Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Ask any mom about her childbirth and she will have "snapshot" memories of moments during the process.  I know for my own first birth - I can remember being pushed past the waiting area on their way to get me to the delivery room and I saw a few of my dearest friends who had waited all night to support me in the birth of my first precious boy.  I also have no memory of my husband telling me they were opening a donut shop in the town soon - he said he told me this to encourage me during labor as he knew I loved donuts.  Such selective snapshot memories....

Birth is that way - our own endorphins drug us down to forget so much of it.  Unfortunately,  many moms' memories are of small traumatic, unsupported, unheard moments.  So her overall memory of the birth can be a negative one.   That story - told over and over again to expectant moms - can produce such an atmosphere of fear.

I actually started to pursue doula support decades ago to help correct this "memory".  I have seen the benefit of labor support in producing great "snapshot moments" of a birth for a laboring family.  Adding a few well chosen photographic moments can only enhance that memory.  Since we live with our birth stories in our memory, my hope is that having a doula will reframe your experience into a memory you will look forward to telling over and over again - with a smile on your face! Here's to good memories!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dad's Role When a Doula Is Present

I think many dads are very unfamiliar with the role of a doula in their upcoming births.  So they may be apprehensive as to how everything will work - how will they be a coach when a professional one has been brought into the room?

I would like to stress that the dad is irreplaceable!  I approach a birth assuming the dad is the coach - and want to strengthen that bond of support with his laboring partner.  A doula is trying to figure out how to help the room feel comfortable and relaxed, while not being an imposing presence to disturb the partners.

I know there are times in a birth where I sit in a corner trying to be obscure  or leave the room so that the two laboring people can spend some quiet time together - or I'm running to get the dad coffee or food or update family so that they have some privacy.

I also know little techniques that can help a mom feel more comfortable in the process and like to show these to the dad so that he can now be an even stronger support person.   His presence is so important to the laboring mom - so it is his hand she wants to hold, his touch she wants to feel. A doula  adds to the support from a female communication point - woman-to-woman speech is very different than man-to-woman so hearing a person who has not only labored but seen it hundreds of times can help a laboring mom feel listened to or comforted.  But it never replaces the presence or support of the dad. I have seen hundreds of dads work through labor - and have always felt they did an amazing job.  They are essential to the room. I realize that is not true of a doula to every birth.  But ask a couple what their experience was with doula support - and you will usually get an enthusiastic birth story from both partners.

So basically - what is the dad's role when a doula is present - it did not change - it is to be the support person - the one the laboring mom leans on during this intense process, if that is the couple's desire.  A doula's role is to support the laboring unit - not to replace anyone.  I hope more dads will feel comfortable adding a doula to THEIR birth team and in the end feel both of their birth experiences were enhanced by her presence.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Time & Unforeseen Occurrences

Planning an unmedicated birth today seems almost impossible.  Most friends, family members, co-workers  will share that an epidural is the only way to give birth.  Having attended births for almost 25 years now, I will say that for some moms, an epidural birth is a perfect birth for them.

Recently I've attended a few first births that have definitely been "marathons", not "sprints" lasting over 30 hours.  What have I witnessed?  I think a longer labor really strengthens a couples' sense of endurance and capabilities more than the quicker ones.   Their determination to continue to change positions, move forward through the wee hours of the night is a privilege to witness.  I've seen dads crash for a 20 minute power nap and then continue on for hours giving support.  I've seen the laboring moms doze off in a certain position only to then continue on for hours of walking, lunging, showers, etc.  Of course, having an additional support person has helped them both to continue through those hours of work.  But this lesson of strength helps these families when they bring their newborn home and are dealing with many sleep deprived days...they have experience to look back on and know they can handle the demands of a newborn. In some cases, those families have re-evaluated their goals after many hours and decided to change their plans.  Those families are still amazing because they worked well beyond what they thought their limits were, and in the end were comfortable with choices made.

The one predictable thing about labor - is that it is totally unpredictable.  Two factors that are helpful to having an unmedicated birth are:  no major medical issues develop and baby cooperates in achieving a great birthing position.   Develop goals for your birth, hopefully add a professional support person (doula) to the team, and then enjoy the journey.  Whether you end your labor medicated, surgically or unmedicated, holding your newborn will still make the journey worth the effort!