and can help to facilitate the birth so that it matches up as much as possible with what the couple desires. A doula is such a support person.
From a psychological standpoint, doulas are essential. Human beings tend to fear what is not known. No matter how much preparation in the form of birth classes, prenatal yoga, or books, there is no substitute from experience. Trying to understand the concept of a contraction and feeling one will never be equal. The majority of women will get to a point in labor where they start to feel scared. Their partners might also feel scared, as they too, don’t know what to do or what to expect. This is where the emotional support of a doula comes in. A doula can reassure both the birthing woman and her partner that their experience is normal, or can make suggestions in how to conserve energy. A doula can motivate, reassure, and in some cases, seemingly give permission during birth. Additionally, a doula can help play gate keeper during birth and ensure that only those that need to be witnessing the birth are there.
A doula does not have an expectation of any particular birth, but rather will work to help the couple experience their hoped for birth plan. A doula will not force a couple to have a vaginal pain-free birth. A doula will not leave a couple if they are having a C-section. No matter what the birth might look like, a doula’s role is of non-biased support. She is there for the birthing couple: not the hospital, birth center, or healthcare professional. A doula can also help to mitigate feelings of fear or re-experiencing of previous trauma. A doula is consistent and is with you for the entire birth experience. The doula will also be there for you prior to the birth and will check in post-partum. With this kind of care, the doula helps to birth both the baby as well as the parents.