I can go into great detail, but I'm just going to give you the condensed version..
A doula is a support person. In my case, I'm a birth doula, meaning I'm a birth support person - your guide, Sherpa, best friend (with advice you can trust), a vaginal Gandalf (Brooklyn 99..ahem, best show ever!).
Doula's are not only for birthers, they're for partners and families, as well. Helping guide, educate, and support during pregnancy, birth and postpartum.
Pregnancy:Questions, concerns, or just need someone to talk to? I'm here for you with resources in hand.
Prenatal Education Class: In your last trimester, I come to you and teach you a private childbirth education class.
Body Prep Workshop: Whether you are overdue or in early labour and looking for ways prepare your body, I will come to you, and go through my body prep workshop.
Birth Support: When you go into labour, I will join you from the time you call me in, till one to two hours postpartum. I suggest labour positions to help make you more comfortable, and activities to encourage better fetal positioning.
Advocate: I help you and you partner feel more in control of YOUR birth, making sure you voice your concerns, ask appropriate questions, and know what your options are, for labour and birth.
Partners: I will guide your partner, allowing him/her feel more confident in how they can help you (this is important, because most partners don't fully understand how to help, or what they are and aren't allowed to do. If your partner needs to go home and rest, or let the dog out, I will stay with you.
I bring the calm: Flameless candles, music, dim lights, massage, hip squeezes, counter pressure, all you need to do is find your happy place!
Postpartum: After you have your baby, I try to stay with you for a little while, to make sure you've had something to eat, and help with the first latch, if you need it, or to simply just clean.
Everything in between: Birth can be messy and demanding. I will make sure you are well watered and fed during and after labour/birth. I will bring you warm blankets, cool cloths, help you feel as comfortable as possible. For homebirths, I will make sure your home is tidy and you have a load of laundry going, before I leave.
Photography: The birth of your baby will be one of the most memorable experiences of your life, so I can capture those first moments for you to treasure.
You might have your partner, mom or sister, midwife, nurses, or doctor, so why would you need one more person in your birth space? Here are some questions to ask, when choosing your birth team;
Will your birth team help create a calming environment for you, encouraging you and cheering your on?
Does your birth team know how to properly apply counter pressure, hip squeezes, or suggest labouring positions?
Will your birth team know what activities to suggest for possible fetal malpositioning, or in the event of slow labour progression, or stalled labour?
Do you feel they would be unbiased or emotionally stable support, if hard decisions need to be made?
Is your birth team there as a support to you and or your partner, or are they just there because of the excitement of birth?
You partner and/or family member bring a very important role to the birthing space, but they aren't your guide...and they often need just as much guidance as the birther (in order for them to properly assist the birther).
Your midwife or nurse and physician also have optimal roles in the birthing room, and that's to monitor and make sure that the birther and baby are safe. Their job also isn't to guide. Their job isn't to walk stairs with you, or hold your hand during contractions, or to give your sips or water, or give your partner directions on how and when to do a hip squeeze (though you may get lucky with a midwife or nurse who do all these things).
Every person in the birthing room has a vital role. The doula's role is to make sure everything is organized and that the birther (and partner) feel safe, comfortable, and taken care of. We're a bit like a wedding planner, but for birth!