I believe a doula can play a very important part in a woman’s feeling of comfort during labor and birth. In a hospital setting, perhaps the most important part a doula plays is being a sort of buffer between the woman and the medical staff, advocating the woman’s rights to avoid procedures she is not interested in and guarding her privacy.
During my first birth, I was supposed to be attended by a doula in training, who was going to be there with me throughout the birth without any financial reward, as part of her practice. However, I went into labor in the middle of the night and our phone call failed to wake her so we went without her.
In retrospective, I can say that my husband provided all the necessary emotional support during the birth of both our children so far, and took it upon himself to assert to the staff that I’m not interested in an epidural. He also insisted that they wait until my waters break naturally, instead of doing it in an artificial procedure, something I almost consented to simply because I was in that stage when you become too confused to think properly.
However, not all husbands are as knowledgeable as mine is about natural birth, and some become distressed when they see their wives going through labor (for which they cannot be blamed), so it can be highly useful to have someone around who will be supportive without being too emotionally involved.
For Orthodox Jewish women, especially, who can’t have any physical contact with their husbands starting from a certain stage of labor, it might be very important to have a doula for physical measures of support and pain relief, such as massage and reflexology. I was lucky enough to have a volunteer who did that during my first birth. I think that is why the profession of a doula is becoming increasingly popular among Orthodox Jewish women. I recently had the pleasure of discovering that a very sweet lady who lives nearby is a doula. I inquired her about the challenge of always having to be on call, especially during the night, to which she replied with a smile that she loves the night shift best because it enables her to leave while her family is sleeping without having to worry about additional arrangements.
I wouldn’t want anyone from the family, apart from my husband, to accompany me during birth, but some feel comfortable to have their mother, sister or friend with them, and one of them might do the part of a doula. In fact I believe that the contemporary professional doulas have their origin in the past, when birth was a family event and the mother was attended by other women, mostly experienced ones.
On an unrelated note, I’d like to please remind everyone that though I’m doing my best to keep the blog running, my husband is the one who posts for me through his work computer - I have very infrequent access to the internet myself, so while I still read my emails and try to answer all of them, it can easily take weeks for me to even see your message. I love hearing from you, but it might take me a while to reply. Thank you so much for understanding.