A Day in the Life of a Doula

Re-sharing a guest post by blogger Misty Pratt, a DONA-Certified doula in honor of World Doula Week.

Adoula holding a baby with her hands gently around its head for support

A birth doula is a woman who accompanies expectant parents on their journey through labour and birth. She is there to provide continual emotional, physical and informational support to mothers and their partners. But what does a doula really do? Read on to find out!

A Day in the Life of a Doula

It’s 9:58 a.m., and I’m right on time for my doula interview. I squint at the street sign, and realize I’m at the right place. I pull in, take a deep breath, and lock the car door. Meeting potential clients is always hard, but I’m extra nervous about this one – this is a volunteer placement, for low-income families and new immigrants. I hope we’ll be able to connect, despite the language barrier.

The husband greets me at the door. The apartment smells dank and musty, and despite the gorgeous sunshine outside, little light is shining through the draped windows. A young girl peeks around the back of dad’s legs, and gives me a shy smile.

Over the next hour, I am filled with compassion for this young couple. The mother has struggled through a painful and difficult pregnancy, only to recently discover she will require a scheduled caesarean section. We talk at length about caesarean birth, and I leave hoping that I’ve calmed some of her anxieties. How will she cope with her daughter if she is recovering from abdominal surgery? What will she do when there are no friends or family to assist in her recovery? I worry about these things on the drive home.

It’s now 10:00 p.m., and I’m warm and cozy in bed with a good book. Suddenly my cell phone rings. I sigh, knowing my anticipated full night’s sleep just went out the window.

“I think I might be in labour,” my client says.

We talk about the contractions and back ache she’s experiencing, and I confirm what she believes – that she’s in early labour. I ask her how she’s coping, and she says that she there’s little pain, only some discomfort. I suggest that she tries a warm bath to slow the contractions, which may help her get a few hours of sleep.

I get off the phone and my husband and I discuss our change of morning routine. He will need to inform work that he’s going to be late, and he’ll need to drive my daughter to daycare. I make sure my doula bag is packed with everything I need, and then I attempt to get some rest.

At 2:30 a.m. my client’s partner calls back. My client has not been able to sleep, and is no longer coping well with the contractions. He asks if I can come over to their home. I throw on the kettle, and then quickly get dressed and brush my teeth. The cool night air wakes me up, and soon the adrenaline I need is flowing.

At the home, my client is lying on her bed and moaning through contractions. I suggest we get up and try the shower for a little while. The warm water helps her to relax, and soon she’s in a great rhythm. She decides it’s time to call the midwife.

The birthing team arrives and sets up their equipment. It’s nice having some extra company, and I head downstairs to put on a pot of coffee. Soon my client’s moans are turning into short grunts, and we all anticipate that a baby will be born soon. I stay by her side the entire time, encouraging her efforts and staying positive about her progress. I wipe her forehead with cool cloths, and provide her with sips of water.

Sure enough, at 6:52 a.m. a healthy baby boy slips out into the world, and is greeted by his elated mother and father. Tears well up in my eyes. I cry at every birth, but usually just hide behind the camera, snapping shots of the new family.

Newborn baby boy laying with mother

At 9:00 a.m., I’m on my way home, and the sun is out in full force. I feel sleepy, but know that I won’t be able to sleep for a long time. I take the day to process the birth, and welcome my daughter home for dinner. For some reason, no matter how long the birth, I always seem to miss her.

“Mommy,” she asks, “did you see a baby be born?”

“I certainly did, honey.”

“How is a baby born, Mommy?”

“Magic, my love….pure magic and miracles.”

Misty Pratt is a DONA-certified doula in Ottawa, Ontario. She’s also a blogger at The Chickadee Tweet, where she writes about pregnancy, birth and motherhood.

Did you have a doula assisting you at the birth of your baby? Please tell us about it below…