I was at a birth the other week for a woman who had determined she would want an epidural the instant she "began to feel discomfort." For reasons, she was induced and given epidural shortly after... and labored with my company for some time. At points, I was certainly needed. At points, this mom needed assurance, and help to move, and a paraphrase of what her doctors were telling her.
It was a long birth. The sort where the doula goes home and comes back, and gets to see the first nurse again when she returns for her next shift. A long birth where honestly- I didn't DO much.
After a long nap, there was a tangle in her hair, that I helped her comb out. I suggested her partner get some food before the breakfast buffet closed. I puttered around while she slept, and kept her water glass full. But in the grand scheme of it all you have to ask- what does the doula DO?
Later at the post partum appointment, we reviewed the circumstance of the delivery and filled in the gaps where time and information were lost in her mind. We talked about the snarl in her hair, and how I helped when the epidural wore off. We talked about what was going on during the pushing and how she felt after having a baby.
This mom had a great birth experience despite a myriad of challenges before her. When asked, "Would you recommend a doula to other mothers?" She gave an emphatic, "Yes!" But in the back of my mind I just had to ask myself, "Why? What did I DO?"
And then, looking at her in the light of her once spartan living room, now cluttered with baby blankets and bouncers I saw a woman who didn't feel like having a whole unknown new life was such a burden anymore Someone had been there through the transition to step in as needed- and i understood- FINALLY- "why."
I saw a documentary once about a sports team that was training for a big match. The young people on the team lived together, ate together, trained, and practiced together. They were so devoted to their task that they literally shared the burden of the challenge before them. On each training run they brought along a fifteen pound cinder block and took turns at carrying the burden for one another. They shared it so that no one person had to bear it alone.
And neither did my client. Despite no one being able to labor for her, despite having a challenging birth, despite much of her birth experience being spent unable to move, she did not have to carry the burden of birth alone. I was there for the parts that she needed a doula for, and she rested knowing that I was there through everything else.
Having a baby is a big, (sometimes scary) challenge, and no matter how much or how little you may need your doula to DO- know this:
She'll be ready when you call her for the parts you need. You won't have to do it alone.