This is a word that gets bandied around a lot in the birth world. I’m constantly reading in both social media and mainstream media about how ‘doula’s advocate for women’ or ‘doula’s empower women’.
But this is not how I work.
I can’t give you power, your power lies within. Let me explain. Imagine you’re in the birth room with your doula, and your partner and your midwife(ives). One of the midwives turns to you and says; “You’ve been labouring for a long time and nothing seems to be happening. With your permission I would like to perform a vaginal examination to see where you’re at”. Then you’re doula steps in and says; “She doesn’t want a vaginal examination” (because thats what you’d discussed previously).
How do you as the birthing mother feel? Even if your doula has your permission to speak on your behalf she has literally taken the words from your mouth. With this one act she has assigned you to being someone who is having things done to them and not someone who is an active participant.
Now imagine this scenario except that instead of speaking for you your doula turns to you and says; “Would you like to take some time to think about this with your partner in private?”. Your doula is doing their job – they are supporting your ability to make choices without feeling coerced in any way, they are enabling you and your partner to take time together to make a choice that’s right for you in the moment. They are holding your space.
This is why I NEVER claim to advocate for women (unless specifically asked to do so)
As a doula my role is to support you emotionally and physically through pregnancy and the birth process if you need it, providing comfort if things get tough and a reassuring presence. My role is to ensure you have the knowledge that you need to make informed choices about your care in any given circumstance. By supporting a women to equip herself with knowledge about her birth you help her retain her power and autonomy. These two things are incredibly important in the emotional health of women in general but mothers in particular.
If you emerge from your birth with a healthy baby feeling like a warrior you start your motherhood journey feeling strong, confident and able to trust your instincts. If someone has done something to you during your labour you didn’t understand or agree to, or if someone spoke on your behalf they have silenced your voice and then your start on the path of motherhood is trickier.
You don’t trust whether your baby is getting enough milk, you constantly question why he’s not sleeping through the night, or when he should start to be fed solids or any of the other myriad of daily decisions women have to make about the health hand welfare of their children. Instead you rely on the opinions of others and social media and which ever is the latest parenting best seller. But non of these things know your baby the way you do.
Having a doula is one of the best investments you can make to ensure you feel supported and informed during your birth. Having a doula will mean you’re less likely to require pain relief, or have a caesarean section. But having a good doula will also mean you have someone with you who will hold your space and allow your voice to be truly heard. So make sure your doula is not there to advocate for you but rather provide you with the space and support to advocate for yourself. In the birth room it should be all about you and your baby not how powerful or outspoken your doula is.
If you’re like to find out more about how I work – lets talk https://www.alexbdoula.co.uk/contact/