Hi! I’m Ashley Collins, owner of Little Bee Birth Partner! I’m a birth and postpartum doula and Certified Rebozo Instructor, and though I live in Downtown Durham with my husband and sassy, spirited daughter (and our menagerie of animals), I support families from across the Triangle.
What is a doula?
I’m glad you asked. A birth doula is a person (typically a woman), who has received specialized training and is experienced in childbirth. She is hired by families and offers continuous physical, informational and emotional support as you prepare for and welcome your new baby. Prenatally, we meet a few times to talk through your visions for your birth. What are you birth goals? How can we help those come to life? Want dim lighting? I’ll be sure to bring along my LED Candles and Christmas lights. What about music or massage? How do you see your partner helping you cope during labor? From these discussions, I’ll help you draft together a list of preferences to talk over with your care provider.
Notice I didn’t say plan. Births never go according to anyone’s plan, except your baby’s. But, knowing what you want the space to look like, what comfort measures and positions you want to try out and thoroughly researching possible interventions ahead of time will go a long way in helping you achieve your birth goals. Besides, Googling “What is Pitocin” on your smart phone in between contractions is probably not the best time to be making decisions!
Speaking of your care provider, prompting you to ask questions about your care- ahead of your labor- can help set you up for success on the Big Day. What are their cesarean rates? What are the reasons they recommend induction? Will you be able to eat and drink during labor? Experienced, professional doulas have worked at several hospitals in our area, and have established positive working relationships with most practices, and can help you source all the info you might need to be able to make the most informed decision that’s best for your family! When the time comes to give birth, you’ll already have talked through some of these questions and can base your birth goals around those conversations. Most importantly, there won’t be any surprises when you arrive at your birth location.
It’s probably also important to say that a doula is in no way there to replace your care provider. Midwives and OBs are trained medical professionals who have your health and your baby’s health and well-being as their top priorities. As a doula I am there to comfort you, talk and process the moment with you, make suggestions, and provide information; I’m never there to diagnose an illness or catch your baby.
When your baby arrives Earthside, a doula’s presence can be invaluable. Yes, I provide a lot of hands-on support for Mama; but I’m also there to help “set the scene” (Remember that dim lighting you wanted? I’ll get that set up while you’re getting settled), prompt you and your partner to advocate for your birth goals (especially if there’s a departure from your original ideas), and help gently offer suggestions along the way (Did you want to try a bath? Or let’s try a new position for the next few contractions). I also provide support for your partner (yes, really!). It’s so important for your partner be able to focus solely on welcoming your child with you without having to refer to a back-pocket guide of labor positions and info. I’m there to prompt their memory if needed, or to simply make quiet suggestions for you both to try out. If they need a break (to eat a snack or field the calls from your excited, inquisitive families), I can step in as your main support until they return. It’s never my goal to replace your partner. I work with them to provide an additional layer of support and care during one of the biggest moments of your life.
Doulas have a role at nearly any kind of birth, regardless of your goals or location. Even if you are planning to receive an epidural during active labor, there’s no way to know how long it will take you to get to that point. All women labor at their own pace and a doula can provide support from home to the hospital, until a few hours after your baby arrives. And, whether you’re planning a hospital birth or a home birth, you are not going to be your doctor’s/midwife’s and nurse’s only patient, and they are unlikely to be able to give you 100% of their time. Even if they could, their top priority is your medical health, not always your comfort.
After your baby arrives, I visit with you in-person. We process your birth together (if you’re ready to do so). I check-in with your partner to get their perspective. And most importantly, we spend some time talking about your new baby. Whether you’re a first-time mom, or an experienced one, the emotional reassurance of a doula can remind you of the variations of normal newborn behavior and help give you perspective in those early days (You’re doing amazing, really!). If you’re breastfeeding, I help answer any questions you have about it or help connect you with really great lactation support near you.
If you’re thinking of hiring a doula, I’d encourage you to set-up in-person interviews with a few different ones. You’ll be spending very intimate time with this person, possibly cursing and even more possibly, naked, so be sure you’re comfortable around them! You should feel free to be however and whoever you’ll need to be during birth and your doula’s presence should never interfere with that! Thankfully, this area is rich with resources and there is certainly a doula for every personality and birth dream out there!
Once you’ve met your perfect match, paying for your doula’s support can come in different forms, and it’s important she’s being compensated for her time and expertise. Most doulas will set up a payment plan for you and some will even barter or trade for other professional services. I especially love to see doula services added to a Gift Registry (who really needs all those newborn socks anyway? Ask Great Aunt Gertrude to put that money towards a more useful gift!!). I’ll even supply you with a few registry request cards!
If you’re interested in doula support, I’d love to speak with you. You can find me at www.littlebeebirthpartner.net or via email at: email@example.com. And if I’m not the right fit for your needs, I encourage you check out www.dona.org or www.doulamatch.net to find a doula near you.