In over 7 years as a birth photographer, I have been privileged to capture over 75 births and many of the families I've worked with have also hired a doula to help them manage labor, delivery & postpartum. If you had asked me 10 years ago what a doula is, I would have had virtually no idea. But through this work, I have come to know some of the strongest, most compassionate, knowledgeable women in the Hampton Roads area. Here is my take on what a doula does:
They watch a laboring woman carefully. They have seen labor. They have seen the dance, the sway, the instinctive movements of a laboring mom. They have heard the sighs, the groans, the grunts. They have seen the power and the grit. They know what to watch for and what it means, oftentimes before the laboring woman, her partner or even her care provider! They focus all of their energy on watching a laboring mom and giving care in ways each individual woman needs.
They guide women through the labyrinth of labor. Birth is unpredictable and ever-changing. One of the things I love the most about capturing birth stories is that each journey is unique and powerful. And doulas help parents navigate the uncertain waters. They provide a shoulder to lean on, a helpful presence, answers to questions, and a calming nature essential to protect the birth space.
Doulas walk alongside their clients.
Doulas walk along side their clients in times of struggle...they walk in times of triumph...they walk in times of heartache...they walk in times of joy. They are called to walk no matter the journey.
Doulas do not replace partners. They support partners.
I have seen the most loving and incredible couples work through labor as a team, totally in sync. Doulas do not disrupt that relationship. Instead, they work alongside it, helping partners to anticipate a laboring mother's needs, suggesting alternative coping techniques when needed and strengthening the support system that is already present. Alternatively, when a spouse is deployed, a doula can be a vital part of a birth plan and help to stand in when needed for family and spouses who are not able to be at the birth.
Doulas comfort in times of struggle
Doulas are a great source of comfort in those moments when a laboring mom doubts herself or doubts the process. They draw on their wealth of knowledge about birth and their experience guiding women through. They use soothing words, a healing touch, an encouraging look. When plans go awry or the unexpected happens, a doula is there to comfort.
Doulas hold legs, hips, and more
When needed, doulas physically assist laboring moms in a variety of ways. They spend hours hunched over applying counter pressure, they walk up and down the same hall week after week, they hold a hand, apply a cool cloth, or fetch ice chips for the thousandth time. They hold a leg and encourage as a mom pushes for much longer than anyone thought was possible. Doulas stay awake all night but never look tired, never letting on that they are exhausted. They seem superhuman at times and always put their clients needs above their own.
Doulas assist with that precious, (sometimes awkward) first breastfeeding
A first time mom often needs just a little help with that first latch. And doulas are perfect for assisting! Nurses often help, too, but a doula can help not only at the hospital but also in the first few days or weeks at home!
Doulas celebrate with you
They stood beside you and walked with you on that great adventure called labor....and when you finally get to meet the new baby you worked so hard for, there is no one who celebrates with you as much as your doula! I've seen the tears in their eyes and the giant grins on their faces time after time after time. They feel the joy as if it were their own because each client is forever a part of their history.