What is this strange creature I keep finding on my newsfeed? All the pregnant crunchy, vegan, pregnant hippies are talking about them and they say I should get one too.
That, dear lady, is a doula. Doo-lah. It's a Greek word that means "a woman who serves". More accurately, a doula is an amazing-selfless-staywithyouallnight-pregnantladyhelper/warrior.
You can insert "crunchy" in there too but not all of them are. Many of them are just like you. Hemp clothing and letting the twins swing free is not an inherent doula requirement. You ask, "So what do they do? I'll have my partner with me. I don't need one more person seeing my lady, thank you very much." Well, here's what's up. She is basically on call for you for an entire month around your due date. This means she will always be in town and even miss the Garth Brooks concert she was planning on going to for an entire year so that she can be with you when you push that beautiful squishy pink thing into the world.
She will also be completely sober for that month. All for you. Even though that Cabernet on the counter is calling her name oh so sweetly after a crazy jungle-gym-mom of a day with those three little peeing/boogery tornados that share the house with her left the home in beautifully "creative" shambles today. Her phone is on it's loudest setting. Always. She'll pick up during dinner. She'll pick up in the tub. She'll pick up at 2 am because you think your water just broke (even though you really just peed yourself...it's okay, it happens!) and happily talk you through it while wiping the sleep from her eyes, taming her wild mane, and smelling her armpits to see if she needs to take a sponge bath before driving to your house if you happen to be in labor. And she's happy about it too.
She knows things!
Did you know that being "head down" is not enough for baby to be in the right position? How about that you have a choice when it comes to cord clamping, baby baths, and episiotomies? Doulas aren't just fancy birth coaches who show up right before you have a baby. They spend hours and hours with you before birth day comes. They make sure you're prepared even if you aren't taking child birth classes. You and your partner will learn things you never knew about that swimming bundle in your belly, your kick-a...awesome vagina, and how contractions actually work. She'll also prepare you for all the prodding your wonderful OB is going to be doing to your lady parts and remind you that NOBODY touches your hooha without your say. Ever hear of GBS? Well she'll talk to you about that one and explain how it's done to take the surprise out of that q-tip your doc will whip out and swab your vagina and bum hole with. The more you know.
There's no such thing as "TMI".
She knows what it's like because she's had babies of her own and has seen so many women go through this before you. She knows what's normal and she knows what's not. And NOTHING grosses her out. Did you hear me? Nothing. So when you send your doula a picture of your underwear filled with the biggest, globbiest, would-fit-in-the-entire-palm-of-your-hand booger thing you've ever seen, she won't gag. She literally smiles and does a little happy dance while explaining to you that it was your mucous plug that just came out and yes, it's completely normal.
She loves girl talk.
She'll talk to you about anything that worries you, no matter how small. She's already had these conversations.
"Do I...do I need to shave or is that weird?"
"What if I poop in labor?! I can't. I just can't if I poop. I'll die."
"How do I poop after having the baby?! I CAN'T. It's impossible. I'll die."
"He wants to watch but I don't want him to see it. He's not allowed to look. Is that okay?"
"Am I going to be normal again? I don't want to have the constant 'oops I sneezed and peed' or 'it's like a hot dog being thrown down a hallway' scenarios."
She likes this stuff. No, she doesn't think you're weird. No, no hot dogs in hallways.
She is the guardian of your birth space.
Birth plans, birth plans. They're all different and she memorizes them all. And she enforces them like those small town police men who enforce the 25 mph speed limit. Just kidding. She's even better. She is the warrior guardian of your perineum and will do kung-fu with the doctor if necessary to to keep your lady bits intact. Because no episiotomy was ON YOUR BIRTH PLAN. She'll guard that placenta like a hawk and make sure it makes it to your ice-chest and not the trash can. She'll barricade the doors so that anesthesiology will have to call maintenance to take the door off the hinges to get to you. She guards your space to the best of her ability so that you feel safe and can birth your baby in peace. And she has no qualms about telling your mother-in-law that you don't want her in the room. (Always with grace, of course.)
Doula. Not husband.
She is your helper, not your husband. She does not want that job. What she does is everything else so that he can focus on being a husband, not a nurse, not the birth plan police, and not the labor position expert. He can focus on supporting you and loving you without worry. The doula assist him in helping you as much as he feels comfortable and gives him the tools he needs. How to do hip squeezes, how to massage you (or not), and reassurance that everything is going the way it should. Maybe she can even give him a chance to nap if you are feeling merciful.
She will never leave your side. Ever.
When she finally gets that call that you want her there with you, she will drop everything, hand over child care so she has nothing to worry about, and finally, finally put her phone on silent. Because girl, this is now all about you. Beautiful strong you who is doing the most womanly thing ever. And no matter how long it takes, she will stay with you. Hours. Days. And she won't leave right when baby arrives either. She will stay as long as it takes for your new family to feel safe. She will help your gorgeous new mini-you eat her awesome boob-food correctly without hurting you. And then she'll be back the next day and during the first week to check up on you (and steal some baby-holding time) while she listens to your take on your birth story, good or bad. She will never say "at least you have a healthy baby" if you had a less than ideal experience. She will listen. She will probably cry with you because you both have a strong bond now. She sympathizes and understands that it sucks that things did not go your way. She knows that how you feel about your experience is important. Aside from your partner, she may understand better than anyone else. She was there and she fought for you. Now cry it out, mama, while she holds you, cries with you, and reassures you that your are the best mother for this baby and that you are a birthing queen. She'll mean it all too.
Doulas are, dare I say, amazing, little known, irreplaceable, birth helper warriors who absolutely love the women they serve. They would do anything to help you. They stay up for days at a time with you while you labor. They are as rare as a baby born in the caul and selfless enough to leave their own families to help you grow yours. They don't want you to be alone. So go find yourself a doula. I know some wonderful women who live to doula you.
Certified Birth Doula