Birth is often described as the first act of motherhood. Like motherhood itself, birth is hard to describe to those who have not experienced it. Each birth and each motherhood journey is different and yet there is a commonality in birth and in mothering that unites all mothers across time and space.
As of this writing, I have given birth to one child myself and I have also had the great honor of walking with four different mothers through birth as their doula. Each experience was as different as each of the women themselves, yet all shared common threads which transformed these women, myself included, into mothers.
So today, in honor of the mothers who have gone before me, especially my own mother and grandmothers, in honor of the four amazing women I watched turn into mothers this year and in hopes of imparting a slice of encouragement and strength to those who will come after me, I’d like to share three ways that birth, as the first act of motherhood, prepares us for the rest of our mothering journey:
Happy Mother’s Day to all you beautiful, powerful moms out there!
As an expecting mom, you may be counting on your partner, mother, sister or friend (or in some cases, all of the above) to be with you during labor and birth to provide support and encouragement. You may also have some concerns about whether or not their support will be helpful to you, whether they will become anxious during the birth or whether they will be able to stay awake all night with you.
As a birth partner, you may also have some reservations about being mom’s sole source of comfort during labor and birth. Perhaps you have considered the idea of having a doula present but you are worried that the doula will replace you or nullify your role at the birth.
As a doula, I would love to clear up some of the confusion surrounding the roles of birth partners and doulas during labor and birth!
The Birth Partner’s Irreplaceable Role as Primary Support Person
First of all, let’s talk about the role of the birth partner during labor and birth. It goes without saying that the laboring mom’s husband/wife/mother/sister or other chosen birth partner is the most important support person for her. That bond of love is strong and is absolutely indispensable to the birthing woman. There is no way a doula can replicate it.
The birth of a baby is also the birth of a family. New bonds with a new little person are formed which will help determine the course of his or her life. A doula would be not a very good doula at all to try to circumvent those bonds or in any way replace the loved ones who are there to support mom and baby. After all, birth partner, you are the one who will go home with this woman and this baby. You are the one who will help raise the baby. And you, baby, and mom all need this bonding experience as a family, your doula is simply there to support that experience, not to take it over or somehow make it her own.
So if the love and support of family and friends play such an important part in labor and birth, why even consider having a doula present?
The Doula’s Impactful Role as Support for the Support Team
A good doula is a birth partner’s toolbox during labor and birth. Mom’s birth partner brings the love and connection to her and to baby and the doula brings the knowledge of the process of labor and birth, what’s “normal”, what’s not, etc. With the doula by his or her side, the birth partner no longer has to carry the weight of knowing what to do at any given moment. He or she is free to enter into the process of supporting mom and meeting baby at his or her own level of comfort.
No matter what that level may be, the doula will make the birth partner look like a rockstar as he or she supports mom. If mom wants a back rub, the doula will show the birth partner where the pressure will feel best. If mom needs a cold cloth, the doula will go get one so that the birth partner doesn’t have to leave mom’s side. If an unexpected intervention is suggested, she will remind the mom and her birth partner of their options and respectfully support whatever decision they make.
Acting as the birth partner’s toolbox is certainly not the only benefit a doula brings. She provides mom with continuous support, meaning she makes sure that there is always a caring support person by her side throughout her labor and birth. So if the doula needs a bathroom break, she ensures that mom’s birth partner remains right there with mom. If the birth partner needs a short nap, the doula stays by mom’s side, attuned to her every need. Labor can be emotionally demanding and physically exhausting even for those not actually having the baby so a birth partner and a doula can tag team to make sure that mom is never left alone.
All things considered, a birth partner and a doula make an awesome support team for any birthing mom! Mom’s birth partner is the primary supporter if they desire to be and the doula is the support for the support team as well as the support for mom. The birth partner knows mom and the doula knows birth!
Want to find out more about what doula support for both mom and her birth partner looks like and how it can benefit you? I offer free, one-hour consultations to help answer all of your questions! Click below to sign up for your consultation today!