I’ve never talked about my birth stories on this blog (and I’m not going to now) but they were both fairly stressful experiences. I did not have a doula and I have to be honest, I never actually knew what a doula was until I did this interview with Megan Howarth who is a Montreal-based doula. Speaking with her made me wonder if having a doula around would have changed things for me completely.
I think I’m probably like most people in thinking a doula is some pushy hippie lady who is going to tell me to squat and shove the baby out naturally. I am a very science based and medically focused woman and I just didn’t think a doula fit my mindset.
Megan seemed pretty cool so I decided not to hold anything back and asked some pretty challenging questions. She not only explained to me what a doula does (they don’t force you to squat and shove out a baby!) but she graciously answered all my clueless questions.
Read on for Megan’s interview and her surprising answers.
What do you picture when you hear the word doula? Do images of a longhaired, spiritual hippie types come to mind? Do you think of natural birth or of a woman birthing in a tub in her living room? Or is your mind just sort of blank as you think…do-what? What the hell is a doula?
Don’t worry – you’re not alone!
As a 30-something, modern, not very woo-woo type of person, I totally get where you’re coming from. I have actually showed up at the house of potential clients and had the husband say, after a few minutes of getting to know each other, “phew! I totally thought you were going to be an older, grey-haired, judgmental person who would make my wife want to give birth in our bathroom.” This has happened MULTIPLE times.
First off, let’s clear up what a doula actually does. It doesn’t matter what type of birth you’re having, whether it’s at the hospital or at home, or if you’re planning a natural birth or having an epidural the main role of your doula is emotional and physical support. You already have a medical professional following your pregnancy and attending your birth, so while that is being taken care of your doula takes care of the rest.
Here are some examples of the ways I support my clients during labour and birth:
Every birth is different, but my role remains the same – being a constant, non-judgmental support for the family during their labour and birth.
Here are some common myths and preconceptions:
MYTH: My birth has to be natural and drug-free in order to work with a doula.
REALITY: Not even one bit. In fact, doulas attend all sorts of births. Generally women we work with might be wanting to experience as much of their labour as possible without medication, but many others are planning epidurals, or even having scheduled c-sections. There is no rule about how you have to give birth. As long as you want a doula at your birth, we’ll be there. The rest is up to you to decide.
MYTH: A doula will want me to give birth in a certain way and will judge me if my choices don’t align with hers.
REALITY: This may sound crazy, but I don’t care how you choose to give birth! I care about how your choices make you feel. Does choosing a home birth make you feel safe and secure? Great! Does choosing an epidural make you feel confident and empowered? Awesome! Maybe not all doulas agree with this, but I certainly don’t need anyone to replicate my births- I want a woman to feel powerful enough to make choices that resonate with her and her values and even the way she feels that day, or the way her birth unfolds. At the end of the day, this is NOT about the doula, this is about YOU.
MYTH: My partner will feel useless at the birth because the doula will take over and we won’t have any time alone.
REALITY: I can really empathize and understand where this idea can come from. Especially for a partner who might already be feeling a little overwhelmed with the idea of supporting a birthing woman, adding an “expert” in the room can be even more intimidating. There’s the idea that having an extra person there will make things less intimate. In order to bust this myth we need to think about what birth is like. In the hospital setting, unfortunately, there isn’t much intimacy and privacy to be had. There are a rotation of nurses and doctors who will be coming in and out of the room to check on the progress and medical side of things. Having a doula there can actually help increase the level of intimacy because as doulas, we know how to create a comfortable and quiet birth environment- and we also know when a couple needs time and space to be alone (and we take the hint quickly and can help pass the message along to your nurse).
As for taking over, what happens instead is that a doula can guide the partner into the best way to support a woman. Giving them tools and tips to be the best birthing partner they can be. For most partners this will be their first time experiencing the birth process. Having a coach or guide there to help them along can actually make them feel MORE competent and involved.
MYTH: Doulas are only for women who want support at their birth.
REALITY: Let me introduce you to the idea of a postpartum doula. Often when people hear the word postpartum they immediately imagine someone who is dealing with depression after the birth of their baby and need someone to come and take care of their baby for them. The reality is that many women need some sort of help after giving birth, whether that’s because of a hard delivery, troubles with breastfeeding, having no family or support to lend a helping hand, or simply because they want someone around to make their life easier. Nobody said having a baby would be a piece of cake- why wouldn’t you want a professional to come by and help your family transition into life with your baby seamlessly so you can enjoy your baby more?
Trust me when I say, doulas are for everyone! We are normal, everyday people who enjoy supporting women during pregnancy, birth and as new mothers. Have a look around my website and you’ll see, I certainly won’t push you to birth in any way other than the way YOU want to.
Would you or did you use a doula? Anything we missed? Feel free to put it in the comments or contact Megan directly.
Thank-you Megan for answering all my questions!