By CLAUDIA BOOKER
A birth doula serves as a personal guide and adviser throughout the pregnancy, labor, birth and immediate post-partum period. Birthing a baby is more than a one-day experience and a doula is there to provide guidance throughout the entire journey, not only labor and birth.
A doula is committed to providing personalized guidance through pregnancy, labor, birth and new parenting — a yearlong journey full of momentous decisions and exciting events.
During this period, the doula and the expecting parent(s) build a trusting and open relationship that shapes the care the doula provides. Getting to know a sensitive and experienced doula over the course of a pregnancy will allow for the most personalized care.
This care includes knowledgeable assistance in evaluating your choice of birth settings and care providers, including specific obstetric practices that would support your birth choices and lifestyle preferences; developing a birth preference plan; and navigating the sometimes overwhelming choices for childbirth preparation classes, exercise, pediatrician, breastfeeding and alternative modalities.
The doula provides in-home sessions and 24-7 email and telephone communication to address any questions and concerns. Once labor begins, the doula is ever-present to optimize communication between you, your partner and labor team and medical professionals as needed; to translate medical jargon; to provide hands-on physical, informational, and emotional support to you and your labor team; and relay your preferences for the care and bonding with the baby at the birth. A doula can correct the care provider and staff assumptions about who’s who at the birth and their role and title.
A doula is a valuable member of the birth team for any family, but LGBT parents-to-be can reap special benefits from working with a doula. Your doula will get to know you over the course of your pregnancy and is there to become educated to your wishes, concerns and preferences — the doula is there to learn what is important and unique about each pregnant/expecting parents.
A relationship will develop that will help put you at ease in the birthing environment where you may be dealing with many attendants, such as hospital staff, for the very first time. Your doula, at this point, will be familiar with you and your family and will work closely with those health care professionals supporting your birth — freeing your mind, body and spirit to focus on your most important task of birthing your baby.
An experienced doula can assist with breastfeeding education and support for lesbian couples (for example, who may both want to breastfeed) and transgender couples. The doula can assist gay men with a surrogate birthing their baby to better understand and support their surrogate in pregnancy, birth and with the transfer of parenting responsibilities (for example skin–to-skin) from the biological mother to the new parents.
The doula provides information, referrals and networks in the Washington metro area specific to your needs and community. In addition, the doula will ensure that the parents have access to quality, non-judgmental training in baby care, feeding, pediatrician selection and diapering options, child care and all of the other issues that new parents face.
As renowned doula Miriam Zoila Perez explains in The Radical Doula Guide, “We introduce a compassionate and understanding element and provide non-judgmental and unconditional support to pregnant and parenting people…much of our work is about leaving our assumptions at the door.”
Claudia Booker is a DONA-certified birth doula and home birth midwife (CPM) and has a birthing services company, Birthing Hands of D.C. Reach her via birthinghandsdc.com or DCBirthingHands@aol.com.