Thursday, April 16, 2009

Misconceptions about Doulas

I have been thinking a lot about this during the past few months, especially as I have reflected on Lydia's birth and the important role Kristen, our doula, played. 

When Robin and I decided our hope was for a drug-free childbirth, we immediately decided to have a doula present during our delivery. I knew from friends' and family's stories that this would be key in achieving of my goal in as positive a way as possible. I will also say up-front that I respect the personal nature of ALL decisions surrounding childbirth--who gets to be with the mother and partner, where a person chooses to deliver, whether or not they use medication to manage pain. These are all incredibly personal decisions and really, nobody should get to tell anyone else what they should or shouldn't do.

As we've told people about our decision to have a doula at Lydia's birth, both before and after her delivery, we got a range of reactions. Some people thought I was crazy, others thought it was great, and then there was this response: "My husband is my birth coach."

This is where I really want to clarify something. Robin was my primary birth support, and I steered my delivery, not a "coach." That was always our plan. Kristen, our doula's website reads, "I will use my training and expertise to HELP YOUR PARTNER SUPPORT YOU." Kristen was a support to both of us, and in the moments when neither Robin nor I would have known what to do, she was there for both of us. We were very well prepared, but still there are things that you just don't know to expect. At the end of the day, Robin was an excellent coach, and he was made better with the support of Kristen. I handled labor pretty well, if I do say so myself, and I was made stronger (and more calm) with the support of Kristen. Doula's don't replace the mother's partner during labor, unless that is what the mother is looking for. 

Again, the choice to have someone at the birth of your child is huge. And again, I respect the personal nature of all the choices surrounding childbirth; I know I appreciated the respect we received about our decisions. I just wanted to clarify what I have found to be a huge misconception.

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