Times are tough. Is a doula really necessary?

I believe in women. I believe in our ability to birth our babies, in the wisdom of our bodies, and that we are inherently capable. However, I also believe that the way we live, the way we move and the way we understand birth through a very clinical, risk averse, medical lens systematically undermines our trust and the process itself. Birth does not exist in a vacuum, and we must consider the context.

Let us start with the context of movement. Most of us spend very little time moving. We lead sedentary lives, even those of us who are fit and active still ‘outsource’ much of the movement that the human body was designed to do – example – we drive our cars most places, especially here in Calgary. Many of the ‘pregnancy related’ aches and pains are not a result of dysfunction in our bodies, in fact, it is actually our bodies compensating for inefficient bio-mechanics and trying to make up for the fact that there are muscular weaknesses and tensions due to repetitive and limited movements. I think of my head coming forward as I type this passage, and how that creates an unnatural load in my spine contributing to tension in my upper back and shoulders. Historically we hunted, and gathered and covered large amounts of terrain daily. We didn’t sit in furniture. We squatted for a number of different reasons. We probably didn’t spend much time looking down at tiny screens. Whether you struggle with pain in your back, a separation of the abdominal muscles (diastasis recti) or pain at the front of the pelvis (symphysis pubis disorder), it all tells us the same thing; there are likely some pelvic imbalances created over a long period of time because of many of our bio-mechanically unsound habits. So great, you say. Now what? Obviously it would be difficult to re-program years of desk sitting, car driving, pelvis tucking, tummy sucking in, high heel wearing patterns in ten months. That’s where an experienced and knowledgeable doula can help. Because of these patterns in our bodies we often attend births where baby’s position contributes to a much longer and more painful journey. How can we help?

  1. We can help to prevent malposition in the first place with targeted exercises that will help to balance muscular weaknesses and pelvic ligaments. Here are some excellent resources:
    1. Daily Activities

      We send this link as well as our own prescription to all of our clients.

    2. Pregnancy

      I spoke about this blog in my class today. Theis is an excellent resource. I also highly recommend her books.

  2. We are very good at turning babies in labour. It is part training, part experience, and part intuition and part voodoo witchcraft. An experienced doula has many tools at her disposal and it can make all the difference between a long and bumpy road, and posssibly a surgical birth, and a smooth uncomplicated labour.

Now let’s consider the context of birth. I’ve met many women who are terrified to give birth. The way birth is portrayed in the media is ACTUALLY terrifying. I cringe when I watch birth scenes in most shows (with the notable exception of Call the Midwife). And then, we go to the doctor and are monitored and thoroughly checked to make sure that nothing is medically wrong. We actually look for all the things that can possibly go wrong. We talk about ‘risks’ and ‘pain relief’ and the futility of planning. We share our trauma and our horror stories, maybe hoping to prevent it for another, or perhaps simply as a cathartic exercise. The underlying assumption is that birth is scary, dangerous, painful, and an accident waiting to happen. Regardless of your personal position on this subject, these collective assumptions have an effect. And if you yourself, have experienced the trauma of a birth that didn’t go as planned, the effect is even more salient. So, how then, can an experienced and competent doula help?

  1. We help to shift the framework, and question the underlying assumptions. We believe in you. We believe in your baby, We believe that you are capable and wise, we believe you are meant to birth. We believe birth is sacred and seek to celebrate and preserve the sanctity of the event. Whereas the medical model seeks to understand pathology and how things go awry, we operate from the assumption that you are already whole and that you have everything that you need to birth this baby. That said, experienced doulas can also recognize when medical intervention is necessary and helpful.
  2. We are there for you from the moment you hire us. We encourage our clients to email, text and phone because we know that it creates trust. We don’t profess to know everything, but draw wisdom from years of teaching pre and postnatal yoga, and having supported many births from start to finish. We have a vast network and every woman, every family teaches us. That knowledge benefits all of our clients. And is often more helpful than what you would get from Google.
  3. We can help you to feel safe. We can create a bubble around you, and your partner so that you are able to stay in the ‘oxytoxic’ state of mind (which is the altered state of a woman in labour). We anticipate your needs, physical and emotional and we cater to those needs without question. (Questions take you out of the ‘oxytoxic’ state).  We create a physical environment that helps to sustain the altered state of labour, and an emotional environment that supports you no matter what you choose.
  4. We take the weight of responsibility of ‘knowing’ off your partner. It’s huge responsibility; what does labour look like? when do we go in to the hospital? how can I help her to stay present in her body, with challenging sensation?  How can I help her to invite in MORE intense sensation?? Unless your partner is a bit of a sadist, I’m pretty sure he/she has never asked that last question….but it’s important. We free him/her up to love and support you in exactly the way he/she knows how, without having to be the expert.

So, are doulas necessary? Given the context in which we birth, I believe we are. I believe that every woman and family deserves a knowledgeable guide who believes in birth, and can help to shift the focus from what can possibly go wrong, to what IS going right. I believe that birth is a celebration, and should be something we look forward to with excited anticipation rather than anxiety and fear. Let me help you elevate the conversation.

I am currently accepting clients with due dates after March 20, 2017. My email is ombabycalgary@gmail.com. My FB is here: https://www.facebook.com/meagan.synnott and my phone number is 403-863-1539.