When you search online a lot of definitions come up, but they all boil down to this: a doula is a person who is trained to assist a woman and her partner during childbirth and to support the family after the baby is born.
Great, but what does that really mean?
There are two types of doulas: birth doulas and postpartum doulas. Let’s talk about them.
Birth doulas are trained and sometimes certified. All National Capital Doulas have undergone training with DONA and other certifying bodies and have learned a lot about the natural processes of pregnancy and birth. We know the normal course of labour and the interventions often offered in the hospitals.
On top of our training, we are all certified, which means we have met the requirements set out by our certifying body. Each certifying body is different, but requirements can include in-person workshops, readings, research and essays, experience, recommendations, and evaluations. We also all have extensive experience supporting women during labour.
We offer a reassuring word, a helpful technique, a cool cloth. We notice when a woman has found her rhythm or is holding her breath. We show her partner how to squeeze her hips or where to apply pressure. We grab ice or juice or small snacks to keep everyone hydrated. We joke when the mood calls for it.
We bear witness to the great work a woman is doing and we celebrate when her baby is born. We stay by her side until she’s ready to spend some time getting to know her baby just her and her partner.
We check in and make sure the transition to motherhood is going well. We offer suggestions to help the new family get more sleep, ideas for entertaining a toddler, or show how to soothe a new baby.
In short: we do everything we can to make her experience a positive one. Typically we have one visit after the birth and our job is done.
But life is just beginning and the questions keep coming. A lot of families are choosing to hire a postpartum doula for those early days, weeks and months. What does a postpartum doula do?
Postpartum doulas support the family after baby is born. This support can be anything from lending an ear to a woman who needs to tell her baby’s birth story to holding the baby so mom can shower or nap. We wash bottles and baby clothes, sweep the floors and make snacks.
But more than that, a National Capital Postpartum Doula is there for that new family. This unconditional support is invaluable in those confusing and exhausting early days.
A National Capital Doula is a real person who has been trained in all aspects of childbirth and postpartum, who is comfortable around birth and babies. We support you in every aspect, no matter what you choose. This includes your choice of care provider and birthing location, comfort measures and pain management options, birth at home with a midwife to a planned cesarean section in a hospital, and everything in between, bottle feeding and breastfeeding.
That depends entirely on you! For birth, some women like a lot of touch and encouraging words while other women need a strong presence to coach them through contractions. It’s our job to read the situation and determine what level and what kind of support you need. And sometimes what you think you may like in labour (touch is a comfort, you love the feeling of being immersed in the warm water of a bath) you may HATE during labour (don’t touch me! I feel like a wet cat!). We go with the flow, encouraging you to find your rhythm. We encourage your partner to do what they are comfortable doing while modeling techniques and words that may be helpful.
We are very in tune with our clients because you are our only focus during labour. We will hold your hand, we will encourage you, we will help you navigate your options, we will cry with you, we will wipe your forehead with a cool cloth. We will do everything in our power to be there for you and your partner during this transformational time.
We do not take things personally and we do not bring our opinions and biases into your birthing space. Every decision you make is right for you and we support you 100%.
For postpartum, we work with you to figure out what help you need. We can offer suggestions and have a checklist we give our clients, but we know that things change quickly and what you want one day might be completely different from what you want the next. One shift we may spend the entire time going over the birth experience and another we may have a baby strapped to our chest while we prepare food and do laundry while mom sleeps. It’s up to you.