Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Your Husband is not a Doula


doula
(doo-la)
noun
a woman who is trained to provide support to women and their families during pregnancy, childbirth, and the period of time following the birth.  

Apparently, last week was World Doula Week.  I didn't even know there was such a thing, or even hear about it until late Sunday night, which I find troubling.  I mean, here I am, a child of Berkeley in the late 1970's, a propenent of eating bark and drinking aloe vera juice, a veteran of two unmedicated natural childbirths (Doula assisted, of course) and I didn't know it was World Doula Week?

What. The. F*ck?

If a hippie like me isn't aware that this exists, then we've got a problem.  Look, I run with a pretty crunchy crowd and not once, not one time, did anyone mention this World Doula Week thing.  If my Sisters in Quinoa don't know about it, how can we expect normal women not living in hippie places like LA or SF or Berkeley to understand the benefits of having a Doula?  After all, not everyone has seen the Business of Being Born, and Ina May Gaskin's Spiritual Midwifery isn't exactly mainstream reading material.

So, you want to know why you should hire a Doula?  Because that labor shit is no joke.  And for millions of years, since the beginning of time, women have supported other women in childbirth, so whether or not you want to go the natural or epidural route, there is a Doula who will support you.

Why You Need a Doula:

1. Your husband is not a trained birth coach.  I know your husband thinks that just because he's an armchair coach for the New York Knicks that he is also qualified to coach a baby out of your vag.  First of all, the Knicks have had a pretty shitty decade, and second of all, he doesn't even have a vag.  In fact, if he's one of my ex-boyfriends, I'm not even sure he could spot a vagina in a line-up, so no, he's not qualified to be your birth coach.

2. Doulas are all about you and your needs.  This will most likely be the last time in approximately 18 years or so that anyone will be completely focused on your needs.  Once you push a baby out of your lady parts, life revolves around that little creature and no one will be worried about whether you ate or showered or slept.  Enjoy having someone who is only there to make your birthing journey easier and more pleasant.  If you want water or popsicles or whatever, your Doula will make that happen.  Your husband, on the other hand, will probably go off to find you pospsicles and then end up returning with only a fresh cup of coffee for himself

3. You're nervous about giving birth.  Every woman is nervous about giving birth, and anyone who says she isn't is either lying or heavily medicated.  Especially the first time, it's very nerve racking.  An experienced Doula has seen it all before and knows how to keep you from going insane.  She says the right things, she comes with aromatic oils and soundtracks and massage techniques to keep you from totally losing your shit.  Your baby daddy, on the other hand, might be even more nervous than you are and does not come equipped with any coping mechanisms other than liquid courage in a hip flask.

4. Doulas advocate for Mommy and Baby.  Assuming that you've chosen a Doula who is experienced and who you trust, she will be by your side to help you decide what is best for you and for baby when unexpected things happen.  It's tough to make good decisions when you're in the throes of labor and are vacillating between extreme nausea and homicidal rages towards your partner.  Got a hotshot Doctor who is pushing you to have a c-section because he's late for Happy Hour?  A great Doula can help you and your partner decide what to do.  For my second birth I agreed to let my Doctor break my water after discussing it with my Doula (as much as you're really "discussing" anything when you're in labor.  It was more "tell me what to do - ow oh my god this hurts help me!!!")  It's important to note here that if you're giving birth in a hospital, do not choose a Doula who hates Doctors and only believes in home birth in a tub under the orange tree in your yard.  Your Doula and your Doctor must be able to work in tandem, otherwise your birth will devolve into chaos.  It's not exactly relaxing if your Doula threatens to harm your OB with a smudge stick and he has to call hospital security on her.  Yes, it happens.

5. A Doula is worth every penny.  I have never regretted the money we spent on Doula services.  On paper, it seems incredibly expensive ($1100-$1500 on average), and I can tell you that it was a big stretch for us both times, but you know what costs more than a Doula?  Years of therapy bills working through a traumatic birth experience.  Plus when you break down what you're getting from your Doula, it's a pretty amazing deal.  In the case of Khefri Riley, who I used for both of my births, I received two in-depth meetings before I gave birth, unlimited phone calls and emails, reading material, nutritional information, hours of focused attention during the length of my labor (and we woke her up in the wee hours of the morning both times), beautiful photographs, breastfeeding support, and a postpartum visit.  Heck, for all that stuff it feels as though she's not charging enough!  As an added bonus you forge a truly special relationship with the woman who supports you in childbirth.

Need more convincing?  A friend of mine had a Doula who actually caught her Husband when he fainted during her birth.  Here's hoping that doesn't happen to you, but just in case your partner has delicate sensibilities, you might want to choose a Doula with a lot of upper body strength.

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