There are a plethora of good reasons to have a doula in attendance for your birth:
- Lower incidence of labor augmenting drugs and cesarean section
- Lower incidence of forcep and vaccuum-assisted deliveries
- Lower incidence of episiotomy
- Shorter labors! An average of about 90 minutes shorter, in fact.
Your first task is to determine what resources are available in your community. Some communities may have dozens of doulas to choose from while others may only have one or two. Or you may live in an area where there are no doulas locally, in those cases you can look to outlying communities for doulas willing to travel to you.
What kind of birth are you planning? Whether you are planning a home birth with a midwife or require a scheduled cesarean it's important to find a doula whose experiences and training coincide with your individual needs and goals.
If you aren't sure what your plans or goals are, perhaps you should consider hiring a doula who also teaches a childbirth education course. These doulas often offer their clients discounts to their course. This is beneficial because it can give you the tools you require to intimate your needs to your doula in addition to giving you valuable information for what to expect during this experience.
Evaluate your personal needs. How do you cope with stress? It's important to determine the healthy ways you have been able to cope with stressful situations in the past. Do you vocalize? Move around? Turn inward? Do you find focal points or comforting touch helpful? Do you require a lot of motivation? Even the most inexperienced doula has training in meeting these needs, but discussing what you respond to best with her ahead of time will maximize her usefulness to you. Instead of spending a lot of time during the labor trying everything in her bag of tricks to find something that works via process of elimination, she will know what go-to's to reach for first.
Remember she is a person. Just like you she has gifts as well as shortcomings. She may be very gifted in offering physical comfort measures but be lacking in her abilities to offer quiet verbal support or vice-versa. Two simple questions can help you evaluate whether her gifts match your requirements: "Which techniques do you feel you do best?" "Which do you feel you do the worst?". Don't be concerned that this may offend her, she will most likely be pleased that you are asking these questions. A good doula is just as eager as you are to insure you are compatible.
Maybe you've interviewed a few doulas and you are happy with all of them. You are certain that any one of them would be a good match for you and now you aren't sure which one to choose. It's a good problem to have but it can still be troublesome. You already like them! You may have even bonded with them and you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Sure this is business, but it's also very personal. It's important to remember you are hiring this person to be your doula, not your friend. You won't be shopping or going to the movies you will be rolling up your sleeves and doing serious work. What kind of energy do you feel brings out the best in you? The goal is synchronicity so everyone is their highest self.
Your partner's needs are also an important factor. It's a good idea to bring them in for the interviews. Their input could end up being the deciding vote. Doulas love partners. They want you to have the loving support of your partner and for that partner to feel as though they are an integral part of this experience. Your doula should have the goal of joining forces with your partner and give them the tools to be present for you in the most productive way. You are making memories that can lay the groundwork for your future relationship as parents.
This decision, like all parenting decisions to come, requires a lot of reflection and honesty but as much as it's hard work, it's equally rewarding. By insuring the best for yourself in this time you are insuring the best for your family. Many blessings to you all in your respective journeys. Please know, dear reader, you are in my thoughts and I wish only the highest good for you all. I have every confidence in your capabilities, beautiful mamas. Peace be with you.
Katherine is a wife and mother of two as well as a doula and dedicated birth and breastfeeding rights activists. She is an admin for local online natural parenting support groups, and a local chapter of Human Milk 4 Human Babies global network. To keep up with the work she is doing you can "like" her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/bereandoula