You Don't Know What You Don't Know

Irvine doula surprising resources and referrals from a birth doula

Have you heard the phrase "You don't know what you don't know"?

For most first-time parents, that phrase rings true for pregnancy, labor and birth, and transforming into people who are responsible for raising a tiny human. There are so many things that can come up along the path - ranging from basically insignificant to huge and life-changing - that it's impossible to prepare for everything.

And if you're expecting, we can pretty much guarantee you've begun to hear stories from family, friends, or well-meaning strangers about surprising things that can happen when a little one is on the way.

It can sometimes feel like there are 2 options at either end of the information-gathering spectrum: 

  1. READ ALL THE THINGS. This usually involves a good deal of late-night Google rabbit holes, an insatiable appetite for birth/baby related books and blogs, and possibly a weird obsession with consuming horror stories (forewarned is forearmed). 
     
  2. Bury your head in the sand. Why bother trying to learn everything when you know it's not even possible to do that?
     

Many times, our clients find themselves in a situation where one party (usually the one growing a person inside them) has chosen option 1, and their partner has chosen option 2. 

This can be difficult for several reasons. One big one is that when someone (like a doula) is talking to the couple about their preparation for birth or parenting, the person who is READING ALL THE THINGS is very engaged in the conversation and the other person isn't really able to follow along very well. That knowledge differential can make the person who isn't reading everything feel sort of excluded by default when conversation turns to baby stuff. And when someone isn't involved in those conversations, it can be tough to feel emotionally connected to what's really happening... welcoming a new life. 

Birth is a rite of passage that one can never fully prepare for, but there are a number of things expecting parents can do to stack the deck in their favor along the way. Since "you don't know what you don't know," we want to offer a middle-of-the-road option that we've seen to be helpful for many parent, fostering connection during pregnancy.

In addition to being hands-on labor support, many birth doulas act as community resources.

We often have information about local providers, support networks, services, and tips and tricks for many aspects of the journey to parenthood. 

When you talk to your doula about these things, it can help bring both partners into the same realm of information and knowledge, making it easier for both parties to understand what's going on or what the options are. When parents feel like they're on the same page information-wise, it's much easier to make decisions based on that information and on their own personal values.

Since it's very difficult to explain exactly what kinds of resources doulas can offer to parents, we decided to create a visual representation of many of them. This is not an exhaustive list by any means (it doesn't even include anything that happens during labor itself)! But we hope it will give you an idea of what sorts of things doulas can help with.

Many of these are referrals to other types of providers, and many are things doulas offer themselves. Of course, every doula has their own specialties and interests so this is not a blanket statement of what doulas do. But we hope this will give you an idea of some of the things you might not know you could even ask anyone about!

Think of this as a list of "Things You Can Ask a Birth Doula About That You Maybe Wouldn't Have Thought Of."

Is there anything here that hadn't yet crossed your mind? Write those things down and talk to your doula about them! (If there's too much to cover during a prenatal visit - which is very likely - start a group email and/or text with your partner and doula so you can all communicate easily about these topics.)

If you aren't working with a birth doula, two quick things:

  1. Think about reconsidering that decision. (Yes, we're biased. But it's because we've seen compassionate, sensitive doula support make a big difference in nearly every kind of birth.) You might want to reach out to some local birth doulas and learn more about what they can really offer.
     
  2. if you've decided you definitely don't want to hire a birth doula, contact some local birth doulas anyway to ask them about things from this list you didn't know to ask about before. Find out some of their recommendations as far as childbirth classes, postpartum doulas, local lactation support, new parent meet-ups, or anything else from this list you have questions about.

Many doulas are happy to have a short conversation with expecting families, even if they aren't working together. Doulas can be a great resource because we have experience in so many of these areas (doulas are almost like Yelp for expecting parents). We love to know that parents are finding the meaningful support they need and are generally glad to share our experiences.

Of course, nothing replaces in-person support! Picking a doula's brain is NOT a substitute for hiring a doula. But if for some reason you know that you don't want to hire a doula, try contacting a few anyway to learn more about your local options.

Without further adieu, here is a giant (but not exhaustive) list of resources, referrals, and information birth doulas can offer:

  • Care Providers
    • Obstetricians
    • Midwives
    • Hospitals
    • Birth centers
    • Pediatricians
    • Therapists
    • Pelvic floor physical therapists
    • Chiropractors
    • Acupuncturists
    • Nutritionists
    • Ayurvedic practitioners
    • Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners
    • Tips for communication with care providers
       
  • Pregnancy Support
  • Preparing for Birth
  • Labor Support
    • Early labor phone/text support
    • Massage
    • Counterpressure
    • Encouragement
    • Communication support with care providers
    • Encouragement to eat and hydrate
    • Ideas for new coping tools to try
    • Birth ball and peanut ball use
    • Ideas for labor positions
    • Setting the atmosphere
    • Humor
    • Answering questions
    • Deciding when to go to your birth location
    • Encouraging rest when needed
    • Creating a rhythm
    • Tricks for dealing with side effects
    • Understanding options for pain relief
    • Facilitating focus
    • Snapping a few photos
    • Distraction
    • Continuous care
    • Motivation
    • Understanding medical options
    • Encouragement to take your time
       
  • Postpartum Support
  • Feeding Baby
  • Family Bonding
  • Older Babies
    • Childcare options
    • Baby & me classes and activities
    • Starting solids
    • Weaning
    • Answering questions
    • Baby sign language classes
    • Potty training resources
    • Book recommendations
    • Playgroups
    • Preparing to go back to work
    • Sleep coaches
    • Helpful online resources

We hope you've taken note of a couple things to ask your birth doula about next time you talk to them!