Saturday, January 06, 2007

Doulas: Bridging the Gap

By, Robyn Cuthbert-Adair
mother of 4 & a Saskatoon Doula

The entry to motherhood is a unique and sacred passage to be honoured and cherished by women and those supporting them. A doula (Greek term which has come to mean “mothering the mother") is a support person or facilitator for women and their partners as they make that journey to welcome new life.

Human beings are social by nature and require a tangible sense of community support, especially during times of transition. The journey through pregnancy, labour, and birth exposes this need in women. Historically, the members within rural community readily supported one another as people freely gave and depended upon the strength of others, enabling the community to thrive and flourish as a whole. Mothers had their families near and, therefore, were able to interact with several generations of women, drawing wisdom and support through the dynamics of life; this included the support given to one another while crossing the threshold into motherhood.

Prior to industrialization, humanity’s need for social structure and interdependence gave insight to the development of basic technologies to aide with daily living tasks(shelter, clothing, tools). However, the mass growth and influence of sophisticated 20th century technology coupled with large scale urbanization has redirected the course of human interdependence toward individualism and a dependency on technology; a trend with potential to leave people isolated, unsupported, and without a social standard through the changes of life. Thus, women entering motherhood can feel alone, afraid, and vulnerable to the bombardment of information, advice, and a growing list of ”do’s and don’ts” regarding every aspect of pregnancy, birth and parenting.

Doulas endeavour to fill this gap for birthing women and their partners through birth education and continuous support during pregnancy, labour and birth, and the immediate postpartum period. Essentially, a doula encourages a woman to discover her inner strength, ability, and instinct to birth, and to surrender to that primal knowledge rather than relying on external sources to inform her birthing process. Doulas also offer information and resources relating to hospital procedure (patient rights, routine admittance tests, drug options, etc.), as well as, to alternative therapies and practices for birth (massage, aromatherapy, acupressure, etc.).

This information enables women and their partners to make informed decisions while remaining open to the experience of their unique birth journey. When women are supported in birth they feel safer and more enabled to be in control of their own experience.

If women are allowed to trust their bodies and birth according to their wishes the more confidence they will take into the mothering journey. A doula can offer this much needed support, and in doing so reclaims the traditional roots of women helping women.