Category Archives: About Doulas’ Guide to Birthing Your Way

Learning from a Birth

After each birth I ask myself, what did I learn from this birth? I do this because every birth is unique and if I have a seeking spirit, I will never run out of things to learn about birth, babies and mothering. When we were writing Doulas’ Guide to Birthing Your Way, one of the hardest parts was trying to decide what not to include. We wanted the book to make sense and be easy for pregnant women and doulas alike to learn from it. Much of what we wrote came from things we learned over the years, one birth at a time. The book could have been much longer and even included more topics, but you don’t have to become a doctor–or a doula in order to give birth yourself!

Instead, we made the book user-friendly. We are planning to start our next book in January. It will also be a Doulas’ Guide to — . Each birth I attend I am learning more and trying to pass some of that knowledge on.

ICEA’s Book Review of Doulas’ Guide

Review by Simone from ICEA

Doula’s Guide to Birthing Your Way

By Jan S. Mallak and Teresa F. Bailey

Doulaspeak. That is what I am going to call it from now on. I really enjoyed reading this book because I could tell (let’s pretend it’s not in the title) that it was written by a doula. I felt comforted and reassured by their words because I have used the exact same words and/or phrases myself.

As soon as I began reading I knew it would be a positive experience-believe me-not all books about birth are exciting to read. I knew this would be different because right on the very first page I read, “how you feel about your birth actually affects the physical outcome.” We know this as doulas but many pregnant women don’t realize that they have some emotional work to do too. It is significant that this message is sent right at the beginning. This idea is just one of the many important concepts lying at the foundation of this book.

I tried to approach the book as two separate beings. I read as an expectant mom (no I am not currently pregnant) and as a doula. After all the authors boast that the book was written for mom and her doula. As a pretend pregnant woman the information was laid out in a way that would resonate with me. Each chapter began with a story, then provided information, and then most of them ended with an exercise or activity to help wrap it all up. This is a fabulous technique because in addition to the educational benefit it really encourages mom to take an active role.

As a doula I definitely had a few favorite chapters. The first chapter was entitled “Human Environment” and I loved it. We spend so much time talking about where to give birth that we forget it doesn’t matter where you are as much as who is with you. It was a refreshing reminder. It also introduced another one of those underlying concepts found throughout the book-that of creating a positive relationship and engaging in dialogue with your care providers and birth team.

Naturally I also favored the chapter on the “Five Arms of Doula Support.” There are so many reasons why a couple will choose to work with a doula but this chapter was presented so beautifully that I am sure the image of five arms of support will come up again in my own conversations about the benefits of doulas.

When I first started working as a doula my biggest challenge was figuring out when a mom really wanted pain medication and when she was just asking for more support. I literally jumped for joy when I came across a chart in the book called “hints on knowing if and when drugs are needed.” This is a great tool for doulas and anyone else who is planning on supporting a woman in labor (hint hint-partners).

The authors covered a number of topics of interest to mothers and doulas. As a childbirth educator reading books about birth can sometimes be redundant so it’s important to present topics in a way that is refreshing as well as inspiring. The section on epidurals was memorable because it started out discussing the “epidural epidemic.” Of course they went into the risks and benefits as any quality childbirth book should do but there was something about the way it was presented that did a bit more than inform-it made you think about the larger implications of overusing any medical procedure.

I was also thoroughly impressed by the chapter on pushing. I sometimes find it difficult to teach or discuss second stage because it is one of those things that you just won’t really understand until you go through it. I do my best to convey what I can and I thought this chapter was well planned out. They covered the phases of pushing, the role gravity can play, laboring down, perineal support and the different sensations one may experience. It was a very thorough and descriptive chapter that will be much appreciated by many. Each chapter encouraged the reader to explore their beliefs and understand their options. Breastfeeding, postpartum, Cesarean, VBACS-covered.

My absolute favorite part of the book appeared at the end. Sure-the checklists, charts and activities throughout the chapters were gifts in and of themselves but my true joy was unleashed when I turned to the last chapter-“Creating your own Birth Vision.” This chapter is filled with activities and information to help mom create a vision of her ideal birth based on her personal philosophy, preferences and priorities. If I didn’t already fully endorse this book this last chapter alone would have sealed the deal.

I wasn’t sure it was possible but I am even more proud to call myself a doula. We kinda Rock!

Premature Cesarean: How a Doula Can Help

I saw a podcast from one mother, Jen, describing her experience with her second birth, a scheduled cesarean. Her doctor assured her that 37 weeks’ gestation was long enough for a cesarean, and her child was actually born at week 38. However, her child was not ready to be born and was in the NICU for two weeks — the time it would have taken him to get to full term, 40 weeks.

One of the things that troubled her was that she didn’t even know the questions she should have been asking her doctor until after she had all her problems.  A pregnant woman relies upon the sound medical advice of her caregiver. Yet she also has to be an informed consumer. We talk about how to be an informed consumer of healthcare in detail in our book Doulas’ Guide to Birthing Your Way.

A woman’s doula will usually help her with the information she needs to access situations that she hasn’t already thought of. Because a doula deals with different doctors and midwives who practice in different ways, she should have good insight into the kinds of questions a mom should ask if scheduling a cesarean is a decision she needs to make. Doulas do help moms avoid unnecessary cesareans. Then if a mom does need a cesarean, she can feel more confident that it was a necesssary cesarean.

Choosing Your Doula

How do you know she is right for you and your birth? In our book: Doulas’ Guide to Birthing Your Way, we go into detail about choosing your birth team. When choosing your doula, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Your doula should be:

— someone who comforts you.

— someone who realizes that it is your birth.

— someone who looks forward to attending your birth. It shouldn’t be a chore or burden.

— someone you can build a touch and trust relationship with.

— someone whose experience you value.

— someone who realizes that you must feel right about having her as your doula.

As doulas we all have had friends or fellow doulas who chose someone else to be their doula. Your doula should understand that picking her is a very personal choice — and the choice is yours!