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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The "Middle Wife" " by an Anonymous 2nd grade teacher

I've been teaching now for about fifteen years. I have two kids myself, but the best birth story I know is the one I saw in my own second grade classroom a few years back.

When I was a kid, I loved show-and-tell. So I always have a few sessions with my students. It helps them get over shyness and usually, show-and-tell is pretty tame. Kids bring in pet turtles, model airplanes, pictures of fish they catch, stuff like that. And I never, ever place any boundaries or limitations on them. If they want to lug it in to school and talk about it, they're welcome.

Well, one day this little girl, Erica, a very bright, very outgoing kid, takes her turn and waddles up to the front of the class with a pillow stuffed under her sweater.

She holds up a snapshot of an infant. "This is Luke, my baby brother, and I'm going to tell you about his birthday."

"First, Mom and Dad made him as a symbol of their love, and then Dad put a seed in my Mom's stomach, and Luke grew in there. He ate for nine months through an umbrella cord."

She's standing there with her hands on the pillow, and I'm trying not to laugh and wishing I had my camcorder with me. The kids are watching her in amazement.

"Then, about two Saturdays ago, my Mom starts saying and going, 'Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh!' Erica puts a hand behind her back and groans. "She walked around the house for, like an hour, 'Oh, oh, oh!' (Now this kid is doing a hysterical duck walk and groaning.)

"My Dad called the middle wife. She delivers babies, but she doesn't have a sign on the car like the Domino's man. They got my Mom to lie down in bed like this." (Then Erica lies down with her back against the wall.)

"And then, pop! My Mom had this bag of water she kept in there in case he got thirsty, and it just blew up and spilled all over the bed, like psshhheew!" (This kid has her legs spread with her little hands miming water flowing away. It was too much!)

"Then the middle wife starts saying 'push, push,' and 'breathe, breathe. They started counting, but never even got past ten. Then, all of a sudden, out comes my brother. He was covered in yucky stuff that they all said it was from Mom's play-center, so there must be a lot of toys inside there."

Then Erica stood up, took a big theatrical bow and returned to her seat. I'm sure I applauded the loudest. Ever since then, when it's show-and-tell day, I bring my camcorder, just in case another "Middle Wife" comes along.