It was recently World Doula Week, and the two of us took the opportunity to do some extra reflecting on our work as Doulas and the support we provide. One prompt for a World Doula Week photo challenge was “tool you use the most.” If you know me, you know I’ve never been able to pick just one thing, whether it be ice cream flavors, favorite colors, or patterns in an outfit. So instead of posting about a tool we use the most, we thought we would (playfully) share a handful of tools that we keep in our Doula toolbox. Our Doula Toolbox is part mythical creature, part mushy feelings, but 100% true (anecdotally). It contains the following:
Hands: they are great because we carry them with us wherever we go, and we use them at every birth we attend! They are also one of the more concrete tools on this list. Whether we are using them for hip-squeezing, hand-holding, bath-drawing, or cold-washcloth-prepping they are never without a job at a birth. Even when we are being “hands-off”, and maybe our hands are knitting, they have an impact on the tone of the space.
Hearts: our hearts are in this work. I still cry at every birth. It’s a powerful transition to hold space for.
Ears: What do you want this birth experience to be for you, for your partner, for your little ones, for your family? Listening to our clients is one of the most profound things we can do. We are there to support our clients in their birth wishes, whatever that might look like, and the only way to know is to listen.
Minds: we like to think that we are two pretty smart cookies; thinking fast on our feet, putting thought into the resources we cultivate. Between the two of us we have a lot of experience and know-how to offer.
Water: For your insides and your outside. It can provide amazing pain relief in the form of the tub or the shower. It is also important to stay hydrated throughout labor (and pregnancy) because a dehydrated uterus does wonky things.
BONUS: Rebozo! Probably the most recent addition to our respective toolboxes, but already a much-loved one. This marvelous piece of fabric helps us to work smart as well as hard. It’s not only functional, but also beautiful and has a fascinating history.
What tools did you find most useful during labor(s) and birth(s)?
One of my favorite parts about being a doula is the opportunity to get to know the couples that we work with. It’s empowering to see how they work together as a team, and it’s incredible being able to support them as the shape of their family changes. So we thought we would give folks a chance to meet our families. This week yours truly (YT) sat down with my lovely husband (LH), to ask him about his experience as the partner of a doula. YT: All right. What is your name? LH: My name is David Arnold. YT: Where were you born? LH: I was born in Park Ridge, Illinois. YT: And, what do you do? LH: I manage an analytical chemistry lab. I’m an analytical chemist. YT: On a scale of 1-10 how much do you love your wife? LH: 10! *laughing* Is that really a question? YT: Yeah LH: Of course it’s a 10 dear. YT: What is a doula? LH: A doula is a person who helps to plan a birth and provides information to mothers who are about to give birth, throughout the pregnancy, and is a support for mothers. They kind of do a lot…during the birth they are there to do whatever needs to be done; to provide comfort and coach and make sure the birth plan goes through as closely as it can anyway to how it is on paper . It’s a supporting role. YT: What was your first thought when your partner said they wanted to become a doula? LH: I was pretty surprised about it because before my partner wanted to become a doula she never was obviously into kids or babies or anything. YT: What changed? LH: She was obviously really into it. YT: How can you tell? LH: She has a positive attitude about it and seems to want to do all the doula stuff. She’s not like “Ugh! Dang it, I’ve got to go to work today and do this thing.” Even if it is a birth at some really inconvenient hour, which they pretty much all are, or will be, because you can’t plan for it that well, she’s still like “Alright, it’s time to do this.” And then she always talks about how great it was. YT: What quality in your partner makes them most suited for this work? LH: She always has wanted to help others. Even before the doula thing. Her work and all of her volunteering. She’s a much better person than I am in that respect. Plus she apparently loves little kids and babies. So the two go hand in hand. YT: But as a doula she doesn’t really interact with babies very much. LH: She does. It’s more about the mothers; obviously that is what they are there for. Even though you are not super directly involved with babies a lot, you are helping that process come along. If you really like babies it makes a lot more sense you’d be into the helping of the mother to get there. YT: What is the hardest part of living with a doula? LH: In terms of the day-to-day life of the house, living? There is really no consequence. YT: What about not day-to-day? LH: If you were to rephrase the question, “what is the hardest part about being married to a doula, or having a partner that’s a doula?” Having this huge chunk of time for every client where you can’t really plan anything or do anything. And then when the birth actually comes…you can never schedule when the baby is going to come on a day-to-day basis. It completely throws off her schedule, and my schedule. It’s hard to plan anything, basically. That’s by far the hardest part. It’s probably going to get worse as more clients come in, but we will see how it goes, you know? YT: Yeah, the idea is to have the month off now and then…what’s the coolest thing you’ve learned living with a doula? LH: Relating to the work? YT: I guess. LH: I learned a lot of really cool piano when I lived with you. YT: Probably related to the work then. Although, I’m glad you’ve learned a lot of cool piano. LH: That’s actually a tough question. I’ve learned a lot of interesting facts about birth and stuff. I pretty much knew absolutely nothing about it before. So that’s cool as a whole. Little snippets and facts accumulating over time. YT: What do you worry about most having a partner whose a doula? LH: Are we going to be able to schedule anything? We’ll see though. We’re going to try. YT: There was one weekend there were two births in a weekend. LH: Yeah that was really shitty. I was worried about you the whole time. YT: Worried about me? LH: Because it was a lot of work, and you weren’t sleeping. And you were gone the entire weekend. I know you weren’t having a great time the whole time. YT: What other life event needs a doula? LH: (Immediately) Planning a wedding. Yeah. It’s a big scary process and you don’t really know what to do. It would be useful to have someone that’s got a lot of experience. We didn’t do that, but…well you talk to other people who have gotten married, and they give you information about how this thing went for them. I can’t really think of anything else. Having a kid is a huge deal; getting married is a close number two. I don’t know…maybe trying to start your career off when you get out of school. A career counselor sort of thing I guess. All these things already exist. They aren’t called doulas obviously, but they exist for a reason. Because it’s hard and scary and you need to rely on other people’s experience. YT: What would you tell an expectant couple? LH: About what? YT: I don’t know, what would be your pro tip? LH: I’m not a reliable person to give out advice. I haven’t gone through the experience. I would say, plan stuff. Have a plan for how you’re going to take care of your baby and how you’re going to parent. Take it seriously because it is pretty serious. And uh, make sure to have sex. I hope we aren’t live on NPR or anything right now. There is supposed to be a 7 second delay for these things. Sorry, dear *chuckling*
It’s finally happening. My transition to being a doula has been a vacillating one, but it is time for me to make it a bigger part of my life. Starting in September I will be cutting hours at my nonprofit desk job in Detroit so I am able to spend more time doing this doula work that I love.
The backstory – When I first completed my training in 2012, I knew that I wanted to support women and their partners through labor and birth, but was having trouble figuring out the particulars. I already had a full time job, was living in an intentional community, and was freshly out of school. How would I balance my commitments to job, housemates, boyfriend, and sanity while also committing to 4 weeks of on-call time and prenatal meetings with birth clients? Longish story short, I decided to press the pause button on my doula dream; until a friend’s pregnancy pressed play again.
I had the honor of going to my first birth as a doula in June 2014, and it rocked my world more than I could have imagined. It was another cosmic nudge to make this doula thing work… but first I had to buy a house…plan my wedding to the love of my life…
Fast forward a year – we have a home, we got married, I’ve got an official doula mentor, I will have attended 7 more births by the end of August, and the nudging from the universe has gotten stronger and more persistent.
Katy and I started working together in January as mentor/mentee and already I feel like a smarter, savvier, more confident doula. However, I haven’t been able to give the time or energy to Sacred Roots that it deserves. Through conversations with Katy, Dave, and other trusted folk it became clear something had to give. I realized working full time and trying to doula full time would cause my work and relationships to suffer. Around this time a part time position with my current employer became available, and I took the leap. I am over-the-moon thrilled to have more time to support families through their transition from pregnancy to postpartum.
A friend recently shared a bit of wisdom with me about fruit dropping when it is ripe, and I feel like the time for my doula dream is ripe and it’s about to drop!
I am a Doula! I have been working very hard to learn about birth, labor support,
postpartum and prenatal support. I have been educating myself about marketing locally. I have been working really hard to get my name out there and make this dream of mine work. AND IT IS WORKING! I just love this job! It is amazingly rewarding and inspirational.
Watching new moms hold their babies for the first time, looking into their eyes, discovering what sex their child is, is the most amazing thing to be a part of. This is my job. I am a doula!