My work as a doula:
I was working in a maternal health center in Southern Chile at the time, studying maternal health practices in the prenatal / postpartum period. As an unexpected addition to my research, I was called into the delivery room to support a woman in labor. Perhaps the Spanish expression of giving birth (dar la luz, or to give light) helped frame my first experience, but as I watched the baby’s head crown I felt that I was staring into the center of the world. Each time I think of that birth, I am humbled by what our bodies are capable of. Since this first experience, I have sought out further experiences and a richer understanding of birth. I see the role of a doula as a venue to do this.
The Chilean woman in labor did not have an emotional support during her birth, so I acted as her unofficial doula – rubbing her head, sharing the experience, just being there with her. She knew how to breathe deeply and accept the pain of her contractions. Her rhythm and relaxation supported a relatively quick labor. By being her unofficial doula, I realized how important it is to have a supportive presence during labor. In my academic education, I have learned about how important the perception and experience of support is in labor: women who feel surrounded have shorter labor, less tearing, and a more positive experience than women who do not perceive support. The woman’s subjective experience impacts her hormones, her pain, her baby. The role of a doula confronts these truths, and is just as important both for women who know how to breathe into and relax her body during labor, and those who do not.
I am interested in being a doula to support those who may feel unsupported, as well as for any individual who believes that her experience would be more positive with a doula. Regardless of context and life history, every woman deserves equal access to nonjudgemental labor and delivery support. I would like to support, to the best of my abilities, every woman who asks, and allow her to have the most positive experience possible.
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