Can I Be My Own Doula?
Can I be my own Doula?
This question, or a variation, “Can my husband be my Doula?”, or “Can my partner be my Doula?” or “Can my bestfriend/cousin/mom/aunt be my Doula?” are common. But never before have I had such a strong response.
NO. They can’t.
For the same reason that surgeons don’t operate on family members.
I didn’t feel so strongly about this before, but last Saturday changed my view dramatically.
In the past, when I have taught childbirth classes or visited with interested couples who are wondering if a Doula is a wise investment for their family, I’ve always suggested that it’s a lot of work to be a Doula.
If the family wanted to invest the time and effort into learning the comfort measures, understanding the birth process and terminology, analyzing the communication systems and then remaining on-call 24/7 for the family, then it could be a really bonding experience!
But there’s another factor that isn’t addressed by that response: objectivity.
Husbands, partners, best friends, cousins, mothers, aunts cannot be objective when the woman they love is exhausted, mentally and physically, and more effort is still required to birth this baby.
And on the postpartum side, those loving family members cannot analyze the sleep habits and eating patterns of a newborn when they themselves are sleep deprived, physically worn out and emotionally drained.
To illustrate, allow me to share the events of last Saturday.
Olivia, my 8-year-old daughter (on the right in the image above), woke up complaining of a sore throat; she didn’t have a fever so I gave her some Tylenol for comfort and some chicken soup and she curled up with a blanket on the sofa.
30 minutes later, my husband called me into the living room because Olivia was jerking uncontrollably. I recognized the seizure immediately and in that instant it was finished. She stopped shaking and I checked her eyes and asked her to say her name.
I walked her to the door and we got in the car and drove to the emergency room.
And these are the thoughts that stampeded through my brain – my Doula brain, my CPR instructor brain, my mother brain:
Oh my gosh, she had a SEIZURE! What would cause a SEIZURE?!
She’s breathing, she’s ok. We’re on the way to the ER.
Did she spike a fever? Is her brain too hot?
She’s breathing, she’ll be ok.
If her brain is too hot will she recover?!
She’s still breathing, if it’s a fever spike we’ll get it under control.
What if her heart stops right now? Can I get her to the ER fast enough?
Her heart didn’t stop. She’s breathing, she’ll be ok.
Should I have called an ambulance?
You’ll get there in 5 more minutes, it’s ok.
Does she have meningitis?! Is that what caused it? Oh my gosh, is she breathing?!
She’s breathing, she’ll be ok.
If her heart stops and I have to do CPR can I get her out of the car safely?!
Her heart didn’t stop, she’s breathing, it’ll be ok.
WHY IS EVERYONE DRIVING SO SLOW?!
It’s ok. We’ll get there in 3 more minutes.
Is she breathing?!
She’s breathing. She’s going to be ok.
But she had a seizure, MY BABY HAD A SEIZURE!!!
It’s ok, we’re here at the ER now, we’ll find out what caused it, she’s going to be ok.
And it was ok.
As it turned out, she had an abrupt fever spike caused by a particularly nasty flu virus. She received prompt care and was her normal, bubbly self in about 2 hours.
Cognitively, I know that most seizures aren’t dangerous. I have taught countless CPR and childbirth classes and TOLD people that most seizures aren’t dangerous; attention must be paid to make sure that the individual doesn’t fall, but that’s the greatest danger with most seizures.
But in the moment, when it was MY BABY having a seizure, I was terrified.
I was still in enough control to get us to the ER, but make no mistake – I was NOT OBJECTIVE. And I had the benefit of Doula and CPR experience.
Perhaps you are a cool headed, rational person; confident speaking to many different people about many different things. Even educated on many of the possible scenarios that may present themselves when the woman you love is having a baby. You are dedicated to her comfort and reassurance.
You still will not be objective.
Because that’s the woman you love.