In my five year career as a doula, on the beautiful Cape Breton Island, I have worked tirelessly to build positive working relationships with doctors, nursing staff and anyone else who may be present in the birth space.
In the years before I started, there were many misconceptions and misunderstandings between previous doulas and medical staff. I would be lying if I said it was easy to overcome those earlier experiences and show medical staff that I was there to support EVERYONE in the space.
Some of the ways that I contribute to a positive environment for clients and practitioners:
Facilitating communication. It is easy for medical professionals to forget that for the birthing person and family, it is often their first time! They may not know all of the medical terminology, what their rights are, and how to ensure that they are receiving all the information necessary to make informed decisions.
We help create a calm and loving atmosphere. With music, snacks, laughter, candlelight and a steady presence. The presence of a trained professional with whom the birthing family has built a relationship with, can have a dramatic impact on the perception of their birthing experience.
With every family, we work together prenatally to ensure that folks are educated, informed and as prepared as possible. We practice comfort measures, we address fears, we make postpartum plans. We discuss the stages and phases of labour and we discuss ways to cope with the intensity of labour. When we help our clients understand what to expect, we allow them to move their experience from the realm of unknown to known, which allows them to more easily activate their parasympathetic nervous system (Birth is Parasympathetic!)
We remove the burden of care from overburdened care providers. We fetch water, blankets, sheets. (In pre pandemic times!) We provide comfort measures. We help with position changes. This allows the medical staff to do what they do best: ensuring the physical safety of all involved and taking care of the administrative duties. We can also be available in our off times to bring education into the hospital! From non pharmaceutical pain relief options, positions for optimal fetal positioning, how to use a Peanut Ball or CUB stool, or to be advocates for birthing people and families.
We ensure continuity of care for the entire labouring/birth experience! We are on shift for as long as it takes and this allows us to ensure that even through shift changes, our clients are supported as they need.
We not only provide physical support in the moments of labour and delivery, we work to provide education to our communities, as advocates to improve standards of care and we focus on building long lasting relationships with the families we serve.
As a doula, I have been invited in to teach Lunch and Learn sessions at our local hospital, asked to teach local classes of future LPNs the benefit of professional support, current recommendations and standard practices from the WHO, and the impacts of midwifery care, interviewed by CBU students on the impacts of professional support and care on maternal mental health and more!
Many doulas are also focused on larger systemic issues of accessibility, inclusivity and reproductive rights and freedoms. We not only benefit the individual families but the whole community of people who are birthing babies!
I may be biased but I truly believe that we are working to elevate the experiences of all birthing people, slowly but surely.
I dream of a future where everyone has gender affirming, trauma informed, inclusive care that respects their autonomy, ensures they have access to all birthing options (home birth, midwifery care, family focused cesarean births, and all the support they desire.)