I learned a new term this year that made me conscious of my age. I have two children. They’re both grown now. I had them during an era when half the women I knew were getting C-sections and breast-feeding was frowned upon but you could light up a cigarette in a restaurant – no problem.
But the times have changed and in some ways for the better. Today, there are accommodations in many public restrooms that make it easier change babies’ diapers and women aren’t made to feel like pariahs for doing something as natural as breast-feeding their babies. So I wasn’t surprised when my daughter told me that she would be using nontraditional support when it came time to deliver her baby. I expected her to say that she was going to use a midwife but she told me no, she was going the conventional route. She planned to deliver in a hospital with a doctor, the way all of the women in my family have done for the past 100 years except that she was going to use — here’s the new term — a “doula”.
My daughter, who is expecting a child in October, lives 3000 miles away from me. She’s on the East Coast; I’m in Calfornia. When she told me that she plans to use a doula, first I had to ask her what a doula does, then I was relieved.
As I said, I’d never heard of a doula but turns out I have friend who is one. I happened to be talking to this friend about my daughter’s pregnancy and she (my friend) told me that she is a doula.
So here I am, twice in one week, hearing this term spoken as if it’s been used for ages. So I had to do a little research to find out why I, a pretty informed person, knew nothing about this. And, of course, my intent was to share the information with the readers of the LA Progressive.
Turns out there is a vast difference between a midwife and a doula. A midwife is a health care professional who provides care and delivery support to childbearing women during their pregnancy, labour and birth, and during the postpartum period. They also care for the newborn through to six weeks of age, including assisting the mother with breastfeeding.
According to Wikipedia, a doula is:
someone, often trained but not required, who provides non-medical and non-midwifery support (physical and emotional) to a woman leading up to and during her labor and delivery. A labor doula may attend a woman having a home birth or a woman laboring at home before transporting to a hospital or a birth center, where she will continue her support. They do not perform clinical duties such as heart rate checks or vaginal exams, or give medical advice. Labor doulas rely on techniques like massage and position changes to help women through labor.
Having been through labor and delivery myself a couple of times, I could see the value in having that kind of support. There is growing evidence that suggests that having a doula results in easier labor and an easier delivery.
I wanted to learn more so I contacted my friend, Karen Glasgow, who provides a service she calls, The Cartering Doula. Karen and I sat down over dinner and I conducted a brief interview. Karen was energized as she talked about what a doula does –
Sharon: Karen what is a doula? What does a doula do?
Karen: Simply put, a doula provides labor and delivery support.
Sharon: Does a doula help to support natural childbirth?
Karen: I believe that birth is a natural process and that it is a woman’s right to determine the kind of birth experience she wants. As a doula, I provide my clients with information so that they can make informed decisions.
Sharon: So your clients choose how they want to proceed using information you provide? What kind of information do you give to the clients?
Karen: When a woman contacts me, the first, thing I do is listen. After I’m clear on their expectations and desires I can introduce different philosophies and approaches to help them plan for the birth they want. I teach techniques they can use throughout labor and I support them both physically and emotionally throughout the journey to parenthood.
Sharon: Why have you called your service, “The Catering Doula”?
Karen: Because I love to cook, I’ve combined that with serving my clients as a doula. I cater to both their birth needs and their sweet tooth. One of the perks of my doula service is that my clients gets to choose from a dessert menu of my specialties and l bring their favorite treat to our postpartum visit.
Sharon: Do you enjoy this work?
Karen: I love my work. The fulfillment I get from doing this makes the long hours worth it.
Sharon: How does one reach you?