Why I Did Not Use a Doula, BUT Maybe You Should
According to DONA International,—the foremost doula certifying organization in the world— a doula is defined as a:
“Trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.”
In other words, doulas are there for birthing people to provide advocacy, comfort techniques, and overall support before, during, and after labor. They do all of this within their proper scope of practice, of course. Whether giving birth in a hospital, a birthing center, or at home, doulas are there to help the birthing person have the best experience possible. Their most significant role in the process, in my opinion, is to take certain things off your plate so that you, as the birthing person, can focus on doing just that: giving birth.
Doulas often have above average knowledge of the birthing process. They are trained in assisting with comfort techniques to manage pain (but not necessarily to reduce it), they can aid in postpartum planning, and they even speak up for their clients when in difficult circumstances surrounding their labor and delivery— including wrangling intrusive or overbearing family members and health professionals. Doulas are truly invaluable! I particularly recommend them for birthing people with no or limited family and professional support.
Though to be completely honest, when I gave birth to my son almost 4 years ago, I did not use a doula. In fact, I do not think I would ever use one. This is not a contradiction of my above recommendation. Hear me out. My reason for not using a doula will sound strange to many, but, let’s just get this one fact out of the way before I continue… I am strange! As much as I value and admire a doula’s work, I have one simple objection to them: their presence.
Let me start by saying that throughout my pregnancy, I found that the people around me were making my pregnancy more about them than about me. Family attempted to make decisions about things like a baby shower, visiting rights, toys, baby clothes, and even my child’s future eating habits (what?) regardless of my objections to. Long-time friends told me “not to be one of those people who talks about being pregnant all the time”, while in the same breath expecting me to focus all my energy on their neverending dating issues. My healthcare providers spent countless visits trying to convince me to give birth only at facilities they were most comfortable in. Even my absentee father had an opinion about my pregnancy. Like, why? Unfortunately, I later found out that this is a common theme in the lives of many pregnant women:
The complete and utter overtaking of the pregnancy experience, of birthing rights, and of all the privileges associated with being a new mother.
Whether its out the kindness of their hearts or just pure selfishness—everyone has an opinion, everyone wants a say, and everyone wants to be involved.
So, when the time finally went into labor, I simply wanted to be left alone. I wanted very minimal touching, I only wanted my husband in the room, and I wanted as little outside intrusion as possible. Even as I started to push, I had to assert to the nurse and to my husband that I wanted minimal assistance as I beared down. I wanted full control! So often, you are given little control over your birthing experience, especially in a hospital. So, I took control wherever I could!
But, when it came to a doula, I knew she’d be wasted on me.
During labor, I just wanted to be in my own head, experiencing it however I could... on my own. I did not want opinions (even helpful ones). I was tired of everyone’s opinions. I demanded everyone allow me a week alone with my son after he was born to bond, develop a routine, and to be a mother without the constant outside influence. This turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life— even if it did hurt feelings and had to be made with an iron fist.
“…always err on the side of what is best for you and your birthing experience…”
Do I wish things could have been different? Yes. However, even if I had the best support system in the universe during my pregnancy, I still believe I’d want to be left alone during labor because: that is my personality. A doula would have frustrated me being yet another person involved in my pregnancy, my labor, and my delivery. I say all of this to emphasize the importance of not just good support but the appropriate support for you and your personal needs. Doulas can be that appropriate support for you. It just wasn’t for me. I desperately needed to be in tune with myself and my voice during my labor and delivery because so much of life was occupied by overbearing and self-serving personalities. With that I say, always err on the side of what is best for you and your birthing experience, whether that includes a doula, or just you and your partner. Consider your options and use that iron fist to ensure that you have the best birthing experience possible. I did!