So what exactly does a doula actually do?
I can’t just say what it is I do in one short sentence, and still convey to you the magic that happens when you have the right kind of support.
When anyone asks me this question, I don’t have a one size fits all answer. The truth is I wish I had a short succinct and fully descriptive elevator pitch for you, but I don’t. My answer can’t be short, because that never paints a picture of what it is I really do. If I told you that a good doula is nothing short of magical, would you believe me?
The term doula is mainly in the public vernacular in the form of jokes.
In sitcoms we can be these patchouli wearing hippies often masquerading as untrained midwives, played mostly for laughs. Or we are a quick punch line in brooklyn 99. (written by someone w ho has clearly has experienced doula care) I agree with Jake Peralta, ‘vaginal gandalf’ might be the most perfect way to describe a good birth doula.
The answer to this question actually lies with you.
When we (Doula Care London) come into your home for a consultation and you ask us some form of this question, the answer changes slightly from the last consult where we were ‘what exactly can a doula do?’ to what we sense you are needing from a support person, because, while I can give everyone in the world a clear answer to what we DON’T do (ie: medical stuff, medical advice, or ANYTHING MEDICAL AT ALL) giving you a full list of what non medical support can look like is exhaustive
Everyone is different!
Some clients needs are more physical, and some are more emotional. If you have a c-section birth you may need more help setting up your home for comfort and recovery. You might be a first time parent with all the questions a person has after a brand new vulnerable human being is placed in their arms
As a doula, when you ask about my experiences and what I can do for you. I can tell you that I have held hands, coached clients through breathing techniques and during needles and IVs. I’ve explained how epidurals work, I’ve offered simple empathy for hard situations. Changed diapers, washed loads of laundry. I’ve stayed up into the night holding a newborn so my client could meet their needs for rest (and be better rested parents in the morning). I’ve rocked and swayed with clients having contractions as I rubbed their back. Told people that I believed in them when they were ready to give up. I’ve celebrated cervical dilation. Organized things, and made beds. I’ve listened to birth partners who were anxious and needing reassurance that things really were ok. Given newborns baths, and reached up into high cupboards. I’ve looked after older siblings and made space for it to be OK to NOT BE OK. This work sure brings me to some intimate and sacred spaces.
It’s OK to NOT BE OK.
I’ve been there for clients to do nothing more than be there for them, visiting clients in antepartum, the mother and baby care unit, the NICU, their home, and chatted about their day, careers, plans for the future and heard about just how many people keep bringing so many tasty baked goods.
You might meet with us, and make the decision to hire Doula Care London as your support team, because you felt the magical type of support we give at our consults. You now have a sense of what I mean when I say that a doula offers support and from their heart.
Your friends and family might come and visit while I’m still with you. They might wonder what exactly it is that a doula ‘does’. But, at that point, you and I know the answer. We know, having a cool washcloth on your forehead was important. That your partner valued having someone there to encourage them and help remind them of how to do ‘that back massage’ we had practiced during a prenatal.
All these things we do can’t be underestimated, but are also hard to describe with just one word, a sentence, or in this case maybe even a whole blog
This is why I can’t just say what it is I do to just anyone in one short sentence. It’s so much, and it’s really not at the same time. It’s also why you as my client can only describe doula work as magic, and you tell me more than once that you don’t know how people go without doula care, that ‘this’ type of care should be available to everyone! And I respond with a smile, knowing that I’ve done my job and have made the magic happen