More than once, I've been meeting with a potential birth photography client over a cup of coffee only to have them admit they feel like they can afford only one of the two: a doula or a birth photographer.
Every single time, I've told them to hire the doula.
Why on earth would I discourage someone from hiring me, you ask? Because that's just how strongly I feel about the role of a doula in our childbirth culture today.
Doulas may get a bit of a bad rap in the mainstream; I think they're framed as a sort of a luxury, or as if they're providing a service that really, you could be covering yourself (extra support during labor? just pull up your bootstraps. …Insert rolling-eyes emoji here). Ali Wong, a stand-up comedian whom I might otherwise find to be a very funny lady, went on NPR and referred to doulas and lactation consultants as "white hippie witches," which I will freely admit I find offensive enough that I will never watch her Netflix special.
I'm on the other side of the fence: I all but consider doulas to be indispensable, for first-time moms in particular. In this day and age, it’s pretty rare to have attended a birth before having your own first child. The value of having someone who is intimately familiar with birth by your side is, for me, unspeakable. A doula is in your corner. A doula is a gentle voice by your ear always able to reassure you that what’s happening is normal, or not. A doula is pro-active support: trained to help manage labor, a doula suggests and supports positions and movements that are indicated by the unique position of your baby and how you’re experiencing labor. A doula is an advocate and a confidant. A doula is a cheerleader and a voice of reason. A doula is there to take care of your whole family and to maintain your birth space so that you can be wholly focused within.
I’ve been present to see so many beautiful moments between doulas and families, and I’ve heard new moms utter, “I couldn’t have done it without her” more times than I can count. I’ve also seen many moments where I fervently wish there had been a doula there. Like the time a Fresh 48 client needed to have their session at one week instead of 2 days, because after a 40 labor, dad - who had been so engrossed in mom’s needs that he also had not been drinking or eating over those 40 hours - passed out minutes after his daughter was born, hit his head on a table, and had to be admitted to the hospital for two days. Or, in my own life. I completely admit I didn’t have a good understanding of what a doula was when I was expecting my first child, or why hiring one would be a good idea. My husband and I kind of shrugged and figured we’d be there supporting each other, and that would be all we would need, really. What I failed to take into account was that neither of us actually knew what to expect from labor. Neither of us knew how to pro-actively manage labor or how to remain calm and maintain resolve through what turned out to be days of back labor with a posterior baby. A loving partner stroking your back while looking vaguely terrified about the amount of pain you’re in only goes so far, it turns out. I often wonder how our birth story might have been different if we had hired a consummate birth professional to be with us. There’s no going back in time, but I’ll tell you one thing: I hired not one but two doulas for my second child's birth, and then hired a doula again for my third child’s birth.
I could write on and on about this - I have many soapboxes, and the care and support of women during the childbearing year (and in particular during and immediately following birth) is a large one on my podium. So you might hear more from me on this topic at a later date, but in the meantime, I'm thrilled to share these recent images of doulas at work.
Hug your doula, everyone. They deserve it.
Doulas pictured: Kyla Wilkinson of Boreal Beginnings; Kassandra Ryan of Confident Beginnings Birth; Jessica Christenson of Parvati Birth & Wellness; and Dawn Tozier of Joy Unspeakable Birth Services. For a complete list of Fairbanks area doulas, please check out my page on Birth & Postpartum Resources in Fairbanks.