If you are pregnant, or thinking about becoming pregnant, then you may have heard of hiring a doula to be at your birth. Hiring a doula can be immensely beneficial in many ways. When I was pregnant with my son, there was no question in my mind that I wanted to have a doula present. And lucky for me, one of my dear friends happens to be an amazing one! I made sure to secure her early so I could rest easy knowing she would be there to support me before, during, and after my labor. And I can honestly say I don't know what I would have done without her!
As life would have it, my birth did not go quite the way I had envisioned it when writing up my birth plan. Having Aisha by my side was incredibly helpful. She advocated for me in ways I could not, and helped me to have the least amount of medical intervention as possible during the birth of my son. Not only that, but she helped me navigate breastfeeding issues, answered my frantic middle of the night texts right away in those early days at home, and made me feel incredibly supported and safe throughout my entire labor and well into my postpartum period.
I decided to sit down with her for an interview as a way to give mamas-to-be who may be thinking about hiring a doula to get a better understanding of what it is is that they do exactly, and to know what questions to ask when you do your own interviewing to find the right doula for you.
Interview With My Doula, Aisha Carabello ~
1. What is a doula?
A doula is someone who is trained or certified in offering valuable information, and both emotional and physical support to a woman and her partner before, during and after birth.
2. What does a doula do?
A doula's job is to educate, support (physically, mentally and emotionally) and advocate for the mother and partner throughout pregnancy, labor and delivery, and finally in the postpartum stage. It can look somewhat like a birthing coach. A doula is familiar with the physiology of pregnancy and childbirth, as well as the emotional needs of a laboring mama, and to assist her and her partner in carrying out their own wishes for their birth. A doula stays with the laboring mother throughout the entire labor, providing physical and emotional support, as well as support for the partner in ways to engage or take over when a break is needed. A doula also assists the mama-to-be and her partner in getting all of the information needed in order to make a well informed decision, as well as also facilitating communication with care providers. A doula understands that birth is an experience that a mother will remember for the rest of her life, and it's our job to protect that and help nurture that as beautifully as possible.
3. What does a doula NOT do?
A doula does NOT make decisions for you. Rather she assists you through the decision making process and provides balanced information to come to a well informed choice on your own or with your partner. A doula also does NOT deliver your baby or administer medication. Often times, many get confused with a doula's role versus that of a midwife. A doula is NOT a midwife. A midwife is very much like a doctor; they are a health care provider who can deliver your baby whether at home, at a birthing center, or in the hospital, and a doula can not do this.
4. What kind of training and credentials do doulas have?
There are no prerequisites to have in order to enroll in a training, but in order to get certified, it can vary from program to program...from weekend workshops, to book reports, to presentations. But all of it ends with you attending a certain amount of live births before you are "certified." In these programs, you are trained in childbirth, the stages of labor, birth interventions, medications, breastfeeding, etc. My program was 3 weekend intensives with 2 book reports, 1 presentation and attending 4 live births. But there is a very wide collection of doula training programs and organizations throughout the country. (you can visit www.dona.org for more info)
5. What are some of the benefits of having a doula present at your birth?
For the average expectant mama, having a doula provides a level of familiarity, experience and advocacy when it comes to the birthing process, especially the all too common challenges that can take place with a hospital birth. Obviously hospital staff's intention is to provide wonderful care for you and your baby, but hospitals are also a big business. And those businesses run a tight and timely kept ship. A doula understands that, and acts almost like a liaison. We're there to answer any questions that may arise, and advocate for you and your baby at all times while also upholding your birth wishes, unless medical intervention is absolutely necessary. A doula's job is also to help the mother and her partner to feel less anxious and offer advice in a personal, non-clinical way, as well as facilitate communication between yourself and staff. This allows mama-to-be and partner, to just focus, drop in, and engage in the main task at hand.
If you're having a birthing center birth or home birth, a doula's value and importance remains the same, providing reassurance and affirmation for BOTH partners. As well as to support you physically with touch/massage, finding the most comfortable laboring position, and being your personal cheerleader and advocate. It's also worth mentioning that studies have shown that having a doula at your birth can result in less pain medication and less labor time. And who doesn't want that!
6. What are your philosophies around birth?
I believe as women we inherently have the knowledge, strength, wisdom and ability to give birth and successfully nurture our children. It is my job as a doula to help facilitate that and turn that belief into a reality. I strive for mamas to have a safe, memorable, beautiful, and empowering birth experience. And one that facilitates and honors your personal choices.
7. What is your favorite part about being a doula?
Birth is such a magical and intimate experience! And I feel incredibly grateful and humbled that my role of being a doula has allowed me to step into that beautiful, intimate experience and be part of a mama's journey as one of the most profound and important moments of their lives. And I get to be there…..what a beautiful gift!! I feel so blessed to do this type of work and be on this journey with each family I work with.
8. Why did you choose to become a doula?
I had a doula for my first birth and it changed my whole life! I don't know how myself or my partner could have made it without her continuous support and encouragement. And after that, I sang the praises of how important having a doula was and that everyone should have one. So when my girlfriends started to become pregnant, I started offering support and information to them just because I was so passionate about it. Then quite profoundly, with my 2nd child the knowledge base and advocacy of our doula literally saved our daughter's life. It was after that, that I was inspired to help empower women, educate, and advocate for them in the same way my doula had magnificently done for me. So while on maternity leave with my daughter, I enrolled in an intensive doula, postpartum and assistant midwifery program. I fell in LOVE with it and immediately started assisting and doing births. I haven't stopped since!
9. Should I have a backup doula?
Most definitely! Most doulas have a backup that they work with. And if not, please make sure to ask any doula that you hire to have one. Majority of the time you will not need one, but it is so important to have one because you never know what might come up!
10. What is the typical fee range for most doulas?
It varies depending on what services they have/offer and where you live. In major cities like Los Angeles and New York, doulas average around $3500 while other remote areas can be around $500. I generally charge $1500 for a birth and $250 for placenta encapsulation. But it really does vary from doula to doula and client to client on their needs and wants.
11. It's clear that a doula has great value in the labor process, but would they be considered a resource at any other stage in pregnancy?
Great question! Doulas are definitely a resource prenatally as well as in the postpartum stage. I have had clients hire me as early as the end of the first trimester. But on average I really start engaging with the parents to be in the 2nd trimester and sometimes even the beginning of the 3rd. It's during those prenatal stages that we can discuss so many topics for mamas, such as; pregnancy discomfort or ailments, nutrition, exercise, stages of labor, helping with birth plans/wishes. I'm also always on call for questions or concerns about the numerous developments that occur throughout a pregnancy, especially after birth in the first few days or weeks at home.
12. At what point in labor do you generally meet up with the laboring mother?
Every doula is different….I have heard of some doulas meeting the mama-to-be at the hospital, and others long before that time. I generally meet up with the laboring mama at her home, when contractions are strong and consistent and not varied and all over the place. I then stay with them up until the baby arrives and for a few hours postpartum to help establish breastfeeding and make sure mama and baby are doing beautifully.
13. What coping techniques do you find most helpful?
I offer a variety of coping techniques, such as; labor position suggestions, touch, massage and aromatherapy using essential oils that compliment labor and birth, assistance with breathing and emotional reassurance and encouragement. With the birth of my own 2 children, I had all of the above and used every single one of those techniques and absolutely needed them and felt them to be essential. But every mama is different and every birth is different, so what one mama might like, another may not. Our job is to know that and be flexible, and to create every labor and birth to be a meaningful and special experience for her.
14. If I hire a doula, am I required to have a natural birth?
Absolutely not! This is a VERY common question that I receive. I am more than happy to support mamas regardless of their choice to have a medicated birth or not. My job is to provide all of the information and guidance the way a doula so knowledgeably is able to do, regardless of their birthing choice.
Aisha Carabello, Certified Birth Doula | Placenta Encapsulator | Childbirth Educator | Mama of 2
Aisha lives in the Bay Area with her two children. She is a Certified Birth Doula, and Children's Yoga & Mindfulness Educator serving various preschools and elementary schools in the East Bay. She has been working with children and serving families for over 15 years. For more information on Aisha, or to inquire about her services, visit her website www.lovelifedoula.com
*Photo by Bonnie Hussey Photography