Sharing the Labor: This Is Why I Hired a Doula

written by EMILY C. SHEPARD
benefits of having a doula"
benefits of having a doula
Source: Erin Boje | Photography by: Alexis Gian
Source: Erin Boje | Photography by: Alexis Gian

Imagine this: You’re lying in your bed, holding your precious newborn baby. Your husband or partner is doing household chores, someone is cooking a nutritious dinner, and another loved one is babysitting your oldest child. Friends and neighbors regularly drop off meals and your lactation consultant is coming over later to help with feeding questions. Your sole focus is healing and bonding with your baby because your village is there to take care of everything else. 

We wish this was the reality for postpartum moms in America, but many are left wondering where the so-called “village” is. Most new moms do not have the support they need for a variety of reasons. Maybe family doesn’t live close by, work provides limited—if any—paid leave benefits, or finances prevent hiring help. It could also be that asking for support isn’t easy, as our culture is rooted in the need for independence. This is where the benefits of having a doula arrive like a breath of fresh air.

What is a doula? Someone who provides new moms and moms-to-be with informational, emotional, and physical support before, during, and after childbirth. The benefits of having a doula can span across the entire journey of pregnancy, all the way through postpartum care. Here, one mom shares why she hired a doula and what she learned through the process.

Changing the Birthing Narrative

Erin Boje is a soon-to-be mother of three, a registered nurse, a newborn care educator, and a prenatal yoga instructor. She delivered her first child in a hospital with her husband present, but she did not hire a doula. “I felt a little lost, overwhelmed, and stressed,” Erin said in an interview. Even with her medical expertise and familiarity with the medical procedures, she did not feel confident or in control.

“I was having a pretty typical labor, but I believe it was much longer than it needed to be because my body was pretty overloaded with mental stress and cortisol, which can stall our natural labor process. [During labor] I was asked so many questions, forced to make decisions about what interventions I did or didn’t want in the moment, and also left alone with just my partner for long periods of time,” Erin said. “The whole process was completely new to me, and I felt unsure if everything I was experiencing was ‘normal.’ For being a very uncomplicated and typical labor, it was too stressful.”

Overall, her hospital delivery did not go as she envisioned, and she yearned for a more holistic, empowering, and low-intervention experience.

Source: Erin Boje

Finding Support With a Doula

When Erin became pregnant with her second child, she knew that she wanted a different birthing outcome. She interviewed a popular doula in her area, Ashley Walburn, founder and owner of hOMe holistic who had attended over 1000 childbirths. Erin instantly felt a strong connection to her. This depth of connection is one of the primary benefits of having a doula.

Prior to delivery, Erin took prenatal yoga with Walburn and regularly communicated with her via text, phone calls, and at yoga. Walburn and the community at hOMe holistic became the village that Erin longed for during her first pregnancy and delivery. In addition to hiring a doula, Erin decided to deliver her daughter at home with a midwife and Walburn at her side. 

How doulas provide support to laboring moms

“Probably 50 percent of the births we attend are in area hospitals. Each provider and group supports moms differently, so it’s important to help couples know what questions to ask to discover what physician preferences are, what hospital policy is, and will the provider and location be able to support the kind of birth this mother/couple is seeking,” said Walburn.

“We still come to their home in early labor and stay and support moms physically and emotionally until it’s time to go to the hospital. [Doulas] go with them or meet them at the hospital, continue to advocate for their birth plan if necessary, massage, breathe, offer position change options, and work closely with the partner until the baby comes. We stay about two hours postpartum until mom is stable, bleeding is under control, the baby has nursed (if that’s the plan), and everyone is ready for us to go,” she said. 

What makes a doula particularly special

Erin’s home delivery with her doula, husband, and midwife was transformative and exactly what she craved. “I felt so… empowered… Everything happened so naturally and much quicker. The moment my doula arrived, my body completely relaxed and I progressed instantly. My water broke within an hour of her arrival, and I had my baby within the next hour.” 

The soothing, nurturing presence of a doula was the balm that Erin needed, and Walburn’s wisdom and guidance held Erin so she could focus solely on bringing her beautiful baby into the world. These benefits of having a doula can make all the difference in starting motherhood from an uplifted place.

“My doula was calm, knew exactly what positions to guide me into, knew when to call the midwife, did so much behind the scenes without my knowing, supported my partner, and advocated for me. She even took photos/videos during pivotal parts of my labor and birth that I will cherish forever. [My doula] allowed me to feel safe. She assured me that everything was normal, even if it felt scary. I expressed that I was exhausted and she encouraged me that my body was strong and would not tire out. She said all the right things, supported me, and kept me calm… which is exactly the state you must be in to progress your labor in a healthy way. It was amazing!”

Source: Erin Boje

Hiring a postpartum doula

“This time, as we prepare for our third baby, I will be leaning on all the support,” she said. Erin has hired a birth doula and postpartum doula Victoria Weber, founder of Nettle + Honey for the arrival of her baby this summer. Having a doula when baby comes home can provide postpartum moms with additional support as they rest and heal. A postpartum doula will cook nutritious meals for Erin and her family, provide breastfeeding support, help with household chores and her older children, provide bodywork (such as belly wrapping and craniosacral therapy), and emotional support. 

“I did not hire a postpartum doula with my second child, but I wish I did. I wish it hadn’t taken me three pregnancies to recognize the value of postpartum doulas and how important it is to hire and schedule support. No one else will do it for us—as mothers, we have to advocate for ourselves and our needs.” 

“I wish it hadn’t taken me three pregnancies to recognize the value of postpartum doulas and how important it is to hire and schedule support. No one else will do it for us—as mothers, we have to advocate for ourselves and our needs.”

A doula can fill a gap for mothers that our communities are missing

Families across the nation are grossly lacking in encouragement and empowerment for new moms. The long-term benefits of having a doula—expert, trusted care during pregnancy, labor, and postpartum—are immeasurable, but could radically change the physical and mental health outcomes for moms, babies, and their families. Erin also shared her perspective on the gap she sees in teaching new moms to believe in themselves and their abilities. 

“Our communities are missing empowerment and trust in ourselves. I believe we are told in our culture that we need medical help from the beginning of our pregnancies to the end of birth and beyond. We are told that birth is scary, and terrible, and painful. We are not told that birth is beautiful… that our bodies are amazing and strong… that birth is empowering and natural, and all of these things are true,” said Erin.

“If we feel empowered from our births, we begin mothering our children with a sense of confidence and empowerment. When that is taken from us, we lose that trust in ourselves even as we mother our own children. Women are sacred, beautiful, and incredibly strong. We deserve to have choices in our childbirth experience, but also to feel supported, encouraged, empowered, and safe! [In my opinion] a typical hospital birth without a birth doula really lacks that support and empowerment,” she said. 

How to Budget for Doula Services

When planning for a new baby, expectant parents could also consider whether some of the money spent on planning baby showers or setting up the perfect nursery could be put toward doula services. To make it more possible to afford a doula, consider setting up a monetary baby registry, like Little Honey Money, or set up a cash fund through a registry service like Babylist. Loved ones truly want to help, and knowing exactly how to contribute toward support for new parents makes it as simple as shopping an online baby registry.  

“Investing in a doula can not only change your entire birth experience, but it can change your motherhood experience. Investing in a doula is an act of self-care and will set you up for success in motherhood just by acknowledging and asking for the support you truly need. This is showing your children how to take care of yourself and your needs so that you can care for others,” said Erin. 

In addition to investing in a doula for herself and for her family, Erin is igniting positive change for moms within her own neighborhood. She has created a community for moms in all stages of life called “Mother Culture” to break cultural barriers and revive, uplift, and rebuild mother culture that is deeply rooted in connection. “Acknowledging the need for support in motherhood is the first step. We were never meant to do any of this alone,” Erin said.

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