I get asked this question all the time. While I was at a birth 2 weeks ago, sitting quietly, holding a labouring mum's hand, I began thinking about all the things I (we) do as doulas....
We educate women and their families on their birth options and support whatever decision they make.
We support women and their partners both physically and emotionally.
We put our lives on hold for 4 weeks while being on call so that we are available at anytime we may be needed.
But beyond that... we hold the space, quietly being there, reassuring the mum that she is in a safe, sacred place. As a mother myself, it is a place I know well. With love, patience and a stillness of spirit, I hold hands, wipe faces, dry tears, turn on showers, prepare baths, offer drinks, moan, breathe, rock, comfort partners, explain what is happening, sit quietly, breathe, rest, move, breathe, encourage, hold legs, hold mothers, sometimes even partners, open the space to cry, encourage time to process, wait...and then celebrate.
I take photos and bring warm blankets and tea, in joy of a birth, of being given the awesome privilege of witnessing a baby's first emergence into the world, it's first breath, it's first sight of it's mother that it knows already so well. I then hold the space for the baby as it finds it's way to it's mother's breast, un-rushed, and celebrate the baby's first experience at the breast.
I come to homes or hospitals, helping mum and her baby, I bring information, experience and love. I bring trust that women know how to care for their babies, unlike any book will ever tell them how. Again I hold the space for the new family as they share their experience, ask for support and find themselves on the other side of the river, in this new land of parenting.
While I don't offer medical care, that is the midwife or doctors role, I do offer compassion, love, support, understanding, knowledge, wisdom and a way of quietly being there offering reassurance that this her rite of passage. It is sacred work and I am always so honoured every time I am invited to witness a family's birth.