Guest post by Molly Madonna Kehrer
There are 1,001 choices to make during pregnancy, and they run the gamut! From baby registries to nursery decisions, it’s not hard to get caught up in the overflow of “to do’s” coming at us when we’re pregnant–especially the first time around.
Much like a wedding day, our culture has placed a very heavy emphasis on the aesthetic preparations we make before birth. And much like a wedding day, our babies’ birthdays are about so much more than the color we choose to paint the nursery walls or the level of fancy we commit to in a stroller purchase.
As with a marriage, the investment we make into the preparations of our heart, soul, mind and body before birth will set the tone for events that will impact our lives long after the milestone of birth has passed.
There is no one right way to approach birth, and there is no prescription for the “perfect” delivery for every woman. Our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made, and miraculously, they manage to grow, nourish, nurture, protect and deliver entire lives into the world.
A pregnant woman’s body is strong and powerful. It knows what it needs. It knows just what to do.
Since none of our bodies is exactly like the next, there is no precise formula for birth that equals an “ideal” labor and delivery for every mama.
BUT there are tools available and resources at hand for women who desire the most optimal birth possible, whatever that might look like in their own hearts and minds. This might mean a completely unmedicated, physiologic birth, a medicated delivery, a cesarean section, a VBAC, or any number of other scenarios as hoped for by an expectant mother.
The commonality in every birth, no matter the circumstance, is that a woman (and her child and partner) has a right to be well-supported from a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual level; a mother should feel empowered to make informed decisions–ones that she believes are best for herself and her baby–as she ushers new life into the world.
One of the very best decisions my husband and I have ever made was to hire the support of a doula before each of our babies were born.
Not all that long ago, I had no idea what a doula was–they were not readily available everywhere and it was not the norm to hire someone outside of a medical doctor or midwife to assist a woman in the birth process.
Then one day I came across an organization that was (and still is) certifying women in the practice of becoming birth assistants or “women’s helpers” in birth, and the beautiful word doula entered my vocabulary. I am ever so glad it did.
The translation of the Greek word doula is this: a woman who serves.
For many reasons, scientifically quantifiable and otherwise, the presence of a woman who simply serves another woman in labor and delivery can have significant positive impact on birth outcomes.
A doula supports everyone in the room on a mother’s birthing day, but she is first and foremost committed to the well-being of the laboring mama, her partner or spouse if present, and their baby.
This support is inclusive of (but not limited to) the following:
— 24-hour on-call support to the mother and family for several weeks prior to and several weeks following baby’s anticipated due date, until after baby has arrived.
— Commitment to a mother’s/couple’s birth plan–their hopes, wishes, dreams, desires, and religious traditions — and a strong effort to empower decisions and steps in the birthing process that are in keeping with the above.
— A continuous presence in the hospital room or home at all times (as desired), available for support in any moment throughout labor and delivery.
— Emotional encouragement for both mom and dad in the birthing process. No discouragement, doubt or wavering from a doula!
— Availability to run errands, make phone calls or simply support communication for parents as they seek to connect with extended family, children at home and medical staff.
— Aid in clarifying communications and advocating for parents to make informed choices as they arise.
— Physical support, including the use of helpful tools and comfort measures during labor and delivery.
— Empowerment of the spouse or partner in aiding with support measures for the laboring mother.
— Immediate postpartum and breastfeeding support.
— Follow up phone calls and/or home visits to check in with new families and assist with adjustments to life with a newborn.
— Connection to resources for postpartum follow up and services as needed.
In my experience, the above list only grazes the surface of benefits that a doula has to offer a client in birth. I cannot quantify the peace of mind, the camaraderie, the empowerment or the great satisfaction that comes with having a well-supported labor and delivery.
A doula is not only a supportive presence in labor and birth, but she is at any point an advocate, a cheerleader, a confidant, a prayer warrior, a knowledgeable resource, a caregiver, a gentle heart, a strong spirit, a willing servant.
She uplifts and encourages, and she genuinely cares deeply for each mother, baby and family whom she serves. She believes in the power of birth, the ability of the human body, the necessity of sacred space.
She believes that every birth is beautiful and unique in its own right–that every mother is entitled to the birth of her dreams, and that every mother is also entitled to have fears, to be vulnerable, and to express frustration, doubt or disappointment.
A responsible doula is a safe place to entrust your birth experience and your baby’s birthing day.
When we prepare our hearts, minds and bodies for birth, we equip ourselves with confidence, a sense of security, and the opportunity to look forward to what labor and delivery will hold.
A mama with a healthy heart and mind is most able to deliver a healthy baby, and to arrive at the birth experience she has hoped for throughout pregnancy.
A doula helps a mother to trust both her body and her baby–a reality that becomes priceless in moments of pain, exhaustion, decision, and delivery.
Just as with marriage, preparation for the “big day” of birth is most often celebratory and filled with lots of small decisions leading up to one very significant life event.
Also as with weddings and marriage, it can be easy to let the smaller decisions overshadow what the ultimate event is really all about. When we say “I do,” we mean it for a lifetime, whether we have prepared for a wonderful party, a lasting marriage or both.
When we say “I do-ula,” we look after ourselves and our babies by preparing for a supported and informed birth.
Not only this, but perhaps most significantly, we deliver our babies in an atmosphere of security and trust, giving them a head start in the most significant first moments of their lives. By allowing ourselves to be nurtured and loved, we can love our babies well, too.
For more information on the role of a doula in birth, or to find a doula in your area, visit dona.org. To contact me with specific doula or birth related questions, feel free to comment below or to connect with me at mollymadonna.com.
Have you used a doula before?
Photography credit: Val Dietche
Molly Madonna Kehrer, CD (DONA) is a certified doula and stay at home mama to two wildly amazing kiddos, Henry (4) and Eloise (2). She is passionate about serving and empowering families in pregnancy and birth, loves nourishing and caring for her own babies, craves authentic friendship, and longs to find more hours in the day to write. When life permits, Molly shares her thoughts on motherhood and life at mollymadonna.com. While she loves to travel the world and misses ministry abroad, Molly finds great contentment alongside her husband, Jason, and family near the lovely shores of Lake Michigan, and is delighted to serve a most Holy Creator in the daily.