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From Fearful to Fierce! Top 5 Reasons To Choose A Birth Doula

It's been a minute since I've published here, but here I am to rave about something that's been bringing me joy – my work as a doula here in St. Louis!

When I began working as a doula in the Bay Area, I could have never guessed how truly necessary the work is. I had heard stories of empowering and traumatic births, but I naively assumed most births were neutral. They're not. Not one of them. Each birth I have witnessed since has had moments of both extreme challenge and elation. Each one has been an incredible and memorable experience – and one that can be shaped so drastically by the support received in tender moments of vulnerability.

All of this is to say, birth doula support is necessary – completely and whole-heartedly necessary. If you understand this, you can stop reading now. But if you'd like to dive into the details, please continue on this journey with me as I share my big 5 reasons why choosing a doula is the best decision expecting parents can make to shape the course of childbirth!

1. Emotional Support: Doulas Assist in Navigating the Roller Coaster

Pregnancy and childbirth are an absolute whirlwind of emotions. I know this from the unprecedented roller coaster of feels that colored the birth stories for both of my babies.

For snowpea, an easy pregnancy suddenly gave way to the shock of the pandemic, grief from the passing of two loved ones, an empowering birth, and a terrifying time in early postpartum when we realized she had been born with cataracts in both eyes. Similarly, during baby oakleaf's pregnancy, I experienced a range of big and small life stressors – a serious poison oak allergic reaction, food poisoning, COVID, and a cross-country move. Each of these may have contributed to gestational hypertension and the surprise need for an induction at 37 weeks.

During my first pregnancy, I was unable to have a birth doula because of the early pandemic hospital restrictions. But after working as a doula myself, I understood that having support was instrumental to navigating the inevitable roller coaster of emotions throughout pregnancy, birth, and early postpartum. For this reason, I hired a birth doula before we had even chosen a home in St. Louis. And I'm so glad I did! Anna the Doula was such a kind, calming presence during pregnancy and throughout my whirlwind induction. Having someone to listen empathetically was so crucial to keeping me grounded through the hardest moments of it all!

2. Compassionate Presence: Doulas as a Continous Source of Comfort

In my experience, there can be so many unfamiliar faces present throughout labor if you choose to birth at a hospital. This can be extremely unsettling when we're trying to do something as intimate and vulnerable as giving birth. Having kind, compassionate care can make such a difference in how fast or slow labor progresses. I know this from experience, as my first labor stalled for hours at 5 cm when I felt uncomfortable and afraid.

But when the shift change occurred and the nighttime staff arrived, their demeanor was more encouraging and empathetic than some I interacted with during the day, and I instantly felt safer and less afraid. After that staff change occurred, it was only about two hours until I was fully dilated and ready to push. It felt miraculous and made such a huge difference! Having a doula on board is one way to ensure you will have at least one compassionate presence by your side continuously during labor and birth.

3. Self-Advocacy and Information: Navigating Choices with Confidence

Pregnancy, birth, and early parenthood can be complex life experiences, to say the least. This is all the more so when we are bombarded with information from our doctors, mass media, and random strangers on the street who feel qualified to provide unsolicited advice! Personally, I was blown away by how little I knew about it all when I signed up for my first prenatal yoga teacher training.

All these years I had spent in this body, and yet how little I knew about what I thought to be a simple biological process that felt fundamental to being a woman! Where were the grannies and aunties who were supposed to be telling me these things? Why did everything I knew about women's bodies come from male professors until that point?

To put it lightly, what followed within me was a bit of a feminist revolution. Being here to answer these gritty, nuanced questions about what it means to be a woman and to be a mother who has given birth is at the heart of what it means to be a doula. This is the feminist intergenerational care that was missing all those years!

4. Pain Management and Comfort Techniques: Doulas & Tools for Empowerment

One of the greatest myths about doula work is that it's only for women who want a homebirth or natural birth. No! To say these birthing styles are for everyone would completely ignore the social determinants at play behind a person's birthing preferences. My approach to doula work is trauma-informed, which means I hold each birthing person in a non-judgemental space and recognize that their preference for pain management is individual and can change moment-to-moment.

Having had two labors without pain medication myself, I have a million tricks up my sleeve for coping with pain without an epidural. But I also have seen first-hand the necessity of epidurals for many during labor. They are over-used and often pushed for too hard by medical providers, but they are also the gold standard of pain management for a reason. Like everything, it's complex! The whole point of having a doula, in my opinion, is to have someone who can support you in coping – both physically and emotionally – no matter what that person's preferences may be.

5. Postpartum Support: Doulas Roles in Creating a Sacred Transition

Many people believe the birth story ends after baby arrives from the womb, but truly, that's just the beginning! Matrescense, or the emotional process of becoming a mother, is something we don't speak about enough in society, but let me tell you, it is big.

Throughout both birth and matresence, the role of a compassionate doula is to create a sacred space for the birthing person to feel nurtured and heard. From processing the birth story to providing breastfeeding support to helping new parents feel comfortable baby-wearing, doulas can make a huge difference in making new parents feel supported.

And one of my favorite parts about having a doula for the birth of my last baby was becoming tapped into local resources for new moms in St. Louis, like cloth diapering classes and more! This was so instrumental in providing a sense of community when I was still new to the city and could have very easily felt isolated in the early baby days.

Takeaway Message: Embracing Empowerment Through Doula Support

From my experience working as a doula and having one for my last baby's birth, I can confidently say the journey from fearful to fierce is a transformation that every expectant parent deserves to experience! A birth doula acts as a true catalyst for this transformation, offering a blend of emotional support, information, advocacy, and practical techniques that pave the way for an empowered birth experience. From holding space for the inevitable whirlwind of unfamiliar emotions to guiding pain management strategies, doulas play an indispensable role in reshaping the childbirth narrative.

The decision to choose a birth doula is an investment in one's own strength and resilience, transforming what could be a daunting journey into a journey of empowerment, confidence, and fierce determination. To all the pregnant people out there, please consider embracing the support of a birth doula and embark on your path from fearful to fierce!

If you are in the St. Louis area and would like to chat more about my offerings as a doula here, please check out my offerings here. I love to rave about this work, so please, join me for virtual coffee if you'd like to continue the conversation!


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