Think about a relationship you have with someone you know and love. Someone who really “gets” you.
You know that friend.
The one who is there for you when you are at your worst, who is a shoulder to cry on. The friend who provides support without judgement.
When you have a friend like that, you are a lucky person because they simply make life easier to handle, no matter what happens. Life, of course, will inevitably have ups and downs and trials, but a friend like that can soften the blows of life and help you have good memories no matter what.
Now imagine being in labor with your baby…
What if you had a doula with you, who gave this kind of support through the birth process? Imagine that they took the time during a couple prenatal visits to get to know you, know your partner, and find out what you wanted for your birth. Your doula took the time to learn about your hopes, dreams, and fears towards your birth or having a new baby.
When you are laboring away with this doula at your side you feel just like you feel when you are around your best friend. You know you can say or do whatever it is that you need to do. You know that she supports you without judgement
This is relational support, the foundation of doula work. This is doula support at it’s very best.
At Birth Boot Camp we are focused on training doulas who provide this type of support for your birth. In fact, while our doulas receive lots of different areas of training and are required to read several different types of books, we feel this is the most important overall aspect of doula training.
We call this relational support, and we know it makes the difference in birth.
One of the most important things to a woman and how she views her birth experience is simply how she feels she was treated.
Not the overall outcome.
Not the birthplace.
This is where the role of a doula has great power.
Birth is beautiful but also not entirely predictable. Other studies also show that doulas can have an incredibly positive impact on birth, even increasing birth weight and breastfeeding initiation. But hiring a doula isn’t just about avoiding unwanted medical intervention, it is about an overall positive experience.
Hiring a doula is about helping ensure that no matter what your birth is like, you have that incredible “friend” who is there supporting, loving, and listening to you throughout the entire process.
How Do Doulas Provide Relational Support?
How do you train a doula to provide something as intimate as relational support? We believe this is a skill that can be learned.
Doulas are often thought of as providing physical, emotional, and informational assistance and support for labor and birth. We shift the focus slightly and refer out to childbirth educators for the informational and educational support.
This gives the doula the time to focus on her true role – relational support. It also allows the birthing woman the opportunity to further build her network of support around her. The more people lifting up and loving a woman during the birthing period, the easier that transition will be.
A good doula doesn’t just get training in how to provide comfort measures, she is also trained on how to build a relationship with her clients, particularly during their prenatal visits.
While turning the focus of doula/client time away from education is a shift from common practice, it adds so much to the relationship and heightens the value of the doula. This focus shift allows relational support to be the foundation of doula support, rather than forcing the doula to fill all roles for the mother. Now, she has a focus that will be most helpful and supportive for her unique role.
People often wonder what the purpose of a doula is, and people, doulas, and doula training organizations answer this in a variety of ways. To us, the purpose of a doula is to skillfully develop relational support skills uniquely designed to help each individual woman and her partner have her best birth experience.
When it comes down to it, a positive birth experience hinges on relationships, support, and good treatment. A doula trained in providing great relational support can help provide all three.