A Birth Doula for Every Mother
A majority of women—and our society as a whole—have relinquished pregnancy, childbirth and their postpartum time to the dictates of profit-driven institutions. However, many women are rediscovering that there is more to pregnancy than what we usually hear in literature and in doctors’ offices. More and more women are ready to reclaim the magic in motherhood!
A woman wanting a more natural, nurturing and sacred experience into motherhood has many resources available to support her in her goals: doulas, midwives, postpartum doulas, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners, chiropractors, mother’s concierge services and more. We will discuss only one of these resources here—one that can be of enormous help during a homebirth or hospital birth: the birth doula.
The Template Birth
If you are not planning your birth—meaning you are using the hospital template that’s been prepared for you by institutions, corporations and commercially-funded committees—the odds are extremely high that:
When you enter the hospital, you will either be placed in a wheelchair or you will walk to a labor room. You will be hooked up to an IV, one or several monitors and denied food and even beverages (other than ice chips, which in many cultures are considered something to avoid in labor).
Depending on how “progressive” the hospital and staff are, you will be allowed or encouraged to walk around and work in different labor positions to encourage the baby into an optimal position and allow labor to progress, or you will simply be advised to stay flat on your back—which is considered by many in the birthing world to be one of the most painful and least effective ways to labor.
Around the time you start experiencing stronger contractions and the pain sensations are increasing, hospital staff (strangers) will appear at your door encouraging the use of drugs.
You will be checked periodically by doctors, residents, nurses and student nurses (more strangers). When you’re dilated far enough, they will move you to the delivery room where your doctor, or a stand-in if he or she has been called away to more pressing matters, will stay with you as the baby and the placenta are born.
This is all assuming that you’re not put on additional drugs to speed labor (if in their estimation you’re taking too long). While 24 hours or longer is a common length of time for a mother to labor—especially with her first baby—many hospitals encourage drugs to speed the process if it passes 12 hours.
It is also assuming that nothing has happened to encourage the doctor to perform a cesarean (now at 30–50% of births in the US, varying by doctor and hospital).
All in all, as Jennifer Block states in her book Pushed: The Painful Truth about Modern Childbirth and Maternity Care, a mother, even in a “routine” birth in a hospital, may have “up to 16 different tubes, drugs or attachments” (Block 2007, xiv).
After the baby and placenta are born, in most instances they are both taken away: the baby to be washed (unnecessary and considered by many to be stressful for the newborn who’d rather be on her mother’s chest), weighed, measured and treated with various pharmaceutical products and the placenta to an incinerator.
Whoa! How has the most sacred rite of passage become so cold and offensive? Where’s the romance, the beauty, the nurturing? Where’s the love?
We can all see the need for a different approach and the need for support—for someone who understands the needs of the mother, supports and advocates for her. A person with whom she’s met, established rapport and trust, and who she knows will be there when the big moment arrives. Someone who’s not a friend, mother-in-law, nor the father—they have different roles.
The birthing mother needs a person who has witnessed and participated in at least dozens, if not hundreds, of births to represent her best interests and desires when push comes to shove!
Block, Jennifer. 2007. Pushed: The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care. Da Capo Press.
— Allie Chee
Excerpted from “A Birth Doula for Every Mother,” Midwifery Today, Issue 104
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