Many of you know that I'm pregnant with baby number five. Y'all. Things have changed in the last five years since I gave birth to Paige, my youngest. One mom recently mentioned I need a Doc-a-tot. A Doc a what? Another mom asked me if I was going to use a haaka. Huh? Sounds like the sound my child makes during pollen season. I had no idea what these things were that these moms were bringing up. But then one friend asked if I was going to get a doula this round. Now that got me thinking.
Doulas have been around for years. Decades. The term "doula" was actually developed in the 1960s to describe "the comforting presence of a friend" during labor. And historically, there's even documentation of "doulas" being used in births as early as ancient Greece. In fact, the word doula comes from the Greek, meaning "woman's servant."
So after a bit of research, and personally knowing four practicing doulas, I decided to sit down and meet with one to find out why I might consider hiring one for "fiver."
Coincidentally, Shelby Stonecipher, certified social worker and doula, reached out to me. Shelby owns Matrescence Doula Services here in Memphis and serves many moms throughout the city. Wondering how this entire process works, I decided to schedule a meeting and pick her brain. As a "veteran" mom, I was pretty ignorant on exactly what a doula did and why I might need one during a birth.
Pre-natal Care and Birth Plan
If you'd ever been on the fence if you need or want a doula, I highly recommend meeting with Shelby. She was sincere, kind, and patiently answered my questions. Of course, my first question was about the name of her business. Matrescence means "the process of a birth of a mother" = the instant a woman turns into a mom! Shelby went on to explain her job is to mother the mother; it's extra physical and mental support for the mom. While no birth ever goes as planned, Shelby described how during a birth, she's there to be a voice if needed: to the nursing staff, the doctors, and sometimes even a spouse. Births are often exhausting and tedious (ah, no duh). A doula is there to share the burden and make sure the patient is being heard.
Now wait! I always thought of doulas in relation to home births, bathtub births, natural births. What if that's not what I want -- because all honesty here, I've been induced 4 times at 41 weeks or over -- and I've received exactly 4 glorious epidurals. Again, Shelby was quick to inform me that's ok too. She is not judgemental AT ALL and assured me that she's there to create the birth I want -- whether that's in a hospital, a birthing center, or in my own home.
Many times I hear the terms doula and midwife interchanged. Shelby was graciously corrected me on the difference. A midwife is medically trained to deliver a baby, much like a doctor. Most midwives are also registered nurses. Midwives typically assist in home births or birthing centers, and mostly deliver all-natural births. A doula is more like a social worker (which she happens to be too!); she empowers the clients, monitors the client's mental state, and helps with anxiety surrounding the birth. Doulas are also permitted to attend all OBGYN appointments. Say what? (For moms of multiple kids, this alone could be a game changer!)
And if you're scheduled to have a C-section, don't rule out a doula either! Doulas play an integral role in emotional support for not only the mom, but the spouse as well. There's often a lot of anxiety surrounding a C-section and doulas are trained assist both parties during this major surgery.
I was fascinated by all this! For all of my labors, while I loved my OBs, I also felt "told" what was going to happen. My inductions were scheduled. I was instructed where to go and when to show up. I was hooked up to petocin and my contractions monitored from the start. While I'm blessed to say I had 4 fairly easy vaginal births, I always wondered what it would be like to go into labor naturally. I'm doing some other therapies and seeing a chiropractor this time around to see if my pelvic area will begin labor on it's own. And I mentioned all this to Shelby while I still had a check list of questions. And know what? She said even if I was to be induced again, her job wouldn't stop at just the hospital. She continues her services into the home.
Post Partum Support
After giving birth to "fiver," I'm absolutely sure I'll need help at home. I'm scheduled to be induced (at this point) on August 1, and the kids go back to school less than 2 weeks later. Shelby informed me a doula's job doesn't stop when the baby arrives. Her main focus post partum is to check on my mental state. Am I overwhelmed? Is breastfeeding going ok? What are my days like? My nights? What's my spouse like during all this? And the cherry on top -- she comes to your home to help siblings adjust! YES! She works with the kids on accepting and loving the baby. (Because we all know, it's a huge adjustment to accept another tiny human).
Matrescence Doula Services also offers post partum care during the night! You can call Shelby and schedule her for a night shift! I think my eyes buldged at that information! Sleep? Amazing, glorious sleep? YES! In addition to night care, Shelby also offers to help the moms by doing light house keeping, making sure the mom is eating, and assisting in any latch issues the baby might have after coming home from the hospital. Shelby also provides new moms lists of other community resources available to help --- such as mommy and me classes or mom-centered events like Bloom.
So I tip-toed around the topic of money. I knew that doulas typically aren't covered by insurance, so I was curious what all this amazing help was going to cost me. And you know what? It's totally affordable!
While all doulas are a little different, Shelby explained she offers a few different packages:
The "birth package" is around $550 and includes 1 pre-natal visit, on call starting at 36 weeks, and present for the entire labor and birth. This package also includes 1 post-partum visit with the first week where she checks latch issues, mental state of mom, and other physical healing issues the mom may be experiencing.
The "post partum" package is more hourly care. For $160, you receive 8 hours of post birth care. While most of this might happen in the home, it could just entail phone calls if the mom needs an ear to talk to. Every additional hour is only $20 or $25 for overnight care.
I left the meeting with Shelby super enthused and excited. I had no idea all that a doula did and I know I'll definitely be calling her after the baby arrives. Who needs a Doc-a-tot when you can have a real life doula?