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Update to Services: Virtual Doula Support

The current outbreak of the Covid-19 virus has radically changed our childbirth system, making it impossible for doulas to be physically present during most hospital births. However, doula support is just as valuable as ever. In fact, one might argue that doulas are needed now more than ever. In a time when expectant parents are anxious, navigating policy changes in their hospitals, as well as in their state and local governments, managing potential changes to income and daily living, and filtering through the onslaught of incoming news and recommendations, the guidance of a seasoned doula provides irreplaceable calm in the storm. When so much is out of our control, it is imperative that expectant parents have access to birth professionals who can answer questions, provide training, teach coping techniques, and be a voice of confidence and comfort in the birth room. While nothing replaces the physical presence of a doula, virtual support is the next best thing! 

It is so important for me to emphasize that you are not alone and do not have to navigate this time by yourself. I’m happy to say that I already offer distance support and can vouch for the benefits of virtual doula support. At this time, I’ve created a special Virtual Doula Support package at a reduced rate of $300. (My traditional birth doula packages range from $500-$700.) The Virtual Doula package offers more comprehensive support than my Distance Doula package, including more extensive prenatal support and is perfect for expectant parents delivering under the current Covid-19 restriction. The package includes the following:

  1. Up to three virtual prenatal support meetings during which I will help you navigate the current birth environment, create a birth plan, advise you and your partner on comfort measures and positions, provide extra training to your support partner, and more.
  2. Email and text support, including unlimited on-call access beginning at 38 weeks of pregnancy.
  3. Pdf files of labor resources and a concise labor guide for quick reference.
  4. Virtual support for the entirety of your labor, method to be determined by the client and doula after contract signing.
  5. Virtual postpartum meeting at 7-10 days after delivery as well as text/email support for up to four weeks after delivery.
  6. Access to resource list of virtual and Telehealth postpartum support.

If you are experiencing financial difficulty due to Covid-19 but would still like doula support for your birth, please don’t hesitate to reach out. My deepest desire is for all families to have the best birth experience possible and am happy to make payment arrangements as needed. I’m here for you always, but especially in this current climate of change and unpredictability. 

You may not have the birth experience you always thought you’d have, but together we can ensure that your birth is beautiful, enriching, and empowering. Though so much has changed, you still have options and the ability to take the lead. If you’re looking for a partner to accompany your family on this wild ride, I am happy to be your huckleberry. I know you can do this and I’m here for you every step of the way!

Love and light,

Mary Susan Delagrange CD(DONA)

 Let choice whisper in your ear and love murmur in your heart. Be ready. Here comes life.

Maya Angelou
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World Doula Week 2020

It’s World Doula Week and what a world we’re in! Many doulas are finding it difficult or even impossible to support their clients in hospitals, as visitor restrictions are incredibly high due to COVID-19, and understandably so. I find myself on both sides of the issue, 100% dedicated to staying home, flattening the curve, and not contributing to the problem, but also 100% convinced of the necessity of doula support for laboring families, especially now when so many of them are fearful and anxious. It’s a real conundrum, one I haven’t made peace with yet, if I’m honest.

However, I’m practicing what I’ve been preaching to my clients: Control what we can control and let the rest go. I am not the person in charge of hospital policies and have no control over whether I’ll be allowed in with clients. However, I can control my response to the situation and do my part.

The truth remains that doulas fill the gap. In normal, non pandemic birth situations, doulas are imperative because we’re able to stay with our clients for their entire labors. Unlike midwives, doctors, and nurses who have many other tasks and patients they’re working with, your doula sticks with you and doesn’t leave your side…unless she has to go to the bathroom. We’re not that good. 😉

It has struck me that the gap has widened now and we doulas have to adapt and be creative in order to fill it. But we’re still here. We’re still eager to serve, willing to do what it takes to help our clients achieve the most beautiful, peaceful, empowering births they can possibly have.

So, what does that look like, boots on the ground?

It looks like a ton of phone, text, and virtual support. It looks like more time spent sending resources via email, meetings being held on online platforms, and lots and lots of phone calls and listening. It looks like time spent reviewing resources and best practices, taking time to stay on top of developing reccomendations and hospital policies. It looks like constant reminders that we are never alone. It looks like reevaluating goals, sacrificing plans, and collectively coming to terms with what that will require of us.

But here’s what I know: there’s nothing stronger than a birthing woman. No force is equal to that of an empowered woman working with her body to bring a new soul into the world. There is nothing quite as striking as the intensity of a loving partner, steadily supporting a fierce, warrior mama.

We’re all being asked to dig in and be a little bit stronger than we thought we could be. And while that’s a little bit scary, it’s not impossible. The strength to move forward, to push through, to do the hardest things imaginable…this is the innate strength of birth. That’s what birth is! At its core, birth is this epic journey that pushes us beyond our mental limits to achieve the unimaginable. It lies within all of us to do the hard things. We’re all in labor, to some extent. Everyone in the world is waiting, sacrificing, expectant. Our lives are not our own anymore and just like a pregnant mother ready to deliver her child, we need to harness our strength, trust the process, and surround ourselves with people who will support us when we don’t think we can go on.

I’ve always said doulas are the cheerleader/coach in your pocket ready and waiting to guide and encourage you on your way to birth. It’s never been more true than it is now. Doula care may not be what we want it to be right now. Believe me, we desperately wish we could be by your side. But doulas are adaptable. We are creative, we are problem solvers, and we’re quick on our feet. Most importantly, we’re here for you. Physical distance doesn’t negate what a doula can do. The physical presence of a doula in your birth room is irreplaceable, it’s true, but the role of doula is not limited to physicality. We support birthing women as whole people, respecting the intricate tapestry of mental, emotional, and physical factors that are at play in birth. We provide resources, help ask questions, assist in navigating the medical world, and most importantly we speak truth, encouragement, and empowerment. We are the voice saying, “You can do it. You were made for this. I believe in you.”

Doulas are still necessary. When you need us, we’re here just like we’ve always been.

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Why Not My Mom?

Q: My mom has had seven of her own children and my partner took a childbirth class. How is a doula that much better than either of them?

 

A: This is a common question and I think the answer lies in taking a step back looking at the big picture. Hiring a doula and having your loved ones with you during birth does not have to be mutually exclusive. It’s not either/or (unless you want it to be). You can actually have your cake and eat it too on this one!

 

Note: I’m going to be dealing in generalizations here. Obviously not every partner relationship and mother/daughter relationship are great. Even if they are great, not all mothers want their own mamas at their delivery. This is a very personal choice and there’s not a one size fits all answer. However, for the purposes of this post, we’re going to assume that the mother giving birth would genuinely be open to her partner and/or her mother attending her birth. 

 

There are lots of good reasons to have your partner and your mom in your birthing room. They love you like crazy, for starters! Your mother and your partner know you in intimate ways that your doula probably doesn’t. They know your history because they’ve walked it with you. They know what makes you tick and can offer valuable insight into how to best care for you during labor. Your mother has obviously given birth before, so she can empathize with you in ways that even your partner might not. Maybe your partner and/or mom have joined you for a childbirth class, too. That’s awesome! The more prepared your birth team is, the better.

 

All of those things can add up to a truly wonderful birth experience, no doubt about it. However – and remember you CAN have your cake and eat it, too! – a doula can be the glue that holds that wonderful experience all together.

 

Think of it this way:

A doula has*…

  • attended workshops, classes, and undergone training to master the art of labor support.
  • read countless books on childbirth, breast feeding, and postpartum.
  • written essays on the importance of continuous labor support.
  • gotten feedback from birth care professionals like midwives, doctors, and nurses.
  • researched (and continues to research) the most up to date information and studies on best birth practices.
  • made herself familiar with hospital practices and is prepared to help you navigate the medical lingo that can become confusing during birth.

 

A doula will…

  • be available to you throughout your pregnancy for questions, information, or just a shoulder to lean on.
  • give you unbiased information and will not try to sway you in one way or another. This is your birth after all.
  • have a list of resources and a network of information to get you the best answers to your questions.
  • be happy to answer any and all “awkward” questions that you might not feel comfortable asking someone else.
  • know how to help you manage labor with comfort measures, positions, etc.

 

A doula will not take the place of your partner or mother during your birth. Their presence is irreplaceable. Period. She will, however, enrich their presence with her own expertise. She will empower your partner to go ahead and try a particular support position. She will work with your mother to ensure that your spiritual and emotional needs are being met. She will make sure that everyone is on the same page as to your desires and pull the team together to be guardians of  your personal birth vision.

 

A doula is not a divider, but rather a unifier in the birth room. She honors the relationships you have with your loved ones and adds an indispensable element of information, care, and experience that will take your birth experience to the next level.

 

 

 

 

Additional Resources: 
“If You Don’t Hire a Doula” from Southern Pacific Doulas

 

*This refers loosely to DONA certified doulas or those working toward DONA certification. Other organizations have different requirements for certification and this is not an exhaustive list of the DONA certification requirements. For more information on DONA certification, follow this link.