Why have a Doula with you at your birth?

I have attended women at birth since 1998 and it is so profoundly true that each birth is entirely unique although the portals and stations each woman proceeds through from conception to post partum are the same.

Birth is a normal but supremely special human event for the family and particularly amazing for the mother as she will remember each detail of her birth experience forever.  It is important to recognize the primal transition that birth embraces.  It is a period of major shift for her.  How the mother feels, what she thinks about her process, whether she is “heard” and honored all contribute to her overall wellbeing and her successful bonding and breastfeeding experiences.  The work of the Doula can be important in smoothly supporting the changing outline of this liminal state and helping to guide her into a harmonious post partum period.

Liminality defines the condition of the mother-to-be and by extension her partner and extended family.  The word liminal comes from the Latin meaning “a threshold”.  This is a time characterized by ambiguity, openness, and indeterminacy.  The mother is not yet what she is to become.  The mother’s sense of identity dissolves to some extent, bringing about some degree of disorientation.  Familiar landmarks shift and move and this feeling of “loss of control” can be very frightening to one but with understanding and loving support can be the springboard to new strength and capability.  Total surrender to birth can be negotiated willingly, with love and support or with a struggle and resistance when fear and doubt overtake the mind.  A woman at the time of birth is in a vulnerable place and the continuous compassionate support of a Doula can make all the difference in the world.

John Kennell and Marshall Klaus have characterized the support needed here as “Mothering” in their seminal book “Mothering the Mother” and as such the experienced Doula is your specially trained, inspired guide through this challenging time.  She brings unconditional, non-judgmental, purely loving and kind support into your birthing experience.

At this is time of transformation with the complete opening of her being and body and becoming a mother she will want to feel cushioned, embraced, confident and trusting.  The delicacy and tenderness by which she is supported can guide her to a wonderful post partum recovery and excellent memories of the birth.  With skillful guidance and support, the mother in her can develop strongly.  Her whole being can become empowered to new levels of ability, awareness and joy in its’ new capacity as protector and nurturer.

In the post liminal state mother’s normal limits of thought, self-understanding and behavior are relaxed and informed – a situation which can lead to new perspectives.  You were two and now you are three; a mother, a father and a family with the baby and the birth experience key to the future.

Just as the newborn will mirror and mimic the mother and father as she/he learns to communicate and experience life, the mother will learn her new role; how to mother with tenderness, care, trust and love from the care she receives from her partner, her Doula and her extended birth team at and around her birthing time. 

It is during this most delicate and transformative time of life that the mother and her family can be benefited by the support of an experienced Doula.

In our current birthing culture, hospitals and medical teams amply and completely offer excellence in diagnosis; treatment, prophylaxis and anesthetic care for women during pregnancy, birth and post partum.  Doctors, Midwives, Nurses, Anesthesiologists, Neonatal Nurses all perform amazing work to care for each woman and help her to a safe and healthy outcome and no little emphasis should be placed on the safety, skill, dedication and care which are available to women today through their primary care providers.

By providing continuity of care, before and after but especially during the birth, the skilled Doula has a valuable function as well.  It is more subtle but extremely important in that the degree of intimacy, vulnerability, privacy and trust which are essential elements in a safe transitioning through the threshold of birth do need special attention and support.  The realm of the Doula is to provide a constant stream of positive potentiality while protecting and supporting the mother’s delicate but powerful transition by attending to her thoughts and emotions and her immediate physical comforts.

The role of the Doula in your birth contributes greatly to the betterment of the baby’s unfolding needs, and you as evolving parents and to the society at large which chooses to value the qualitative experiences of it’s citizens.   As each year unfolds women have increasingly more information about their ability to experience the greatest capacity of joy and love possible to humans in their birth experience.  The birthing experience is more than emergence of baby and formation of a new family.  It is the foundation for the growth and health of society. 

More Articles by Constance

Your Amazing Newborn by Marshall H. Klaus, M.D., Phyllis H. Klaus, C.S.W., M.F.C.C. Perseus Books, 1998

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"What's a Doula?"  
A Brief Discourse on the Latest Innovation in Birth Care

by Constance Williams, Certified Doula