Doula or Doncha?

Tell me about your doulas.  No, no, not THOSE doulas.  They’re very nice though, your doulas, with nice bounce.

But tell me about them.

We’ve been pretty firmly in the We Don’t Need A Doula Camp.  There are fires, there, and campfire stories.  Mainly, dozens of examples of doulas who went out of town at the last minute, were not assertive, needed more support than the parents, annoyed the OBs, annoyed the parents and, in general, seemed to be more trouble than you’d want with a new babe on the way.

I know someone must be hanging out in the Doulas Are Great Camp besides my friend Rich, whose doula went registry-making with him when his wife suddenly went onto strict bed rest at 29 weeks.  She hasn’t helped them deliver yet, but that sounds promising.  Compared to my dozens of cautionary tales though, Rich alone is not very compelling.

So I’m looking for your thoughts.  Here are the facts:

  • We are not planning a natural birth.
  • We are giving birth in the best hospital in the area, one that is very pro mothers and less medical intervention.
  • We will do just about anything the doctors say.  As stated before, our objective is to get in, get out with a baby and have everyone be as healthy and as stress-free as possible.
  • We do not have strong opinions about position or ice chips.  We do want to avoid early fetal monitoring if not necessary.
  • We are not expecting friends or family to be present at the birth, though there may be friends or family who want to visit in the days following.

As a couple, we are:

  • Private and a little shy.  We do not actively seek out extra relationships (see yesterday’s post).
  • Not particularly stressed out.
  • Less eager to have a celebratory birth experience than we are to be home again.
  • Concerned about the stress her visiting family might create.
  • Worried about being marginalized because of our relationship  and that the doctors won’t listen to either her or I.
  • I do not want anyone to intrude on our first moments with our child, whenever those may be.

We stumbled upon a relatively new doula and set up an appointment with her for Saturday.  I’m on the verge of canceling because I can’t imagine the idea of spending my wife’s birth with a stranger who might actually cause trouble (and in that category I’m including having to ask her to leave because she has done/not done something or feeling.  I shouldn’t have to worry about that).

What questions do we ask her?  Should we just skip it?  Does anything good happen when a doula is involved?  Do doctors hate them?  How do I find out if she’s going to be a problem without sounding negative?  You know we aren’t folks who shop around, so I’d like to get as much out of this meeting as possible so that if we do decide we want to consider looking we’ll be able to wrap it up as quickly as possible.  Do you have posts about your doulas?  Help!


8 Responses

  1. Meredith…hiring a doula is a very personal decision. We had a great experience with ours ( (you can also search my blog under “doula” for more posts) For us, the main reasons for hiring one were to just let S. focus on helping me get through labor and the doula had an extensive massage therapy background.

    From what you’ve said above, it sounds like there are reasons a doula may be good, but also that she may not fit into your birth scenario. Maybe just see how the meeting goes? Chemistry with the doula goes a long way.

    Good luck!

  2. We’re in the “yay doula” camp, but had many differences from your situation, so I’m not sure how much will apply for you (I was hoping for a less-medicated birth, was in a hospital after planning a home birth due to late term complications, the doula really helped us have a great birth in what, for us, were non-ideal circumstances).

    Some possibly useful thoughts for your situation:

    1) A Doula is for you, too. You might luck out and have a totally smooth completely stress free birth. But you can’t know if you’re going in for a three to four day process, or a birth that turns to a frightening emergency c-section, or what. Even the smoothest birth is extremely intense and I found it surprisingly difficult as my wife’s primary support at our first birth (when we didn’t’ have a doula). Two completely sleepless nights into the process, hungry, absolutely exhausted and worried out of my mind (though I was keeping it together), I would have given almost anything to have someone who I would trust with my wife so I could have either eaten or slept. THAT experience is why we got a doula for round two, and it turned out we got another doozy of a long birth, and both needed all the support we could get.

    2) Experience is huge. HUGE. Newbie doulas are cheap, but you might get what you pay for. You don’t want to be her first or nearly first birth. Lots of people want to be doulas. Few are actually good at it.

    3) See if you can talk to other folks who used the same doula at the same hospital where you will be. If you guys aren’t ruling out epidural other pain meds, than make sure your doula is on board with that. Ask about how she supports couples around those decisions during labor and listen between the lines for any disapproval.

    4) You both really need to click with her. If you don’t trust her with your partner, you won’t be able to get the breaks you’ll need. If your partner isn’t comfortable with her, she’ll be pretty useless. Most will meet with you pretty extensively ahead of time.

    5) A good doula can help you maintain privacy in a very non-private hospital setting. She can also be a constant in the ever-changing hospital setting where nurses and doctors come and go several times, even in a fairly quick birth.

    OK. Doula ad over. It sounds like you might be fine either way. You could interview a few, and if you don’t really click with them, skip it. But if you find the magic person, I bet it would help both of you.

  3. Some of the things that you put up there make me think that having SOME kind of advocate for you guys would be a good idea. Because in hospital situations, it’s SO easy to get suckered into things you don’t want to do – and I don’t just mean medically. I didn’t even mind the idea of having my mother around AT CERTAIN TIMES (i.e. after the birth) but in the midst of things, it was so hard to enforce that. I mean, I was laying there on the bed in a pool of blood, legs spread eagle while the midwife stitched me up, and J had to run to the door and shout “no, no, not now!” when they tried to come in (there was a miscommunication and the nurses hadn’t let them know that, uh, it wasn’t a good time, as it were).

    And even if you don’t have preferences for positions or what have you, if you even think you want to try anything but lying on your back at *all*, you’ll likely need to stand up for that.

    We didn’t have a doula, but ended up with our midwife in a hospital, and quite honestly, she pretty much did double duty, and was a HUGE emotional support, in addition to our medical support. If she hadn’t been, I believe a lot more could have gone awry, and I’m awfully glad we had her there that day.

    That having been said, the most important part is a good relationship with the emotional support person – whether it be a doula, a midwife, or just a friend or family member – so I do think that if there are problems trusting them, or you don’t find somebody you click with, it’s probably better to not have somebody than to have somebody you’re not comfortable with.

  4. given your list of facts, so long as your partner knows how to make you comfortable, you should be fine.

    if you are planning on going to the hospital when the first contraction hits or your water breaks, and don’t plan on laboring at home at all, most hospitals will put you on a time limit anyway – so the idea of your partner being too tired to provide comfort may not be true in your situation.

    if you were natural birthing, you need a doula. after 47 hours of natural labor, my partner was falling asleep on the ledge of the birthing tub. she was literally dozing off. she had been up for TWO DAYS and she was tired. this is when the doula came in handy. had we not had a doula, i would not have had the level of support i needed.

    doulas are about making laboring women comfortable and advocating for getting the birth experience you want. if you are willing to do what the doctor want you to do, well, you don’t need an advocate.

    i would say as far as the hospital’s outlook on your relationship, go and ask those types of questions in advance. get a feel for the hosptials policies. are they going to be accepting of your partner??? if not, find another hospital. to me, that seems like the biggest concern, and that can be mitigated without a doula.

  5. oh, and it seems like you all have discussed, but you REALLY need to discuss who is going to go where as far as your family is concerned during labor/delivery/immediately after birth.

    lets just say family and friends can get a little pushy if not comfronted with a united front. so get the united front in place in advance, and be sure to make your decisions clear BEFORE you are in labor. because when you are in labor, they are just going to assume you are being delusional.

  6. We didn’t use one, but I think it would’ve been great if we had. I noticed you’re not planning a natural birth– does that mean c-section? If so, I had one, and I can say that having someone like a doula here at home with me after the surgery would have been wonderful. It would have also been wonderful to have someone here while I experienced the typical baby blues. They really threw me for a loop and it would have been great to have a person to talk to who was trained/familiar with that situation… Next time, I am going to ask folks to contribute 5 bucks to a doula fund, rather than give us presents!

  7. Thanks everyone for your advice. A.-I read your birth story when you posted it and again today. I really appreciate your point of view and I’m so glad you referred me back to it. Lyn – your doula ad is totally appropriate and the advice about newbies a huge benefit. N – you are totally right on having folks there we’re comfortable with and, while I didn’t want that mental picture ;), your example definitely helped me think through this. GB – we’ve got a hospital tour coming up and we’ll definitely be asking those questions. And whether there’s a security guard to keep out the family! T-no C section planned. We’re deeply hoping to labor through to a baby but we don’t want to give birth at home and we’ll certainly embrace drugs if needed. I know there are postpartum doulas too – next time you should get one!

    • Hi. I stumbled on to your blog, and thought I’d say hi. I’m pretty sure we don’t know each other, but y’all live in my hometown.

      Anyway, we haven’t been through labor yet, and in fact my wife isn’t even knocked up yet, but we are planning to use a doula. For one thing, a friend of ours is a doula, so we know it’s someone that we feel comfortable with. We’re also planning to try avoiding medical intervention as much as possible (not home birthing, but ideally not all the drugs and such), so we’re in a slightly different situation.

      However, that being said, what I’ve heard from others is that even without that, having a (good) doula around can be great support for *both* of you. It means there’s someone continuously taking care of you, for one thing, and who is only taking care of y’all, and not everyone on your wing. It also means that you can focus on your wife, and someone else can run get a cup of juice, or to ask the nurse for more meds, or whatever.

      I think if you can find a doula that you feel comfortable with, and who respects your stance on things, it might get a great asset. (And for the record, just because we’re a little hippie-crunchy and want the whole experience bit doesn’t mean I think you should. I pretty much figure that as long as everyone is healthy and happy at the end, it’s a good birth.)

      Then again, if you’re less concerned about labor assistance per se, and just think having a runner would be good, a friend of mine used her sister for that purpose. I mean, it would obviously need to be a friend/family member who is good under stress and understands the situation, but it’s just a thought.

      Anyway, since you asked, that’s my two cents. Or nickel. Inflation, plus I can be long-winded.

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