This is an essay I wrote when I first began to work as a doula.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
Labor – a powerful experience. Physical sensations, emotional fluctuations, the wide range of thoughts a woman faces overpower her. She may lose her focus, lose her perspective and feel as if she has lost herself.
Generations of women understood that strength comes in numbers. Women labor effectively when attended by other women. In labor, the group of women is worth more than the sum of their individual values. Weaving themselves into a cord of patience, faith and strength, the presence of the women give immeasurable stamina to the laboring mother.
Today, mothers labor among strangers, physically and emotionally distant from her. The lucky woman leans on a strong husband or other loved one who binds their strength with the mother’s. This binding allows the woman to defend herself, but it is not as strong as a cord of three strands. The Doula can provide that third strand, giving the mother added strength, energy and faith in her body’s ability to give birth.
Although some may question the need for a doula, it is important to understand the difference between being able to defend oneself, and not being quickly broken. By using relaxation techniques, comfort measures and natural interventions, many women prevent the introduction of potentially dangerous chemicals into their and their baby’s bodies. However, this may not be the only front in the battle of labor.
Besides the pain associated with labor, many women fight negative attitudes from hospital staff. Mothers find themselves fighting to choose how they labor. Mothers are convinced that they are weak or that something is wrong with them physically or emotionally. Some caregivers do not take the time to allow the mother to understand her labor or what options she has. The doula can be a buffer, helping the woman understand her labor and informing her of available options.
Other women find that they have given up before the battle ever begins. They allow their fear to defeat them. They enter labor with small hopes, but are soon overpowered by their fear. Mothers are devastated by their inability to handle the situation. The doula can provide education before the labor, and reinforce what was taught during the labor. A good doula battles the fear of the unknown through knowledge.
A third strand strengthens the cord’s ability to handle pressure. Loved ones think they do not need assistance if they know comfort measures. Such planning is short sighted. Length of labor puts the supportive family member in a predicament. They must meet their needs for food and restroom breaks without leaving the mother alone.
Other family members may not be comfortable or confident with their active role in the labor. Sometimes, loved ones do not share their concerns for fear of sounding weak or nonsupporting. Hiring a doula allows the loved one to choose the level of participation.
For some, the doula runs errands to gather materials or information and only takes a more active role when the family member needs a break. For others, the doula makes suggestions of things to try or helps the family member learn effective ways to talk to and touch the laboring mother. Still others may be most comfortable with the doula providing the most physical support, while the family member runs errands or performs simple tasks. This allows the loved one to remain stronger as the pressure of labor builds.
Because she binds herself to the laboring mother (not leaving for shift changes or to attend other clients), the doula provides additional benefits as the third strand. Her continued presence helps her guide the laboring mother through the emotional and mental struggles she will have while she waits for her body to open. The doula cares for only one mother at a time. She is available physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually to help the mother through any trial her labor may bring.
Doctors, nurses and midwives must monitor and deal with medical issues related to the health and well being of the mother and baby. They are concerned with other clients currently in their care. The doula’s only responsibility is to remain with the woman; encouraging, helping and loving her. Meeting the responsibility, the doula uses every “trick” in her bag. Physical help, emotional comfort, caring for loved ones and praising the mother are the work she does.
A cord of three strands will not easily be broken. When the three strands are mother, loved one and doula, the mother will not only defend herself from the rigors of labor, but will also prevent the breaking of her spirit. The third strand of a cord makes the first two stronger, more stable and better equipped to handle the work ahead of them.