Will my doula advocate for me?

One of the things we hear most frequently when we speak with birth clients is that they are looking for an advocate to be there with them at their birth. The word advocate is a sort-of buzz word in the birth world that many associate with the role of a doula. This word is peppered throughout blogs, articles, and documentaries, but what does it mean?

An advocate, when used as a noun, is (a) someone who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy, or (b) a person who pleads on someone else's behalf. In other words, an advocate is someone who speaks for you.

A doula can't advocate for you in the literal sense of the word because as doulas, we have no legal right to speak for you in regards to your medical care. However, what we've found is that women don't want someone to speak for them, but rather to feel like their voices are heard.

Many women want an advocate at their birth because of a fear of not being heard or respected.

Perhaps you've given birth before and felt confused, rushed, or pressured into decisions or interventions. Maybe those things needed to happen, but you felt detached and excluded from the process. This can cause trauma for some, and/or the desire for something different next time.

If this is your first baby, you may have heard negative stories and want to do everything you can to make sure this doesn't happen to you.

If your doula isn't your advocate, then what is she? What can a doula do that will help birthing families feel confident that their voices are heard during a vulnerable time like childbirth?

Doulas are relationship builders

Your relationship with us begins when you contact us and continues throughout your pregnancy and birth. Your doulas spend time getting to know you, your family, your needs, and your preferences. You trust us with your thoughts and feelings, and to support you as you bring a new baby into the world. This relationship is important to us, and so is the relationship you've built with your OB/GYN.

advocate

 

Since we've established positive relationships with hospitals and OB/GYNs, we can support you during labor with a foundation of trust that your doula is always working as part of a team to help you have the best birth possible for you.

Doulas facilitate communication

During pregnancy, we can help you learn how to effectively communicate your needs and preferences with your doctor. At our prenatal meeting, we take time to make sure everyone is on the same page and that you go into labor feeling prepared. During labor, we can help you understand the process, encourage you to talk through your options, and remind you that it's okay to ask questions about your care.

We understand the process and can help translate if you're feeling confused. Your doula can also help you be more comfortable while keeping safety in mind by checking with nurses regarding position changes and other things that may effect their ability to care for you in labor. We love to collaborate with nurses and draw from their knowledge and experience!

Doulas remain constant

During pregnancy, you speak with your OB/GYN every few weeks. During labor, your nurses will spend an average of 4-7 minutes per visit to your room, which doesn't leave much time for individualized care, and you may labor through a shift change. Your doctor may check in periodically, but you likely won't see much of them until delivery approaches.

In an unfamiliar environment, your doula is a constant, familiar face. Since we aren't responsible for your medical care, we have time to focus on you and your other needs. We listen and encourage. We help instill confidence that your voice is powerful and that you and your partner have everything you need to use it.

Perhaps you don't need an advocate after all.

 

 

How Hard Could It Be?

When I had my first baby, it was the first time I had ever seen a newborn in person. I’d changed maybe two diapers, ever. In short, I was clueless.

My husband, John, helped his mom run her in-home daycare when he was younger. As far as I was concerned, he would be a diaper changing pro! The rest of the stuff like holding a baby, or soothing them, well, he’d probably remember it. Like riding a bike or something, right? Never mind the fact that he was a child when he did all this (seriously, what was I thinking?)

I had family in town. My own mother, in fact, lived just a few minutes away. And this was her first grandchild, so of course she’d be over all the time and would help fill in any blanks.

So Rex came out, we all got cleaned up and tucked into bed to rest, and suddenly, my husband and I were alone with a brand new baby.

I remember thinking it was a little bit ridiculous that we were expected to be able to take care of this baby without any practice or formal knowledge, completely responsible for someone else’s WHOLE LIFE. I mean, sure, people have been doing this since the beginning of time, but WE had never done it before!

I’m pretty good at rolling with whatever comes my way, so we jumped right in.

John was great at helping with diapers. We might have eaten more take-out than I cared to, but that was ok. My mom was happy to spend her free time with her first grandbaby. But she had to work, too. And eventually, John had to return to work.

Nights were relatively easy – John was home, even if I did feel bad waking him up to help me when I felt overwhelmed, knowing he had to work in the morning. Sometimes I woke him up on purpose, just because I was so irritated at being woken up yet again, and hey, this is his kid, too. (I love you, dear!)

Days were another story.

I was tired but unable to nap

“Sleep when the baby sleeps” is impossible when you feel compelled to clean house and get the chores caught up. Or shower. Or eat.

I was bored out of my mind

Babies don’t make great conversationalists. Who knew?

I was jealous

My husband got to actually go spend time outside the house talking with other adults, even if they were just coworkers, and the only other place he went was work.

I was jealous that other people were able to take care of themselves, their children, and their homes, apparently without breaking a sweat.

I suddenly didn’t feel comfortable or confident

It took more energy than I ever thought just to pack the baby up and get him into the car, and nursing in public or dealing with a crying baby in public was just too much, so I never went anywhere. I used to be a smart, career-minded woman, an organized go-getter. How had this small person reduced me to this? Why didn't anyone warn me?

I needed a postpartum doula. If only I had known there was such a thing.

Magical postpartum doula fairy

Abby says postpartum doulas are like a fairy godmother, and I have to agree.

Postpartum doulas are the women who have seen it all, so they are great troubleshooters when things aren’t going well.

They are the ones who let you sleep (or shower!) while they magically take care of the baby AND get some of your chores checked off, or get dinner started so your husband can relax, too.

The wonderful postpartum doulas I know are also the best listeners. You’d be amazed at how easy they are to talk to – so understanding, so loving and caring, and somehow they always leave you feeling content and refreshed. That’s way more than I can say for some of the friends and relatives that visited after Rex was born!

Postpartum doulas are more popular now than ever, and for good reason. Doulas of Memphis offers some of the very best doulas in the area, and they are worth their weight in gold.

Scheduling a consultation is quick and easy, and you'll be so glad you did it.

Can I Give Up a Natural Birth?

Have you always imagined you’d give birth naturally, but are realizing now that, for whatever reason, natural birth just isn't in the cards this time? Maybe you have a medical condition that prevents you from having a natural birth – it could be placenta previa, or a breech baby, or maybe there’s concern over how well the baby could handle labor, to name a few common examples.

Is it ok to accept that a natural birth isn’t in your future?

Sure, you could stand on your head for hours a day, or do special moves in the swimming pool, or any of the other hundreds of suggestions for getting a breech baby to flip around – but what if none of them work for you? And what if you just don’t feel like trying yet another trick you heard worked for your coworker’s friend?

poolside lemonade

 

What if the thought of one more positive visualization imagining your placenta moving out of the way makes you want to throw things across the room? Is it ok to just stop?

Can you feel good about accepting this change in your plans?

Absolutely.

If natural birth has always been your goal, it can be a hard mental shift to accepting that your reality may involve more medical intervention than you want. But you can do it. In fact, it’s ok to make that shift. It's ok to embrace a new outlook, and look forward with anticipation instead of dread.

I'll repeat, because it's so important: it is absolutely, always, 100% ok for you to be at peace with your decisions.

Asking yourself the following questions can help you clarify your feelings. Part of our job at Doulas of Memphis is to help you work through the answers, and to support you every step of the way, so if you don't know us already, let's chat!

What is it about a medicalized birth that I’m hoping to avoid?

Is it a feeling of lack of control? Are you worried that you are somehow letting your baby or your partner down? Is it important to you that you still have a voice in your experience? Are you concerned that the medical aspect will overwhelm you with questions and details?

You might have a combination of answers to this question. Once you have explored all your answers, start to think about concrete things you can do to alleviate or even eliminate your concerns. Talk about your ideas with your doula and your doctor. We both want what is best for you, and can help you with your new plans.

What will it mean about me as a person or as a parent if I have a medicalized birth?

Worded slightly differently, you might come to an answer from a different angle: what will it mean about me as a person if I don't have a natural birth? Hopefully, you are able to see that you are a worthy and valuable person and parent, regardless of the circumstances of your baby's birth. You deserve to feel good about your choices and your experience.

Imagine yourself birthing your baby with confidence and clarity. What do you need this time to do that?

This is a great question to ask yourself regardless! Do you need education about your new options? Do you need additional support now and during the labor? Do you just need someone who "gets it" and won't judge as you work through your feelings and make new decisions; someone who will remind you that you are enough?

The insight gained from your answers can help you start setting the stage for a positive birth experience, even if it isn't the one you always thought you wanted. We would love to help you every step of the way.

They don't make doulas for this | Guest Post

So, you’ve received the news.

You need surgery on your right eye. It’s been turning inside and you’ve tried various prescriptions from multiple optometrists, but after nothing helped you went to an ophthalmologist and her expert evaluation was swift and sure.

You’ve had one surgery before, but it was very different than this one, years ago, and you can barely remember. However, after listening to the explanations you feel confident that this is what you need, though you admit to those closest to you that you’re scared and wish it wasn’t necessary. When you give your family the news, they’re very supportive. You tell them you get to go to the hospital and have a long nap and then get to stay home from school for a week.

Oh. Did I mention you’re only 7 years old?

This is the reality for my oldest daughter, Ella, right now.

At first, the news seemed quite alarming and incredibly ill timed. I am attempting to get a new business up and running, while selling my house and still keeping my family well taken care of. Now this? But as we inch closer to that looming surgery date, I’m coming to realize that it’s not about timing. I don’t have control over when things like this happen. All I can do is face them as they come, arm myself with knowledge when I’m able and trust my own ability to handle it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my few short decades on this Earth, it’s that humans are amazingly strong and incredibly adaptable.

I’ve also realized that there’s really no such thing as “good timing” when it comes to your child needing a medical procedure.

My training as a doula has actually helped me a lot in the last few weeks as I help my daughter through each emotion she faces about her upcoming surgery. So, in that sense, I’ve been glad of the timing.

With everything that’s happening in my life right now, I dearly wish to have someone to walk me through all of this. Someone who has been trained and is knowledgeable about the surgery.

Someone to talk to about the tumultuous emotions constantly changing and moving, but always hidden beneath the calm exterior.

Someone to listen, even if they say nothing, and acknowledge the difficulty.

Someone who won’t judge my tears or try to convince me not to shed them.

Maybe even someone to help with the day to day mechanics of keeping a household from falling into chaos.

And don’t get me wrong. I have a family. A very loving and supportive family. I have friends that I talk to on a regular basis. But, well...

They are all living their lives. They are busy. They have their own struggles. Some of them are caring for their own families and working their jobs. And let’s be honest, some of them don’t understand in the slightest what I am going through as a mom.

As my own unique person experiencing this in my own unique way.

Also, in my case, most of them are hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. My husband works full time (and then some) and I have more than Ella to care for. I a toddler and a preschooler who need me, a house to keep up, a family to take care of.

Let’s breakdown my reality for a moment: surprising news, intimidating change, doctors’ visits, happy family, lots of decisions… Sound a bit familiar?

I need a doula.

If you know of a Strabismus Surgery Doula, please send me his or her information… Yeah, there is no such thing. But feeling the desire, experiencing the need in my life right now, do you know what it really fuels inside me? My desire to help.

I cannot change my daughter’s need for surgery. So I will use these difficulties and challenges to grow as a person, as a mom and as a doula. Though the circumstances for my changes and the changes a new family faces are different, a lot of the emotions are the same. Being a parent isn’t all sunshine and daisies, whether you’re 7 months pregnant or your child is 7 and facing surgery.

The good news for expecting parents or new families is, there are people who literally make it their job to help and support them through those emotions and the difficult times (and even celebrate the happy ones).

We call them “doulas.”

 

Jen Southern is an affiliated doula with Doulas of Memphis. Her experiences with facing challenges with her own children have helped shape her into the compassionate, understanding, and empathetic doula she is today. 

We are all the BBC Interview Dad

If you've been on the internet at all today, chances are you've seen the viral video clip of the BBC Interview Dad who was interrupted by his small children while on a video interview with BBC One.

The general consensus is that it's pretty hilarious, but read the comment sections and apparently BBC Interview Dad is now under keyboard scrutiny all over the world.

He "pushed" his kids away! His kids should have been more important than an interview! His wife (who is apparently also the nanny?) looks so worried! We should be worried for this family! He should have just picked up the kid and moved on! He wasn't wearing pants! She closed the door and it obviously meant something!

BBC interview dad

Give me a break. Real talk, parents? We have ALL been the BBC Interview Dad.

Maybe you're not one of the BBC's expert on what's happening in South Korea, but you've been the mom (or dad) whose children are perfect angels who play independently and quietly until the phone rings and suddenly MOMMY MOMMY MOOOOOOMMY I NEED A SNACK I NEED A DRINK HE TOOK MY TOY MY TOYS ARE DEAD TO ME AND I NEED YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION RIGHT NOW SO I'M GOING TO HAVE A MELTDOWN.

This is why we don't answer the phone, btw. Can we just text instead? Pretty please?

Any parent who works from home knows the struggle of trying to be productive and balance kids who don't always understand that mommy or daddy can't play right now.

Working from home is awesome and fulfilling and it's cool to not have to wear real pants all the time, but sometimes it's HARD and the guilt is real. It's a fine line, being "there but not there." You're hustling to provide the best for your kids and it's cool that you get to be around them, but it's not always conducive to productivity and concentration.

We've all been the mom whose kid does something unexpected (like interrupt Daddy's BBC Interview).

We've all had that moment of "Oh CRAP!" and bolted across the house or the playground or the groceryto grab our kids and redirect them. I've been BBC Interview Dad's wife on multiple occasions. Keeping the kids out of Daddy's office is no easy task...in case you didn't know, kids are FAST. Like, really fast.

We've also all been judged based on someone else's brief glimpse into our lives, and if we're being really honest, we do it, too.

The stares and whispers of "somebody needs to control their kid" during the inevitable grocery store or restaurant meltdown.

Being judged for how you feed your child, and you can't win no matter what you do.

Insert any parenting choice here, and you get the idea. We've even got fun names for it like "Mommy Wars."

It's natural for us to jump to conclusions based on small amounts of information, but nobody likes to be on the receiving end of that kind of judgment and scrutiny.

This parenting stuff is hard enough without wondering what other people are assuming about us when they don't have the whole picture.

Solidarity, BBC Interview Dad. Solidarity.