Yesterday was International Day of the Midwife and we celebrated all the wonderful things they bring to a birth. As a Doula, I am often asked why would you need a doula if you have a Doctor or a Midwife. I heard the perfect analogy this week and I wanted to share it with you all.
On a flight from Washington D.C. to Florida, you expect the Pilot to get you there. You expect them to take care of you and your safety and to ensure that what you are paying for is met. This is the Doctor or Midwife. You expect them to get you to the end of your journey and labor with them. You expect them to take care of you and maintain your safety and that of your baby. You are paying them to ensure that you and your baby receive the best care.
On this flight, you are nervous. It may not be your first flight but that still doesn’t mean you are comfortable with everything that will happen. The Pilot is not going to come and check on you all the time to make sure that you feel safe, and have everything you need and to talk through any options. This is why you have Flight Attendants. They are there to keep you as comfortable as possible and to make sure you have what you need to get you through this journey. They are there if the journey is not what you expected, if there is turbulence or an unexpected twist or turn that you may not have planned for. If things get delayed or there is an unscheduled stop, a Flight Attendant is there to keep you calm and up to date on what you need to know to try to ensure you still have the journey you wish to have. This is a Doula. They are there to protect your environment. To keep you and your birth companion feel reassured. To make sure that you are aware and prepared for possible changes to your birth plan. To be there for you.
A Doula does not have opinions or judgements on the way the Doctor or Midwife cares for you. They do not comment on your decisions, instead they help you become informed to make those decisions for yourself. The same as a Flight Attendant does not keep going to the Pilot to tell him to fly a certain way or change the flight plan they have. Flight Attendants and Doulas are passengers too. They are along for the ride on your journey. A Doula has no say on the decisions you made regarding the journey; the destination or how you will get there (such as in a hospital, birth center or homebirth, or medicated, natural or cesarean, or a combination). They are there to support and respect your decisions and choices. They do not offer advice on what should have been done but act as a guardian of those wishes and help empower you to communicate them.
Having a Doula does not mean you may not face any turbulence or your journey may not be redirected but they help if they do. They provide the emotional, physical and informational support. They are your constant companion on your journey, to talk to, lean on and use as a sounding board for thoughts and options.
Hope this has helped a little to understand how a Doula can help even if you have a full medical team behind you. A Doctor or Midwife are there to make sure you have a healthy baby and healthy mom. They provide medical care throughout pregnancy, labor, birth and the postpartum period, working to keep you and your baby safe and low-risk. A Doula is there to make sure you have a healthy birth, healthy mind, healthy environment and a healthy bond with your baby. Both are trained to fulfil their duties and what is expected of them.
They complement each other. They do not replace each other. They are both professionals, working together to make sure you and your birth partner and baby are supported throughout pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum. Like peanut butter and jelly; they work together!