Is Doula Support For Me? Birth Edition

How can a doula help me_

Pregnancy brings many questions, and one is a particularly common concern; what kind of support do doulas provide?  Here I will break down different kinds of support I give all types of clients.

If you want information: If you are looking for reliable information on different topics related to pregnancy, birth, and baby; I can provide suggestions on books, reliable websites, and local resources such as classes and support groups.

If you want no information:  If you are simply seeking support for your choice to rely solely on your care provider for the information you need to make decisions about your care.  You have chosen your care provider carefully and trust their suggestions completely.  I will be a listening ear and unwavering support of your choices.

If you want no interventions: You are seeking support to help have an intervention-free birth and are wanting support and care for your choice.  Someone who will listen to your concerns and help you understand your options.  I can provide experienced support, I know what to expect and can provide suggestions for discussion with your care provider to help you stick to your birth plan.

If you want support for wanted/needed interventions (including planned cesarean): You are looking for someone to listen and understand your choice to seek out/ accept interventions that will help keep you and your baby healthy.  I will not convince you it is right or wrong, but will provide evidence based information as is appropriate and non-judgmental support.

If you want no medical pain relief:  You are wanting to experience birth with no pain relief and understand that doula support can help you reach those goals.  As a trained and experienced doula, I can provide suggestions for “natural” pain relief options that you and your partner can try.  We will practice a few at home during your prenatal appointments that will work well for early labour.  I will also provide in person support for these techniques during active labour, whether at home or your chosen place of birth.

If you want all the pain relief:  Experiencing the full range of childbirth sensations is not on your to-do list.  Your expectation is to accept pain relief as soon as possible and be able to relax and enjoy the birth of your baby.  I will provide non-judgmental (there’s that word again!) support, as well as help make your pain relief choices work optimally through suggestions of questions to ask your care providers, position changes and more.

If you are planning on your partner being your main support:  You (or your partner) are planning on them being right in there doing as much as possible to support you.  I will coach your partner with ideas of things to try to provide the best support, and fade in to the background when you have found a rhythm that works for you.  Then I will best assist by making sure you have everything you need when you need it, and allowing your partner to take breaks as necessary so that they are rested and at their best to be able to better support you.

If you are planning on little to no additional support:  You are wanting someone to provide that primary support.  As an experienced doula, I have supported families in this role before.

The list goes on and on.  As you can see, doula support is for every kind of pregnancy and birth experience.  If you feel your situation is unique and are looking for information on how I can best support you, please feel free to contact me.

My Clients are Not Damsels in Distress

Damsels in Distress

There has been some very thoughtful discussion on the (changing?) role of the doula in maternity care.  On one hand, there is a growing body of doulas who are concerned that not standing up and fighting for the rights of their clients is, by default, saying that the abuses of women in labour that they witness are ok.  That they are unwilling to do anything to stop it.  On the other hand, argue different groups, it is hard to maintain professional boundaries and gain acceptance when doulas are actively encouraging clients to not listen to their care providers.

This is a common interview question about my doula work, that of the doula’s role of advocacy.  Many sources of information on doula support cite the ability of the doula to “advocate” or speak to medical staff on their behalf.  I do not speak for my clients and I’ll tell you why: My clients are smart, capable adults who will soon be responsible for another human being.  They are more than able to make their own choices. The choice to speak out and make their decisions known is that of my clients and my clients alone.  (I will discuss how I do help them navigate this in a future post).

My role in their lives is finite, I will not be there to help them raise their children, and there is no time quite like pregnancy and birth for parents-to-be to find their voices and speak up for their children.  If they cannot wade through the options and learn how to make these choices now, they will be left struggling, figuring it all out while caring for an infant.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  I do not give my clients fish; I teach them to fish.  I will guide, teach and support, but I will not play a lead role in the decisions they make for their families.  It is impossible for me to care more about their birth than they do.

If I wanted to be responsible for my clients medical decisions, I would be studying to become a midwife or an OB.  I feel my talents are best used to educate and support, rather than undermine the medical professionals my clients choose to consult.

My clients are not damsels in distress, waiting to be rescued from their stone tower.  They have their own power and strength, and I tease it out of them, encourage them to use it.  I do not get my kicks from swooping in and rescuing them like a hero from a movie, they are the heroes of their own stories.  I believe that the power of a doula’s support is to stand beside them, hand them the tools they need, then simply provide support and watch as they tear down the prison, stone by stone, and build their own castle of support.

The real power for change lies with the women giving birth and their families, and it is my honour to watch it happen!

The Benefits of Paying Your Doula a Living Wage

Humblehoney

The culture of “A doula for every woman who wants one” is very ingrained in doula work. While this is a great idea, the problem is that so far, this has been interpreted as “the doula must lower her fees so everyone can afford her”. Even experienced doulas tell new doulas not to expect to make a living doing this work!

I won’t go into detail about what a living wage for a doula means, but in essence, it is the ability to provide for their family with the income from doula and birth work.  To me, a living wage does not mean supplementing my spouse’s income to make ends meet, it means being able to save, grow and thrive; not just as a family, but as a business as well. While there are several blog posts around about the costs of running a doula business, and how doulas can calculate a living wage, I wanted to focus on why it is beneficial to the client to pay their doula a living wage. Why is it worth it to you, the person who is receiving the services, to pay your doula a living wage?

Availability – A doula who does doula work for a living does not need to seek out other work in order to “make ends meet”. She is focused on her profession, her clients and their needs. Her mind is not pre-occupied with plans and worries about calling in “birth” to work, or how she will function at work the next day after supporting her clients all night. Her clients can rely on her to be available when she says she will be.

Transportation – This somewhat goes with availability, but earning a living wage means the client can reasonably expect their doula to have reliable, functioning transportation (read: own a working vehicle) to get to births. They don’t need to worry as much about their doula’s car breaking down, or the doula relying on public transit and cabs.

Childcare – For those doulas with young children who require childcare, relying on family members, friends and neighbours for free last minute childcare is a short term solution, as it puts a strain on those relationships to be asking constantly at the last minute for someone to care for their children. A doula who is paid a living wage is more likely to be able to pay for reliable childcare with on-call availability.

Community Support – This is one I have noticed personally, and I wonder if other doulas have as well. Doing doula work as a hobby or passion works well for a while, but after a time, the strain of the enormous commitment to my clients took a toll on my relationships with my spouse, my in-laws, my family and friends. When I started demanding a living wage, it shifted, and now I have more support from friends, family, and those I love to do the work I love. “Oh, you need someone to take the kids so you can go to a training? Sure!” It has become my job, which is something that is easier for my supports to understand why I am committing so much energy to doing it, day in and day out.

Continuing Education – With a living wage comes the ability to attend learning workshops, seminars, order books, online education and more, most of which cost money and some even require traveling to another city to attend. The doula who can afford to stay up to date on current practices or new techniques for support, is better able to support her clients.

Toys – If a doula is constantly worried about making ends meet, she is not going to be buying the latest new gadget, book or tool to share with her clients. While not a necessity, this is certainly a nice perk!

Back-up support – Paying a back-up (doula and/or childcare) to be on call is a great way to make sure your doula has a contractual agreement with the back-up to be available when they say they can be.

Refunds – I have talked to doulas whose budget is so tight that as soon as the money from doula work comes in (and sometimes before), it is gone. If it really came down to needing to give a client a refund, these doulas have no emergency fund from which to draw it, and the client may never see it.

Insurance – Doulas who work full time doing birth work are more likely to have insurance specifically for their doula work. In the unlikely and terrible event that something bad happens, this doula has insurance to cover any damages.

Experience – Constantly doing doula work for low fee or free, can wear a doula out quickly. “The most common cause of doula burnout is feeling overwhelmed by the commitment and uncompensated for one’s time and dedication.” (See reference here) Burn-out rates are high among doulas, with most new trainees not doing doula work within 3 years. When a doula is able to earn a living wage, they are more likely to stay working in the profession longer and gain more experience, which is a great benefit for their clients!

Giving Back – A doula who makes a living wage is more able to give back to her community. Once she is able to support herself and her family, she is able to donate time and money to other causes. Giving of oneself does not need to mean free doula support, there are many great ways to volunteer and support the community. Some doulas donate their time to educating families, some donate diapers and/or food to families in need.

Hopefully these items point out some great reasons to talk to your doula about ways you can pay her a living wage. Some great ideas include: looking into insurance coverage, asking for doula services for a baby gift from family, hosting a garage sale to raise money, asking to do a payment schedule and even bartering part of their services.

We all need to demand better, and as doulas start coming around to the idea that constantly doing free or low fee work is not a feasible plan for the long term, it is time that those that are paying for doula services come around to this idea as well. For those that are truly in a financial strain, we need to demand from our insurance, our health care and even non-profit organizations to help cover the costs of doula care. In this way, clients in need receive the support they need and their doulas can earn the wage they need to make a living doing the work they love.

If your doula is charging for her services, hopefully this list has given you some ideas of why this is good for you!

Postpartum Belly Binding – What is it?

The Lilypad

What is Belly Binding?

Different kinds of binding and wrapping methods have been used in cultures around the world for generations.  The Bengkung style is inspired by the Malaysian technique of wrapping and “knotting” the long fabric piece.  Culturally, binding is most often used in conjunction with a postpartum ceremony, massage or lying in period.  North American postpartum binding typically consists of a girdle or corset piece, typically made of elastic and possibly containing “boning” pieces for additional support.

What is a Belly Binding Wrap?

A Posptartum Belly Binding Wrap, is a long piece of fabric that is used to tightly wrap or “bind” the hips, stomach and torso after childbirth. The wraps can be made of cotton, muslin or silk fabrics, which are breathable and don’t add unnecessary bulk. These wraps provide the same benefits of corset style wraps, with the added bonus of being completely adjustable and adaptable to your changing body, and without the use of thick elastic and boning for postpartum support.  They also provide support for the hips and ribs, while a girdle style wrap typically focuses on the waist alone.

What are the benefits of binding?

Some of the many benefits of Belly Binding are:

– Binding after birth provides counter pressure and support to help the body return to its pre-pregnancy state faster, around six to eight weeks postpartum.

– The 360 degree support assists with abdominal wall retraction, improves posture, stabilizes loosened ligaments and provides support to the torso while the organs that were pushed aside during pregnancy return to their previous position.

– The steady pressure and support on the hips from the wrap assists the body in “closing” the pubic symphysis joint more easily.

-It can also provide support to prevent diastatis recti (separation of abdominal wall muscles) from getting worse.

– Providing support for the core can also help with urinary stress incontinence.

-There are also anecdotal reports that belly binding provides a comforting “hug” sensation that can help with symptoms of postpartum depression.

For more information on Belly Binding and specific benefits, please contact The Birth Nerd.

It will work best to support the torso and muscles while they are being re-trained to support the body on their own, like a brace. Don’t forget that exercise is the best way to develop and maintain good core stability, so please contact your care provider for suggestions of postpartum exercises that are right for you.
A belly binding wrap can help make it more comfortable for you to get back into a good exercise routine.

Who should use a binding wrap?

Anyone who feels they would benefit from postpartum belly binding can use a binding wrap! Check with your care provider before using a wrap to make sure you do not have any medical concerns preventing you from using a wrap.

When can I start?

You can start using a binding wrap as soon as you feel comfortable to do so, ideally around five days after baby is born, unless you have had a cesarean birth. It is suggested that mothers whose babies were born by cesarean should wait 6 weeks or longer, until the incision is healed, before using a binding wrap. Again, if you are unsure if it is safe for you to use a wrap, consult your care provider (Dr or midwife). If your baby is a few months or even years old, a binding wrap can still help to stabilize and support your core muscles, provide comfort and improve your posture, it is never too late to start using one!

How long can I use a bind for?

A binding wrap can be used for up to 10-12 hours per day, for around 40 days, though you can use it for longer if you feel you need to.

If you are interested in purchasing a wrap, and/or a belly binding session, contact The Birth Nerd for pricing and availability.  Special requests are available.

I hope this post has been helpful!  Have you used a Belly Binder?  If so, what kind?  What did/didn’t you like about it?