Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with a group of women who wanted to train and become doulas. We talked about the certification process, prenatal appointments and how to confidently support women and their families in labour. And then, I told them how I never advocate for my clients in labour. Each and every one of them looked confused, even a little deflated. Perhaps this is because the stereotype out there says that doulas will advocate, speak up for and promote their clients best wishes. But, I can honestly say I don’t do this, because I don’t have to.
Over time I have learned that my job as a labour doula isn’t to save my clients. In fact, my clients are some of the strongest, most intelligent and bad ass women I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. It IS my job however, to make them feel so empowered and full of knowledge that they don’t need to be saved. They can, and have, advocated for themselves time and time again without me saying one thing.
Let me give you an example. At one of my more recent births, my client had been labouring in hospital for approximately 5 hours. The doctor came in to see how far she had dilated, and in the 4 hours since her last cervix check, she hadn’t dilated any further (she was 5-6cm dilated at this point). The doctor suggested that they start Pitocin through intravenous to speed up the labour process. Without missing a beat, my client confidently stated, “I’ve only been in active labour for 5 hours - I know that this is very normal and would rather not intervene in this process. If I don’t do anything right now, what are the possible reprocussions and what would you suggest I do differently to help?” BOOM. I smiled internally, knowing I had done my job. THIS is why I have prenatal classes with my clients and their partners. THIS is why information is a huge part of having a doula. THIS is why I don’t advocate for my clients. Because they are prepared for labour in a way that makes them calm and confident to face the normal and variations of normal in the labour process.
Now, there may come a time in labour where women find it difficult, sometimes even impossible to make these challenging decisions. When I see hesitation, anxiety or fear in my clients, what I may suggest is taking 5 mins to think about and discuss their options before making a decision. Nurses and doctors are always open to providing time in most scenarios and this gives the mom and their partner a few minutes to really process the information. When in doubt, we go through the BRAIN acronym.
B- what are the BENEFITS to this intervention?
R- what are the RISKS?
A- what are my ALTERNATIVES?
I- what does my INTUITION tell me?
N- what if I do NOTHING?
Knowledge really is power. I hope you find the power within yourself that I see in each and every woman I support through this amazing and magical experience.