One question I am asked often is: “Are all your clients first-time parents?” My answer to that is a resounding, “No!”.
I have doula-ed for families expecting second babies, third babies, even one family expecting their sixth baby! There can be a perception that a doula is only useful for a first labor experience, because after that you have an idea what to expect. It is true that your body has experienced labor before and is more prepared, yes. And yet – every labor is different and unique. It is possible the circumstances around your delivery could be completely different. A doula is meant to help (and sometimes guide) you through your labor, but we also do so much more. We are a sounding board for decisions, we provide physical pain relief, we suggest new ideas to cope, we are there to emotionally support you and your partner. All of these skills are still essential to a second (or third! Or fourth!) labor experience.
Last year, I worked with a family who were expecting their third baby. They had not had doula support at either of their first two deliveries, and they were interested in having a doula because of their dissatisfaction with both experiences. They didn’t know exactly what I could offer them, but they were interested in finding out.
When my client went into labor, I went to them straight away. The first thing I did was give dad a pee break, and put some pressure on mom’s sacrum. When dad came back, I taught him how to do what I was doing. He immediately looked relived – something to do to help! Her labor was fast and efficient. I held hot packs to her back, I kept offering her water, I rubbed her shoulders. At one point a nurse asked her if she had a birth plan and she said, “she’s right there, her name is Olivia.”
When I noticed that she was getting close, I gave dad a head’s up that this was his last chance to go out and grab some food for himself, before his baby would be here. He came back refreshed and ready to meet his little girl. Mom was relaxed and unafraid, having never been left alone or without support. Baby came easily and beautifully.
When I went to support them postpartum, mom told me that for days after the birth of their daughter, they had looked at each other and randomly said, “WOW! Olivia! Man.” They told me it was the most relaxed birth experience of their three. They both felt supported and seen, and able to really connect with one another and their baby.
This couple were (and are!) pro parents. They knew what to expect from their experience and they still benefited from the presence of a doula. Doula care contains components of education and guidance, and I love those elements of my work, but at it’s core doula work is about support. It’s about holding space and energy for a family going through a journey – a labor. It’s about seeing needs and helping to fulfill them, without fanfare. It’s about holding someone’s hand and saying, “I know you can do this” and “you are safe” and “you are strong.” And who can say that they don’t want that?