What does a doula do? Part one
I love it when I get asked the usual small talk opener, 'So what do you do?', 'Well I'm a doula...' (blank expression). Then I wait, I can tell they are thinking if they heard me right and trying to make sense of this odd word, a couple of seconds later, 'sorry, you're a what?'
In London and Surrey where I am based, doulas are fairly well known but I am always surprised at how many people have never heard of one. I think because my whole world is full of beautiful birth workers, Mummies and babies, I sometimes forget that doulas are still growing in the mainstream. I find myself struggling to define it in conversation. Doulas do offer lots of practical help but a lot of what we do isn't tangible and that can be hard to get across in chit chat. I often opt for, 'I give emotional support in labour', 'ok so like a midwife?', 'well no, I'm not medical...', which doesn't really do us justice, as there is so much we do! So I thought I would try and outline our role over the course of a few blog posts.
So here is my first one: Listening.
Have you ever been listened to? Really listened to? I don't mean going out with with your girls on Friday night, downing prosecco and putting the world to rights. I mean, one on one, no interruptions, no judgement, just being heard? No one trying to tell their story, waiting for you to finish, no comparisons, just someone who is completely engaged with what you're saying, cares about what you're saying and quietly listens to you?
Listening is so powerful. If I am actively listening to my clients, I am present and trying to really hear what it is they are saying. If they pause, I don't jump in, I don't try and fill the silence, I wait...often it's in those moments, when they are given a second, that important things are aired. Getting things off your chest can be all you need sometimes to feel better, lighter, less worried. Being heard is also a way of solving problems for yourself. Talking through worries with someone else often ends in you finding your own solution.
As a doula, I am not there to tell you what to do. Only you know what you need to feel empowered for your birth. But I can listen, I can tell you what I've heard and if needed I can help reframe what you've said and offer another way to see it that might give you a different perspective. Doulas do many things but our ability to truly listen to our clients is one of our strengths.
What we also help with is making you feel heard during your labour. You're the boss. I'm going to do all I can to protect your space while you do what you need to do to meet your baby. If there are questions, I will make sure they are directed to you and you will make the decisions. I will make sure you are being given all the options and all the information needed to make them. I will make sure your partner feels heard too. I will know your birth preferences inside out and gently remind you of them as your labour unfolds. I will be there as your constant, as your source of calm and reassurance and I won't leave your side (unless you want me to). I will be there for you unconditionally, and I will listen. I'm here for you and I hear you Mama.