“Women’s strongest feelings, positive and negative, focus on the way they were treated by their caregivers.”
Annie Kennedy & Penny Simkin
I’m articulate and in control, I know what I want, so why do I need a Doula?
Well, have you ever tried to lick your own elbow? Pregnancy and birth is a time of huge hormonal change and those hormones serve to make us fall in love easily with our baby, which is the evolutionary mechanism which ensured our survival to the 21st Century. The other effect of these hormones is to make us emotionally vulnerable and to seek safety and shelter, again to ensure that our precious newborn is not eaten by predators… Nowadays we don’t have those risks, but the biology remains and women often find themselves increasingly vulnerable and in need of support. This is not a sign of weakness, but an indication that your body is doing a perfect job of bringing your baby into a safe environment.
But I have my partner…
Pam England sums it up in her book Birthing from Within:
“He may be smart and trustworthy, you may love him, but in the Himalayas you’d both be a lot better off with a Sherpa!”
But I have a midwife…
That is great, I love midwives. Hopefully you are one of the lucky few who have a 1:1 caseload midwife and you see the same person every appointment, they have plenty of time to talk over your fears and plans, you can get to know each other well, and when you call in labour they are the one who will come to you, and they will stay with you until after your baby is born. Perfect, you may find that your midwife is also your doula. On the other hand, you may find that in the super-stretched NHS you see several different midwives during your pregnancy, at rushed appointments, so you never get time to really know each other, and you have no idea who from a rota of 30 is going to come to you at your birth. They may all be lovely and caring but they are pushed to their limits and bound by policies which don’t always work well to facilitate physiological birth, and they may be complete strangers. Your midwife will most likely be working shifts and so may not be able to stay with you throughout your labour and birth, no matter how much she wants to be able to. (Shifts are usually 8 or 12 hours which doesn’t give you continuity during a long labour or allow for support for a while afterwards with the same person). At a homebirth staff may change to suit other working patterns, in a hospital setting they will most likely be caring for more than one labouring woman at once. This is not a great time to be having to tell your history or explain your plans over and over, and the evidence shows time and time again how vital continuity is for successful and peaceful labouring.
So, what happens to my assertive self?
During labour your hormones will shut off the areas of your brain which deal with rational thought and switch on those areas which are much more primitive and ensure that the instinctive behaviours of birth and nurturing have the space to work properly. This is perfect, but it does mean that your ability to discuss, to reason and to think on anything but a very instinctive level is reduced, or may be gone altogether. Anything which drags your conscious and rational brain into play, such as answering questions or interpreting information, can interfere with labour as your body tries to switch gear, and in doing so reduces the labour hormones (primarily oxytocin.)
This is not the time to be trying to explain your birth plan to a midwife you have never met before, no matter how supportive and caring she is. In fact, the very act of doing so may well be the primary cause of the slowing or stopping of labour so many women experience once they arrive at the maternity unit or when the midwife arrives at their home. This is where having an independent and experienced birth supporter comes into their own, because they fully aware of your wishes and needs, and they have had the time to get to know your thoughts about birth. They are able to advocate for you at the very time when you should not be trying to do that for yourself.
So, if you want to know even more, we can discuss your own very specific thoughts, desires and your ideal birth, and I can tell you how I can help you to make the best of your birth experience.
You only get one chance to give birth to this baby, a positive and empowering birth makes parenthood easier for you all! You deserve it to be as good as it can!