Not Pictured

Heather, here. I am one of the owners of Doulas of Raleigh. I do a little bit of everything but my main role is that of a birth doula. I was recently looking at some beautiful birth pics from a birth I attended last year. There were beautiful images of the laboring person working hard to change position during transition, with her partner right with her either holding her hand or offering sips of water. There were images of that perfect moment when a woman becomes a mother, seconds after her baby is born and placed on her chest. There were images of Dad soaking in his precious newborn. All gorgeous images meant to be cherished.

Then it struck me. While I was in attendance at this birth I was not in any of the pictures. Obviously that’s just fine, this labor and birth isn’t about me. The sole focus should be on the laboring person and her partner and their new baby. It did get me thinking, though, about what’s not pictured. Being a birth doula is very much about working in the background, weaving a tapestry of support throughout the pregnancy, labor, birth, and the days beyond. Here’s a little look about what’s not pictured.

Not pictured…the emails, texts, and phone calls from the pregnant person to their birth doula about their most recent visit with their care provider, ways to get more comfortable at night, dealing with heartburn and backaches, and asking for referrals to chiropractors, massage therapists, etc.

Not pictured…the long conversations at prenatal visits where we talk about the preferences of the birthing person and how they’d like to be most supported.

Not pictured…the active listening when the pregnant person just isn’t connecting with the pregnancy and maybe isn’t excited about meeting this baby and the space given to validate this feeling.

Not pictured…the suggestions for and then practicing labor positions during a prenatal. Discussing tips for early labor. Reviewing relaxation techniques and reminders for deep breathing. Facilitating discussions about planning for when the baby comes home from the place of birth.

Not pictured…the sometimes days of phone calls or texts before active labor to the doula with the wondering if this is it? The reassurance that everything is OK.

Not pictured…the 3 AM phone call that the water has broken and contractions are coming on strong. Reassurance from the doula again, everything is OK. You’ve got this. The doula waits to hear when the pregnant person and her support person is ready for in person support.

Not pictured…lightly sleeping from 3AM on and then answering that 5 o clock phone call from the partner that asks the doula to join them. The doula hops out of bed, grabs some coffee, and heads out the door. No questions asked. No hesitancy.

Not pictured…lowering the lighting in the room upon arrival, using a quiet and calm voice, doing a hip squeeze during every contraction for hours, suggestions about ways to move, encouragement that you’ve got this. You can do this because you ARE doing it. Noticing the worried look on the partner’s face as they watch their partner as they’ve never seen them before. Assuring the partner that the laboring person is stronger than ever and, yes, this is normal. Reminders to eat, drink, and breathe.

Not pictured…helping the new parent breathe through any repair work due to tears while the partner and nurses are checking out the new baby. Getting the new parents something to eat or drink. Encouraging the new mother as she and baby begin their feeding journey. Knowing when it’s time to step back and let the new family of three take each other in.

Not pictured…the texts and calls over the next few days to check in and see how the birthing person is doing with the physical recovery, the checking in of how everyone is eating and sleeping, and suggestions on how to make some of that happen.

Not pictured..the follow up postpartum visit where the doula checks on the new family, answers non-medical questions the family may have about the labor and birth, and gives suggestions for referrals if needed.

Not pictured…the Christmas cards and first birthday invitations sent to the doula, the forever bond formed between a new family and their doula. We may not always be in the picture but we will always have been honored to be part of your story.