Homebirth doulas?

When I say I’m a doula, I often get the same questions. One question I often get, and always surprises me a little, is this: “So most of your births are home births?”

I think there’s some confusion out there about how doulas are different than midwives. Doulas, of course, are labor assistants, whereas midwives actually catch babies—they perform clinical tasks and are primary care providers overseeing the progress of a woman’s pregnancy, birth and postpartum time. Two very different jobs!

Like all the other doulas I know, my clients are uniformly planning to birth in hospitals. Luckily, in Charlottesville we have some very good choices about hospitals and some really supportive doctors. But what about that idea of a doula attending a home birth? Would it make any sense?

Speaking purely from my own experience as a mom, I would say yes. I’ve had two home births. Both started in the middle of the night and lasted about eight hours total. Both times, we didn’t even call our midwife until about halfway through the process. So by the time she drove to our house and set up all her stuff, I was ready to push.

Let me be clear: I love all the midwives who have cared for me (I mean, I REALLY love them) and they all did a magnificent, perfect job, but they were not really able, given all those circumstances, to attend my labor.

My husband was there, and he is wonderfully supportive and loving. But he had stuff to do too: filling the tub, calling family, etc.

For my second birth, I asked a friend who is also a doula to come to the house and care for my daughter, then two and a half years old. At one point during my labor, she ended up alone with me in my bedroom as I moaned through a couple of contractions. And she did something so simple: She put her hand on my lower back.

I will never forget the warmth, the kindness, and the calmness of that hand. It was like a little pond of love there at the bottom of my spine. Megan’s hand symbolized everything that I want to be as a doula. She had no expectations of me, no judgment. She was just there with me.

That moment alone convinced me that if I were going to give birth again, even at home, I would definitely hire a doula. And—just for the record!—if a homebirthing mama wanted to hire me as a doula, I would jump at the chance!

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