Special Feature: Reasons to Hire a Doula
Updated: Feb 28
I love doulas for labor and postpartum. I firmly believe in the notion that raising children takes a village, and that we are simply not meant to do it alone. Our society sucks at supporting this. Doulas have been working to change this.
I asked my dear friend and fellow family supporter, Marnellie Bishop from Hanau Doula, to write about some reasons why parents may want to consider hiring a doula for these tender times in their lives. I'm excited to share her lovely words with you.
Where’s the Doula?
Doors open, and a sweet baby is rolled into the room. Moments later the doors open again and I hear, “Where’s Marnellie?! Get me to her!” I quickly jump to my feet and am by my client’s side.
Client: “Marnellie… talk me through what’s going on?”
Me: “You’re safely in your room. Baby is bundled up and at the warmer. Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable?” The client’s body was involuntarily shaking, a common side-effect of high adrenaline, coupled with the effects of the anesthesia wearing off after cesarean birth.
Client: “Can you sing or tell me a story? Something to help me focus my thoughts.”
My mind defaulted to “The Gruffalo” by Julia Donaldson, a children’s book and recent favorite to my own children. In a calm, slow voice I begin to say, “A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood.”
It is moments like this that create a deeply rooted memory in my doula brain. In these moments I am doing exactly what I feel is the best way to support my client. That is what you can expect from your doula - to do their best to help you feel supported and heard. You might know someone who used a doula for their birth.
A doula is a non-medical professional trained to support, inform and empower expectant families in birth and through the first weeks, and sometimes months, after baby arrives. A doula is like your personal predictive search bar to all things pregnancy, birth and baby related. Here are a few searchable key phrases to help you determine why a doula would be helpful during pregnancy, birth and into parenthood.
What do doulas do?
During the course of your pregnancy, your doula will provide informational and emotional support. Doulas have done a lot of the footwork for you. Doulas have data, research, and experience to help you sift through the minutiae and get down to the information that matters to you regarding your choices in pregnancy, birth and into the postpartum period. Doulas are well connected in their communities and often have a list of perinatal professionals that they know and trust. If you need a massage, a doula has a few massage therapists with specific training in prenatal massage to help you. Need a lactation consultant? Your doula can recommend an experienced IBCLC like Adrienne with Wy’east Lactation Support.
Your doula is accessible via phone, email or text message to answer questions and offer emotional support when you need it. Imagine how you would feel when you receive unexpected news? A doula is a phone call away to provide a listening ear, helpful information to process and discuss your options and what to do next.
What is a birth plan?
A birth plan can be defined as a specific set of values or preferences that you have for your upcoming birth - but a birth plan is so much more than that. It is the start of how you and your partner are putting together the details of your parenting journey. You and your partner each bring a unique background story to birth and have different views and opinions. Putting together a birth plan unpacks those individual views and creates something you both have collectively and thoughtfully agree on. Your doula is your search filter through this process. What if you, the birthing individual, want an epidural but your partner thinks a non-medicated birth is better? A doula will ask you both, “Why?” What about a non-medicated birth is important? What about an epidural is important? A doula helps you take both those values, presents evidence-based resources and information to help guide you into making educated and confident choices for your birth journey.
How to have an easy labor?
Labor is unpredictable. There is no secret recipe to an easy labor but there are effective tools and information to prepare, empower, and give you confidence. During labor, a doula will provide comfort and physical support for both you and your partner. In the weeks leading up to the birth of your baby, your doula will sit down with you and show you some helpful positions for labor to make each stage more comfortable. A doula will support your partner to coach and guide you into those positions. A favorite comfort technique in labor for many of my clients is the double hip squeeze. The double hip squeeze can be so helpful in providing counter pressure and support on the pelvis, opening the pelvis and encouraging baby downward. Partners and doulas can take turns performing the double hip squeeze and provide instant comfort.
A doula can be a calming presence in the room - a physical reminder that you are safe and you are doing just what your body is designed to do. When parts of your labor become overwhelming, your doula will hold space, will listen, offer reassuring words and guidance. A doula will not make decisions for you but rather talk with you about your options so that you and your partner can make a confident decision. Once a decision is made, your doula will support you 100%!
There are even moments when your provider might become overwhelmed and your doula can offer a helping hand. For example, your doula can help you re-position in your bed, help you use the restroom, help inform you of your options. A doula can also be a reassuring presence to the rest of your birth team. Your nurses, midwife, and/or doctor know that someone is there to support your emotional and physical needs so that they can focus on the clinical aspects of your care.
Baby is here... what now?
Congratulations you did it! Baby is here… now what? In addition to knowledge and information regarding pregnancy and birth, a doula has knowledge regarding the postpartum period. Your body will go through several ebbs and flows emotionally, mentally, and physically. A doula can provide similar support to your partner as the transition into parenthood is very real for them too. Regardless of where you birth your baby, there is someone there to help, be it your nurse or your doula. When you’re home - just you, your partner and your baby - who is there to help? Who can offer a reassuring voice to say,
“You’re doing an awesome job.”
“Wow that latch looks great! How does it feel?”
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Do you need a few minutes to yourself? I’d be happy to watch the baby while you grab a shower.”
A doula will do and say these reassuring words and ask these questions. A doula will also sit with you and hear your story, your struggles, your joys - without judgment. A doula’s job is to nurture you and your family so that when you look back at this time of your life, you are filled with positivity and confidence.
Marnellie Bishop, of Hānau Doula, is a certified birth and postpartum doula. Volunteering at Northwest Mothers Milk Bank and Portland Area Babywearing provide Marnellie the opportunity to stay connected with her local community. Marnellie's goal is to empower clients to seek out what is important to them and support them in whatever challenges they face as they enter into parenthood. Continuous learning and review of the latest data and research regarding pregnancy, birth and newborn care, equip Marnellie to provide up-to-date information to her clients. Using her network of providers and other perinatal professionals, Marnellie will do her best to ensure that her clients receive the highest level of care and support. Marnellie believes in a birthing individual’s strength, ability and resiliency to achieve desired goals.
As an Evidence Based Birth® Instructor, Marnellie’s goal is to equip families with useful tools to effectively and respectfully communicate with providers, receive evidence-based information and support a growing family’s choices as they navigate through pregnancy, birth and beyond.