Confession time...I didn’t want to hire a doula.
And I didn’t - not for my first two births at least.
I couldn’t understand why I would want a stranger in my hospital room seeing me in pain. It seemed too vulnerable to me, and frankly, I could not see the benefit.
Fast forward a few years, and we were expecting our third child. At the time I had been working as a doula for a year, and I was much more informed about childbirth as well as the role and the benefits of having a doula.
But to be honest, I still didn’t want one.
Luckily, the organization that I used for my doula certification trained me extensively in using a reflective process to look at situations. I was able to dig deep into my resistant feelings of hiring a doula, and I finally realized that it was my pride that made me reluctant. I didn’t want to give up the idea that I could do everything on my own and that asking for help would make me seem weak.
Thankfully, I was able to look back at my first two births and realize that during those births, I could have really benefited from some help. I swallowed my pride, and I hired a doula.
I am so glad that I did!
Every birth is different and hiring a doula does not guarantee any certain birth outcome. However, I have had the experience of birthing with and without a doula, and I can identify at least 3 differences in my birth experience with a doula attending.
I am glad that I hired a doula for the birth of my third daughter. And a few years later when we were expecting our fourth daughter, I made sure to call my doula early on in my pregnancy. I finally, personally, knew the benefits to having a doula on my birth team.
Looking to add a doula to your support team? Join us at our next Meet the Doulas of Iowa City event or reach out to any of our member doulas for a consultation.
What is a birth doula?
A birth doula is a trained professional for who offers informational, emotional and physical support throughout your pregnancy, labor, and birth. Doulas are not medically trained and do not perform any clinical tasks. As such, doulas are also not a replacement for a care provider such as a midwife or obstetrician. Doulas provide knowledge and resources as you explore your options for labor and birth and will assist you in creating a birth plan. Doulas can teach and provide you with comfort measures for pregnancy and labor, such as positioning, relaxation, visualization, and other pain coping techniques. Doulas provide a calm, caring presence and a familiar face during the uncertainties of birth, especially in cases where you do not know who will be on call when you give birth.
What services does a birth doula provide?
Everyone's birth package looks slightly different, so it's important to talk through the details with the doulas you interview and carefully read through their package description and contract. Typically once hired, birth doulas meet with the birthing person or couple several times throughout pregnancy to get to know them and their wishes for labor and birth. Your doula is available via phone, text and/or email when questions arise and is a great source of emotional and informational support throughout the many changes that take place during pregnancy.
Doulas are also a great referral source for local resources and typically have networked to create relationships with many providers in your area. Once your labor is established at home or the hospital, your doula will join you when you feel like you need additional support. The doula remains with the birthing person/couple throughout labor and birth, and typically until 1-2 hours after baby is born to help the family adjust to the immediate postpartum and assist with breastfeeding if that's one of the family's goals. Usually a birth doula will also have one postpartum follow-up visit in the client's home about 7-10 days after the birth to check in, make sure things are going well, assist with feeding if needed, and refer to any outside resources.
What are the benefits of a doula?
Doulas serve many purposes, but for me personally, the primary doula purpose is to have that constant support during labor and birth which can be full of unknowns. You typically won't know which nurse, resident, midwife, doctor, etc. will be on call when you give birth, and over the course of a longer labor and birth, these providers will change shifts so you may have multiple different nurses and midwives/doctors. I know, for me, I feel much safer and more secure knowing there will be at least one person beside me who knows me, my partner, and my wishes for birth.
Experienced doulas can also be very helpful since they are usually familiar with your birthing location's staff, procedures, and protocols and can help educate you in advance and also during birth when you have questions. Doulas work together with birth partners as a team to support the birthing person, and can tag in and out to offer continuous support while also taking care of personal needs such as eating, sleeping, and using the bathroom.
Doulas provide a key role of holding space for the birthing person, especially during a long and/or difficult labor and birth. They provide compassion, empathy, and unbiased support when difficult decisions have to be made and when things don't go according to plan. Doulas help remind you of your goals and priorities, but are completely nonjudgmental when things change.
You may see research or statistics that indicates the presence of a doula will lower your chance of having an epidural, cesarean, and/or other interventions, but I personally don't like to make that claim because sometimes those interventions are wanted and/or needed, and that's totally okay. It doesn't mean you have failed or your doula has failed - doulas are there to support you however your birth unfolds.
Your satisfaction with your birthing experience is usually more related to your involvement in the process and decision making than the outcome. To loosely quote January Harshe of Birth Without Fear, the goal of a doula is to make sure you know your options, that you feel supported, and are respected.
Looking for a birth doula? Join us for our next Meet the Doulas event or reach out to one of our member businesses directly to set up a consultation.
It's baby's first fall - hooray! I love the change in seasons, and try to savor it with my little ones. Here's a short bucket list for your first fall with a little one in the Corridor. If baby is a wee one, most of these may be enjoyed with babe snugged in a carrier. If babe sits independently, swings, slides, and exploring with natural materials can add a new level of fun to your time together. As always, do those activities that work best for you and babe at this particular stage with your little family!
Visit an Apple Orchard
The apple orchard is another great way to spend a fall morning or afternoon. Wilson's Orchard in Iowa City has lots of fun events throughout the fall and you can end your visit with a trip to Rapid Creek Cidery for a meal. If you prefer to head north, Allen's Orchard in Marion is another great U-Pick option!
Hike a Trail
The Corridor is home to some really lovely dirt, grass, and crushed stone trails to get you out in nature. From the Cedar Cliff Trail in Mount Vernon to Hickory Hill Park in Iowa City to Morgan Creek Park in Palo, we really have wonderful options close by no matter where in the Corridor you live. Want to get hiking with other families? Check out Hike it Baby Iowa City and Hike it Baby Cedar Rapids, both local branches of the national nonprofit Hike it Baby.
Take a Fall Stroll
Want to keep it stroller-friendly? You're in luck because the Corridor has some lovely paved paths, too! For a simple stroll, you can enjoy a walk around the neighborhood. For more more Fall colors, head to Clear Creek Trail in Coralville or Tiffin, Terry Trueblood in Iowa City, or Prairie Park Fishery in Cedar Rapids.
Fall Sensory Play
The crunch of leaves, sticks, and grass are all new and fascinating for baby. Once sitting solidly or crawling, a pile of leaves can bring delight to even the littlest of explorers.
Have a Picnic
Enjoy your meal while baby lounges on the blanket. If old enough to enjoy solid food, pack a booster seat and share your meal. This is the perfect way to finish off a trip to an orchard, pumpkin patch, or trail.
Explore a Playground
If baby is sitting solidly or mobile, fall is a great time to begin exploring some playgrounds. If weather is temperate and surfaces aren't too hot, crawlers may really enjoy a chance to climb on equipment. Swings and slides can be fun, too. And, the fall is a great time to find some playgrounds that will surely be on your bucket list next year! Check out this list for some fabulous options in the Corridor.
What is your favorite part of baby's first fall? Share in the comments below!
The Doulas of Iowa City blog contains guest posts by Doulas of Iowa City member businesses. We are excited to share with you about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and surrounding communities and to help you connect to fabulous local resources.