Why I hired doulas

Meeting Penny Simkin at the DONA International 2016 Conference!

Meeting Penny Simkin at the DONA International 2016 Conference!

My own journey to becoming a birth doula included two doulas at our first child's birth. The 2006 Listening to Mothers II Survey found that just 3% of women had a doula present, so our hiring of a birth doula in 2008 was a rare decision at the time [Declercq ER, Sakala C, Corry MP, Applebaum S. (2007). “Listening to mothers II: Report of the second national U.S. survey of women’s childbearing experiences.” The Journal of Perinatal Education 16:9-14.)]

When we found out we were going to have a baby, my sister-in-law mailed me her copy of The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin, widely considered the mother of the modern birth doula movement. In her book, aimed at helping birth partners support their birthing loved one better, Penny describes the role of the doula and the doula's contributions to improved maternal and fetal outcomes. In all of my reading about childbirth and preparing for natural birth over the next several weeks, I kept finding the term doula everywhere. I was convinced. During my second trimester of pregnancy, I asked my midwife where I could find a good doula.

My midwife referred me to several doulas, including the woman we would choose to be our childbirth educator and eventually our primary doula. Through the course of her childbirth class, my husband and I determined that what I would need to relax and cope well with labor was my husband. I needed him to remind and encourage me to stay calm and relax through the contractions, and that meant I needed someone to take care of him so I wouldn't be worried about him. We ultimately hired our doula Marsha, and agreed that she would bring her new trainee doula, Becky, as additional support and to give her on-the-job training. This way, we were able to have both of the doulas we were trying to decide between, so we were very happy with this arrangement!

As it turned out, I had back labor, and the doulas that I had wanted in order to offer my husband support were absolutely crucial to me as well! My doulas helped me with positioning and movement to help my baby come down, and they provided the counter-pressure on my aching low back that I could not do without. They also took care of my husband, made sure he was drinking enough fluids, that he ate lunch, and he was doing well. Our doulas made what could have been a painful and negative birth into what is still today one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. They supported me and helped me pursue my goals for my birth. They made my husband feel important in the process. Their knowledge, experience, and training in birth support took the pressure off of my husband to "perform" with his childbirth knowledge in the moment, freeing him to just be with me and love me, and help me stay calm and relaxed.

For my first baby, I wanted a doula to help my husband support me better. Our doulas did just that, and so much more.