Have you ever heard the term ‘doula’ before and wondered exactly what it is that they do? Below is an interview I did with Amber Piller, a fantastic doula in Omaha! So grab a cup of coffee (decaf of course!) and join us for a little interview!
Hi Amber, thanks for taking time out of your day to hang out on the blog with us for a little bit! So I think the first thing that comes to mind when people hear the word doula they might be thinking “I’ve heard of them before, isn’t that like a midwife or something?” or perhaps they might be thinking “I don’t know if a natural birth is for me, should I still invest in a doula
So first and foremost Amber can you tell us what exactly a doula is?
Amber: A doula is a non-medical pregnancy, labor/birth, postpartum support person. The word doula is actually a greek word that means, maid-servant. And that really is what we do…serve, pregnant, birthing, and new families. I am a birth doula. Typical services from a birth doula include prenatal visits to go over the physiological birth process, your birthing options, hospital policies and procedures, and assistance in creating a birth plan, working through fears and practicing relaxation and coping techniques for the big day. Doulas are also there for you by phone throughout your pregnancy if and when any questions arise. They have an arsenal of resources to help you along your journey. Birth doulas are on call for you 24/7 as your due approaches and after…until your baby comes. They attend the birth and assist with information, encouragement, and hands-on support with things like massage and positioning. The doula will remain for an hour or two after the baby arrives to make sure mom has gotten something to eat and has gotten baby latched on for the first time then the doula will sometimes visit again once the family comes home.
Postpartum doulas provide support, information and hands-on help in those first weeks after the baby is born. They help with meal preparation and breastfeeding and help the family find a new routine that works for them so everyone is being fed and getting as much rest as possible.
How do you view childbirth?
To me, childbirth is a normal, natural part of life. It is something to be respected, but not feared. Childbirth is a lot of work and can be intense, uncomfortable and even painful. But, it is also sacred, beautiful and transformative at the same time.
Why should an expecting mama hire a doula?
I feel that every birthing mother deserves to be loved, supported, and nurtured as she’s birthing her baby. So much of a doula’s role is to mother the mother. Doulas fill in the gaps that medical care providers are just too busy to fill.
What do you think of medication during birth?
I think that medication during birth has its place. When necessary, it can be a useful tool and I am thankful we have it. I do, however think that our culture tends to overuse medication and interventions during birth. I think that education and allowing the mothers to be truly informed decision-makers in their care is the key with this. If a mom, knowing the risks, benefits, and alternatives of a medication chooses to use it during her birth…great! I am happy to support her in that.
Why did you become a doula?
My first birth was very difficult for me. My oldest son was breech and was born by cesarean. The recovery was very hard, both physically and emotionally. And a few months after he was born, I began to research breech babies, hoping to avoid it with future babies. The more I learned, the more fascinated I became. It sort of snowballed from there…I devoured every birth-related book, article, and blog I could get my hands on. I opened Nebraska’s first chapter of ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network…a support group for moms wishing to avoid unnecessary cesareans, recovering from cesareans, and planning VBACs and medically-necessary cesareans). I still serve as the chapter-leader for that group today. I realized that had I had a doula to help me know my options in encouraging my baby to turn his position, my first birth may have been different. I hired a doula for my second baby (a VBAC, Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) and the support that she provided me was so instrumental to that birth that I realized that I wanted to provide that support to other moms some day.
How many births have you attended?
I attended my 40th birth this year. Of those 40, 15 have been VBACs…I’ve gained the reputation as the VBAC doula.
Do I have to deliver at a birth center to use a doula?
I support births at every hospital in the metro as well as the birth center.
Do you offer any special services?
As I mentioned before, I specialize in VBAC birth. Because of my 6+ years in supporting cesarean and VBAC moms through ICAN and my own two VBAC births, moms have begun seeking me out for their VBACs. While I support a lot of VBACs, I also support first-time parents, 10th-time parents and everything in-between. I have no formal training in breastfeeding (yet), but am knowledgeable and experienced and work closely with some wonderful local lactation consultants. I am also an experienced babywearer and am always happy to assist mom (and dad) in getting baby into a carrier. In addition to birth doula services, I offer birth planning sessions. These sessions help families navigate their options, provide assistance in writing a birth plan, and offer tips for effective communication with providers and hospital staff as well as some instruction relaxation and coping techniques for labor. This fall, I am training and certifying as a bereavement doula with Still BirthDay to offer support to families during times of loss.
What type of pre-labor and post-labor support do you provide?
I actually offer three doula services packages so families are able to choose what best fits their needs and their budget. All packages include at least one prenatal visit to discuss the physiological birth process, options for birth, hospital policies and procedures, assistance in writing a birth plan, relaxation and coping techniques for labor, optimal fetal positioning, and postpartum planning. Obviously, the packages that offer 2 or 3 prenatal visits allow time to discuss everything more in depth, do more hands-on practice of relaxation and coping techniques, and I also include some basic newborn care and breastfeeding and babywearing instruction. Two of my packages also offer a postpartum visit. A new service I am also offering for those two packages is setting up an online mealtrain to aid the new family in arranging help with meals, errands, housecleaning, and help with older siblings with their friends and family. All packages also receive unlimited phone/email support throughout the pregnancy, on call 24/7 at 38 weeks until the baby arrives, continuous labor support throughout the labor and birth, and 1-2 hours of immediate postpartum support.
What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had as a doula?
Goodness, I’m not sure I can choose just one experience. I take away at least one memorable moment from every birth I attend.
Katina, after you pushed your baby out on your hands and knees into your husband’s hands, you sat back and breathlessly exclaimed “That was so easy!” It made an impression on everyone in the room, including me. It was a beautiful moment.
A few other moments that especially touched my heart:
Kneeling on the floor next to the bath tub while the mother who had had three previous cesareans wept, as she surrendered to the overwhelming power of her body working and then pushed her baby out.
Attending a birth in which the father absolutely did not want me there for. He didn’t understand my role and was afraid I would be taking his place. His wife had had 2 previous cesareans and she desperately wanted this birth to be different. After a long labor, she had a successful VBAC and her husband hugged me and thanked me with tears in his eyes, saying he could’ve never supported her through all of that by himself.
The family that I supported through the loss of a son at 25 weeks gestation and then helped welcome and celebrate the birth of another son just one year later.
All of the fathers that have wept upon seeing their baby for the first time.
All of the mothers that have peacefully and confidently birthed their babies.
All of the mothers that have loudly and powerfully pushed their babies out.
All of the siblings and grandparents and aunts and uncles that have celebrated the new addition.
The doctors, midwives, and nurses that have pulled me aside and told me they were glad I was there and enjoyed working alongside me.
…They have all touched my heart.
I truly love this job.