When we meet with expecting parents for a consultation to get to know each other and figure out if we'll be a good fit, one question we're often asked is, "What is your approach?"
That is a HUGE question.
Sometimes parents are asking about our approach specific to birth. Other times they want to know about our general approach to doula work. We thought we'd speak to both of those here, giving the 3 most important aspects of our approach as doulas:
1. Our role as your doulas has more to do with you than with us.
When we accompany families on their journey through labor and birth, there are many options for the extent of how our support can come into play. During prenatal visits, we will explore options for physical and emotional support during your labor. Some people like touch - massage, a comforting hand on the shoulder, or even a belly rub to help release tension can be helpful. Some parents want guidance through encouragement and birth affirmations. Guided visualizations are important to some people. Other parents simply want to have an experienced, nonjudgmental person present in the room to help them understand what's going on and make decisions. This part of a doula's role can include facilitating positive communication with care providers and helping parents understand what's going on. Sometimes it's hard to keep up with medical terminology and technology in the unfamiliar hospital setting, especially when in labor! These aspects of doula-ing don't necessitate hands-on physical support, but still provide a huge resource for parents. (Read this post for more info about ways doulas support partners during labor.)
Our perspective is that every parent is the expert on their own life. You know yourself, your story, and your goals for the future. We're here to play a supporting role as you move forward with this birth.
Through our prenatal meetings and communication, our job is to make sure we know what your values are and what matters to you. Our nonjudgmental and flexible approach are really key here - we'll work toward whatever type of support you're feeling comfortable with, allowing for the possibility that in labor the moment may call for a change... and that's ok!
2. We believe that parents shouldn't be defined by their birth outcomes.
In our culture today, there are many who feel that unmedicated / home / water / Cesarean birth is best. These voices can be intensified during pregnancy, leading many pregnant women to feel confused or conflicted about what the evidence or loved ones say is best vs. what they feel is best for them. The fallout of all this is that after birth, many parents look back and feel guilt, shame, or regret about the type of birth they had. Our take on this? The last thing people need when navigating life with a newborn is negative feelings about their birth causing them to feel that they aren't "good enough."
When parents ask us what type of birth we think is best, our answer is "Whatever is right for you and your baby." No one else can tell you what the right answer is here. We help make sure our clients have access to the information they need to make informed decisions. We understand that when taking the individuality of themselves and their babies into account, these decisions may not fall into what is evidence based - and that's ok. In a perfect world, parents would feel free to make the choices that are right for them at any given moment without judgment or question from outside sources and with plenty of emotional support along the way. That is the gap we seek to fill.
We love to see parents meet the intensity of labor and birth with courage, love, and compassion for themselves and their baby despite the medical details. THAT is what being a parent is all about, not the degree of medical procedures present in birth. Witnessing those moments is truly the best part of our job as doulas.
3. We respect pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period as rites of passage.
There is a reason the "childbearing year" is surrounded by special customs and traditions in every culture. This season of growing, birthing, and welcoming a new human is a profoundly personal and possibly transformational time of life. As doulas, we aren't just interested in how long your labor is, whether you birth at a hospital or at home, or whether you breastfeed your baby. We are concerned with your emotional journey through these experiences.
By understanding this time as an opportunity for personal transformation, many of the things our society tends to fixate on (sex of the baby, details of the birth, what baby gear is best) can be placed on the back burner. This allows parents to give themselves the chance to really experience this process with presence and awareness. By simply becoming mindful of their own inner landscape, many parents feel that they are able to step more readily into the unknowns of birth and parenthood without attachment to outcome. And perhaps this will allow them to notice some areas of themselves softening or changing in preparation for meeting their baby.
Babies bring all kinds of surprises with them. When parents use pregnancy and birth as a chance to get to know themselves better, the newborn phase (and really all of the parenting journey) can be met with a greater faith in their ability to meet whatever comes. After all, one of life's great challenges is to navigate the twists and turns of one's experiences with love and acceptance. We hope this has given you a better sense of the way we practice as doulas. It truly is a privilege for us to walk beside families on this life-changing journey, witnessing the courageous love of the parents we serve.
Read more about our perspective on birth as a rite of passage.