Being pregnant ensures an artful combination of excitement and anxiety...submission and empowerment...and every hormonally generated emotion in between. Sure, your man can get you donuts and tuna at 1am, your mom will have lots of been-there-done-that advice, and your BFF will help you doll up the nursery.
But who can you turn to when you are feeling like a woman you no longer know, and no one seems to know what to say to make you feel better? When everyone is caught up in the birth experience at the hospital and you are in some other contraction-filled world, who will keep a level head and speak for you according to your birth plan? It's not fair to expect all of these things from any one member of your inner-circle. But you can expect all of this and more from a birth doula.
Ladies Lotto's Modern Mamahood (LL MM) chatted with two dedicated doulas...or is it douli? Dawn Batson of Austin, TX and Jenna Anderson of Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA fill us in on douladom.
LL MM: Dawn, why are doulas so key to the entire birth and motherhood experience?
Dawn: I really believe that women who have a positive birth experience and feel supported through out their pregnancy and birth have an easier time bonding with their baby and with parenting in general. There is reason to believe that this initial bond will go on to shape the rest of the parent-child relationship, which goes on to influence all of the child's relationships to follow and therefore the child's future. It's like a domino effect. A well supported mother eventually equals a better world!
LL MM: Jenna, what were you doing career-wise before you became a mom yourself and how did this change?
Jenna: Before Baby 1, I was full-time in a director role at a local church. After Baby 1 was born, I cut back to 30 hours per week (part from home and part in the office). After Baby 2, I now work about 10 hours per week, totally from home in an admin support role.
LL MM: And why is the additional role of being a doula a great fit for you as a mama, Jenna? Good balance? Good stimulation? Flexibility?
Jenna: It's a great fit for a variety of reasons. Because I LOVE learning and growing, I've read "all things birth"- be it books, articles, birth stories, and talking with other women about their birth experiences and with people within the birth field - OB's, midwifes, doulas, L & D nurses, childbirth instructors, etc. As a wife and mom, the flexibility of doula work is appreciated. I can say yes or no to a potential client depending on if I feel like it's going to work with my family's calendar and needs. I also find that given the life stage that I am in, I am around a lot of women who are either pregnant or will be at some point, so it's a great conversation-starter. I will say though, that working as a doula with small children can be challenging in that I can't plan for exactly when a birth will take place or when a client will need me. There's always the chance that I'll have to rely on a back-up doula if I'm not able to find coverage for my children.
LL MM: Dawn, give us a mini-history of the role of a doula?
Dawn: Originally doulas were just the sisters and mothers and aunts and neighbors of the woman in labor, it's just that in those days women had such an understanding of birth and of their bodies. We gave that up somewhere along the way, sadly, and now we deliver in hospitals with OB's some of us have barely conversed with prior. We have doctors or nurses coming into the room and telling us our births aren't working for them so they're going to give us Pitocin, or what have you. They often don't ask, they tell! And we forget it's our decision. We have to take control of our birth experiences.
HOW TO HIRE A DOULA:
Word of mouth is a great way to find one. I personally worked with Dawn "Doula Dawn" Batson, and if she can fly to Atlanta, I'll hire her again one day. I actually found her on Craigslist, and worked with her while she was still earning her certification; she needed the practice and I was on a fierce budget. Otherwise you will find a list of DONA Certified Doulas, searchable by area on www.dona.org. The cost of a doula ranges by area and experience, but you can expect to pay between $500-2,000 for prenatal, birth and post-natal services.
HOW TO BECOME A DOULA:
You don't need to be certified to become a doula, but many women are and it will only broaden your experience, knowledge and credibility. More information can be found at: www.dona.org