So what does a doula do for an unassisted birth, an accidental birth, or a birth with an unlicensed care provider?
The SAME THING SHE DOES FOR ANY OTHER BIRTH.
Mid-wife: noun. a person qualified to deliver babies and to care for women before, during, and after childbirth
Ob-ste-tri-cian: noun. a physician who specializes in obstetrics.
Dou-la: noun. a woman experienced in childbirth who provides advice, information, emotional support, and physical comfort to a mother before, during, and just after childbirth
Information, emotional support, and physical comfort.
I do not deliver/catch babies. I do not carry a doppler. I do not carry a blood pressure cuff. I do not carry medication. I did not go to medical school.
I do believe that women deserve to be supported by another woman no matter their birth choices.
I love midwives.
I am not one. I do not desire to be one. At a birth, I am not the substitute midwife until the real midwife arrives. I am not the midwife’s assistant though I am glad to lend a hand if needed. My job is first and foremost the emotional and physical support of the birthing woman. My second job is to serve her birth partner and other family. If I’ve done my job during prenatal meetings, everyone is clear about my focus and role.
Unassisted Childbirth (UC): If a woman chooses to birth without a medical caregiver, I will have a mutual interview with her like any other potential client. I will be very clear about my role. It is carefully written in my contract. Should we agree to a contract, I will behave the same way at her birth as any other. She has deliberately and mindfully made this choice. More than anyone, she doesn’t want me to play the part of a midwife or doctor since she has purposefully chosen to birth without them. I’m the brow-wiper, smoothie-maker, cleaner-upper, emotion soother, foot-massager. I’m not the babycatcher.
Accidental Birth: I’ve experienced a few accidental births (i.e. mom gives birth on the side of the road or before we leave for the hospital). I call 911 and support the birth partner in the steps of emergency childbirth. If the birth partner is unable, I assist the mom in birth as needed. As any friend or bystander would.
Birth with an unlicensed care provider: There are all sorts of reasons why a woman might choose an unlicensed care provider. One of my friend’s mom was a midwife in another state. Another woman might want a VBAC out-of-hospital. Someone else might resonate with an unlicensed midwife she met on a forum. In some states, there is no licensure. And there was a time when all communities had a woman skilled in birth. She learned from the woman before her. That was her license. Anyway, as a doula, I go where the birthing mama goes (hospital, home, birth center, RV, waterfall, idyllic glade, whatever). And I don’t decide who she invites into her glade. It does not affect me or the role I play.
Other doulas may not feel comfortable in these scenarios (although there isn’t much to be done about #2). That is ok! There are certainly plenty of scenarios in which I would not be a good fit. That is why we do a mutual interview to tease out our personalities and styles. Frankly, my comfort level is that the birthing woman has carefully considered her choices. She is informed. She is making a decision thoughtfully and with understanding of risks/benefits/alternatives.
In the end, I speak no judgement to the woman who chooses an elective cesarean or an unassisted birth. If she honors me with an invitation to serve her in this powerful and intimate moment, I come. It isn’t my birth.
I’m not the main character in the story.