March 22-28 is World Doula Week! The theme for 2021 is #Doulas Find A Way.
As I celebrate World Doula Week I began to reflect on the past 12 months of the pandemic. I see doulas everywhere changing the lives of parents-to-be in different ways than once considered. Normal it seems, is a far fetched, out-of-date idea anymore. Doulas really stepped up their creative abilities over the past year to support birthing families while keeping everyone safe & healthy. Which for me, meant Zoom childbirth classes instead of in-person, and more virtual doula care when hospitals were not allowing doulas in the birth room. I found creative ways to support my clients in having a safe, satisfying experience even if I wasn’t physically there.
I also branched out of my comfort zone and hosted a few mindful birth masterplan trainings. I had the pleasure of mentoring hundreds of pregnant women from all over the U.S. We had so much fun together! I was honored by multiple stories of how that training changed their perspective along with the positive experience they had birthing their babies. It was so powerful and I can’t wait to do it again!
I can speak for many doulas when I say that our main goal is to hold space for our birthing clients to witness their own strengths and courage as they transition from pregnancy into parenthood. And by all means, doulas find a way!
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting the incredible Sara Striefel.
Sara wanted to volunteer her writing skills and broaden her portfolio and I couldn’t wait to work with her. She is a creative writer that has an extensive background in healthcare, so I thought she would be a perfect fit for a guest post as we celebrate World Doula Week. I wanted to know her perspective on The Family Nest and doula care through her eyes. Enjoy her beautifully written piece on why doulas are for everyone, while also incorporating how doulas and care providers, together, make an incredible team for birthing parents. If you’d like to read more of Sara’s writing, visit here. I also really love I am the Shelter, her raw take on the power of being a woman and a mother. Thank you Sara, you are a true artist!
Let’s hear from Sara…
I have worked in healthcare for a long time. Before that, I worked in childcare. Care, it would seem, is innate to my personality. As a registered nurse, I do a lot of caring. And for the past 13 years, I have had the unique privilege of caring for women as an OBGYN provider. I get to walk with women as they navigate every phase of this extraordinary
roller-coater life. A roller coaster that is perhaps most evident during the stages of pregnancy and childbirth. The transformation into motherhood is something that takes place both physically and psychologically, emotionally and spiritually.
It is a complete metamorphosis, and to be present to witness this evolution is a gift.
Like any life-transition, this process can also be challenging, confusing, painful and even frightening at times. When we face the unknown, we look to those that have walked the path before us, the experienced, the experts, the pros. As your nurse, I have answers to the medical questions. I can tell you when and how and why. I can start your IV and monitor your vital signs. I can educate and proctor advice. But often, my clinic is busy and our appointments are short. My time with you is limited. The reality is, I lament our lack of true intimacy. Certain restrictions prevent me from having the time to sit and explore the magnitude of the change that is taking place. I will make sure you get through this pregnancy in one piece. I will make sure your baby is given the best medical care possible. But there is so much more taking place than just the “medical”.
This is where a birth doula can be a tremendous asset!
Birth doulas have a unique role in the childbirth experience. They provide emotional, physical, and educational support for the entire family. This type of support is customized to each client, depending on their individual needs. Birth doulas work with clients to help plan and prepare for the delivery by reviewing birth preferences and exploring options. They are also physically present during the birth, their duty being to advocate for the client and to provide a continuous source of comfort, encouragement, and support (both emotional and physical) during labor.
In speaking with Hillery and learning about the philosophy behind the Family Nest, it is clear that she is more than just a labor coach. She is a hand to hold, an ear to listen, and a shoulder to lean on. She is also a heart to hold space for your wishes and your concerns. During labor her purpose is to be there in the moments between the nurse visits and doctor exams. To monitor the temperature in the tub, change the music on your iPod, or dim the lights when needed. She will be there to rock with you, to distract you, get more ice chips, and to remind you are safe. She will also sit with your partner and your family as they bear witness to this transformation and go through their own.
She will reinforce your own inner strength.
Often, as labor and delivery nurses, our role ends when you go home. But for a doula, postpartum support is just as important and also involves the entire family. Building a nest, as it were. And to nurture the nest, doulas can serve as a trusted friend when things are uncertain. They are alert when no one else has slept. They are a shoulder to cry on, for no specific reason, except that you just had a baby and life is messy. Their compassion is demonstrated by clean dishes, folded laundry, and freshly brewed tea. They give you room and permission to care for yourself and your baby in whatever unique way fits.
As healthcare professionals, nurses and doctors are focused on the acute physical needs associated with pregnancy. We have check lists and screenings assessments and procedures. It is not lost on us that there are emotional and
psychological needs here too. The birth experience cannot be classified into a one size fits all deal, nor should it be.
Doula services can help fill some of these gaps and help empower women to be the warriors they already are.
In whatever way Hillery supports her clients, it becomes exactly what they need. And that is what makes doula support so powerful. Not many times are you given the freedom to choose what is right for you with an unlimited amount of support behind you to do it.