I’m a big fan of peer support, so I am a member on many different doula groups on Facebook. A question was raised recently about the top things we wished our clients knew. Here’s my list:
1- You never need to apologize to me for changing your mind on something. I understand that plans change and interventions happen. As long as it feels right to you, it is okay by me. What is not okay is if you are bullied or coerced into an intervention you didn’t want. I will stand by whatever you decide and support your decisions, and I will not join in on coercion for or against any intervention.
2- Farts happen. Poop happens. Vomit and urine happen. As long as my head isn’t right there, I really don’t care. You most likely have the most sensitive nose in the room, so I’ll do my best (as will your nurse or midwife’s assistant) to keep things clean and fresh, but it’s so not a big deal if your body does normal body things.
3- Your postpartum plan is just as important as your birth plan–maybe more so. Even if you have 0 risk factors for postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, or psychosis, let’s talk about how you might deal with those situations. Make sure your partner, mom, sister, or anyone that might be close with you in the first year postpartum is well versed on common symptoms and how you’d like to proceed. Let’s talk about the time immediately after birth: how would you like your placenta handled? What medications/procedures are you comfortable with for you and your baby? What does aftercare look like? When are you going to bathe baby? These are all questions that you should at least be thinking about.
4- A comprehensive childbirth class is your best friend. I’m there to support you physically and emotionally, and I’m more than happy to answer questions for you as we go along, but you’ll feel more confident and prepared to make informed decisions if you know your options going in. Another plus to a comprehensive childbirth class is that there is usually time for you and your partner to practice comfort measures. Knowing pre-birth if you generally prefer hip squeezes or knee presses can make for a much more comfortable labor and birth for you! Information aside, statistics mean much less than your gut instinct. I can give you evidence based practices all day long, but your journey is not simply a statistic. Starting with pregnancy and birth, the best advice I can give you is to trust your mommy gut. It may not make any sense in the moment, but eventually you’ll understand why you needed to make certain decisions.
5- Take a comprehensive breastfeeding class and look into evidence based bottle feeding information. If you plan to breastfeed, it helps to have an idea of what you’re doing beforehand! I’m happy to offer lactation support to my birth clients, and I’ll do my best to help you, but the best way to help yourself is to take a class. Lactation Link offers both an in person and online class, Motherfed has a great series of classes (and I always recommend Sally to parents of multiples, as she’s a twin mom herself), and even Babies R Us runs decent breastfeeding classes, when you can catch them! If you plan to use bottles at all, learning about paced bottle feeding and safe formula preparation is incredibly helpful.
6- I do not make decisions for you. I can walk you through the decision making process, tell you all the information I know about all of your options, and give you space to decide, but it is not my role to decide for you. Please tell this to your friends and family that may be attending the birth. I am on your side, and I’m not the enemy. I’m not showing you comfort measures because I enjoy your pain and I don’t want you to get an epidural, for instance. I use comfort measures while waiting for epidurals or because you said you wanted to go without. It’s always nice when your other support people are on board with this!
7- Even with a doula, birth is hard work. You will most likely not be in your logical mind for much of your labor, and you’ll most likely reach a point where your “I don’t think I can do it” gets changed to “I can’t do this!” My job in these moments is to remind you of all you are doing and to remind your partner to tell you how amazing you are.
8- I’m not there to hold the baby. I’m happy to stand back and watch you cuddle your baby. Please don’t feel obligated to offer just because I’m there. That said, I am happy to hold your baby while you go to the bathroom or get a quick shower, or if you offer (after you’ve had some time!) It’s a great treat when it happens, but my focus is still on your wants and needs!
9- I’m usually happy to stay for the first couple of hours with you, and I’ll be happy to do whatever is needed of me during this time, including carrying bags and getting food! I can help you with your first feeding, and I love to help facilitate a golden hour of bonding with your new little family. I often take photos during labors and love to capture some of these early moments. I usually plan to stay the first 1 1/2 to 2 hours after birth, and will stay longer in some cases.
10- I am there to support you and your partner in becoming a family. I want your partner to feel confident in supporting you throughout labor, birth, postpartum, and the rest of your parenting journey. My favorite moments at births are moments where I’m able to slip away as you realize how much support you truly have from your partner. I don’t want to take his/her place because that place is important.
What did you wish you knew about your doula or your birth in advance? Other doulas, I want to hear from you, too! What would you add to this list?