Two (three?) year's ago, my friend had a baby at the DC Family Health and Birth Center. During her birth, she was offered the support of a doula. This woman stayed with my friend throughout the birth, providing physical and emotional support when things got intense, information to my friend's partner about what was going on, and help with pain reduction and better positioning to help the baby come out.
I was fascinated. Fascinated that there was a someone whose job it is to hang out with laboring mothers, getting to see the whole birth process from start to finish. Fascinated that there is a birth center in DC that had a program to supply laboring mothers with these support people. And fascinated that the role of these women was unconditional support for women in one of the most impactful moments of their lives.
Doula literally means "a woman who serves." According to DONA International (a doula certification organization), a labor doula (there are also postpartum doulas) is "a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth." There are organizations like DONA International and ICEA that certify doulas, but a doula can be anyone who fits the above description. Some doulas choose not to be certified for various reasons outlined here. I chose to be certified by DONA, because I thought their certification process was the most straight forward and because they seemed to have the most training options available where I live.
In order to be certified I have to:
- Complete a training (DONE!)
- Do a bunch of required reading (DONE!! but constantly doing more)
- Attend a breastfeeding workshop (DONE!!)
- Observe a birth education class, e.g. Lamaze (not yet...)
- Make a resource guide for your clients that includes a variety of very specific things that DONA things it should have (in progress, I have a lot of resources I use through my work at the Crisis Center)
- Provide two character references (to be determined)
- Write a couple of essays (to be written)
- Provide support to at least three clients, document the births, and receive positive evaluations from both the mothers and the health care providers (hmm...)
The last one is tricky because there are specific guidelines as to which kind of births count towards certification. I have attended four births so far, but only two have actually counted (and one I didn't get all the documentation that I needed, so it doesn't really count either...boooo....). Meaning I need two more qualifying births.
"How does one find births?" you might ask. I work with the DC Family Health and Birth Center in their on-call volunteer doula program. I am on-call for several 24-hour shifts a month. If someone goes into labor at that time, the midwife on duty will call me in to attend the birth.
I love it.