Doulas & Birth Partners: Different Roles, Same Goals.
As a doula, mother, and birth advocate, I'm thrilled any time I see more exposure and discussion surrounding doulas and the various ways we can help pregnant people and caregivers of all kinds. I love to see celebrity birth discussions mentioning doulas because I know that's another several million people who just heard about us! But one thing I'm not particularly crazy about is hearing someone say that their mother/sister/partner is/was their doula. Your aunt/best friend/cousin can certainly be your *birth partner*, but there are several differences between a birth partner and a doula. Let's discuss!
Doulas are trained and educated birth professionals. We have worked with multiple laboring people, care providers, and nurses, and have assisted in all sorts of situations. We are comfortable in the laboring environment and, most importantly, we know what to expect. A laboring person goes through the gamut of human emotions and expressions, and that can be an incredibly staggering experience for someone who is emotionally attached to the person in labor.
As professional doulas, we have the ability to remain calm and objective in the face of labor, and are familiar with common (and completely normal!) laboring behaviors that may otherwise be overwhelming and even frightening to an inexperienced birth partner.
It's a completely understandable reaction for someone in their position to have, which is why hiring a professional is such an important decision.
Professionally trained and well equipped doulas are able to provide continuous, quality support to both the laboring person and their birth partner. We are on-call for you and ready to go no matter the time of night or day. We signed up for long nights and little sleep, and come prepared for both. As we all know, labor can be a very long and exhausting process, and it's a process doulas know all too well.
We know how to navigate birth spaces so that all parties involved are as comfortable, hydrated, and well-rested as possible. It's literally what you're paying us for!
Doulas are there to help foster a calm, content, effective birth space, and that almost always means taking care of the birth partner from time to time, too.
While there are a number of reasons to hire a professional doula, there are of course some things a doula cannot provide that a birth partner can. Sometimes you just need to feel that special person's touch or to hear their voice. A silly inside joke between partners can be exactly what a laboring person needs to break the tension and relax, which in turn helps their labor progress.
Another huge benefit of a doula is their ability to know when and where they're needed. We encourage those special bonding moments between partners by giving them space to labor together while also magically appearing at exactly the right time with a drink of water and a perfectly applied hip squeeze.
Lastly, to label any support person present as a doula only devalues our profession. So, if you know, love, and respect a doula, please reserve the title of "doula" for those who have invested in their skills and have been professionally trained.
Remember, doulas are not here to replace birth partners, but rather to collaborate with them to create the ideal birth team for the laboring person. The two share a special relationship within the birth team, each making up for what the other lacks; each with a different purpose and the same objective. So let's each do what we're best at and help rock these births!