A few weeks ago, some friends of mine – a couple – gave birth to a baby girl, Tara. Upon visiting the new trio at their home in Barcelona, I noticed how radiant they appeared, so I asked them what happened.
I discovered that during this poignant moment of their lives, they’d been blessed by the presence of a Doula.
As I subconsciously jumped in to extract the meaning of a Doula, my friends introduced me to a lady that entered the room, Ana Luisa.
“Pleased to meet you, I’m the Doula” she said.
Sure enough, I was pleased with the auspicious meeting and felt inclined to ask Ana Luisa about her role.
She told me how she supported and nurtured the family emotionally and logistically through the tender process of pregnancy, birth and its aftercare.
It sounded very rewarding, giving and extraordinarily caring to have a Doula at home so I jumped in to extract more details.
“What exactly does that mean, to be a Doula?” I asked, innocently.
“Well, I accompany the woman and her family during the pregnancy and birth to help them have a better experience. The world these days can be fast paced and hard work which means they have less space and time to connect to themselves, their bodies, their knowledge and priorities. The same is true for pregnant women. Pregnancy is a different rhythm to the usual lifestyle and if the woman is not empowered or doesn’t have the right information to connect to this rhythm, she’ll find it hard to have a good experience and enjoy it.”
Something inside me brewed up a feeling of ultimate connectedness, but I parked it when she continued.
“The Doula complements the role of the doctors and midwives, even if they are not medically trained. The Doula offers their presence and emotional support to make the mother feel safe and comfortable. It’s like we’re the mother of the mothers. Sometimes, if the Doula has more training and resources, they could offer the family extra support like aromatherapy, massage, teaching better breathing techniques, helping with breast feeding, helping with pain relief and giving a helping hand at home.”
Wow, that was so beautiful, I thought to myself. “So what’s the difference between a midwife and a Doula?” I asked Ana Luisa.
“Although we are officially trained and certified as Doulas, we are not medically trained like the midwife. We can’t offer medical advice, make medical decisions on behalf of the mother, deliver the baby or cut the umbilical cord for example. But we do work with the midwife and we’re connected to other professional bodies relating to mothers and babies so that we remain professionally well informed to help guide women and their families through the experience.”
I felt very touched by Ana Luisa and her job of providing such invaluable care for the family, which made me curious about her own life. “What about you? What’s your background and how did you end up being a Doula?”
“I’m actually from Chile and came to Barcelona eight years ago. I came here with my family and decided to study Dance Movement Therapy. I thought it would complement my career as a Psychologist and I also had the intention of completing my Doula training after an amazing experience delivering my son.” She mentioned.
“That sounds very romantic.” I gestured. “So what happened with your own birthing experience and why was it so powerful?” I probed again.
“Since I became a mother my entire world changed – both external and internal worlds. I became more conscious. Maternity made me see the world and the relationship I had with myself and others in a different way. I realised that we’re completely connected to the planet and everyone on it. I also understood that the relationship between a mother, a baby and the family is the most important moment in life because it’s the beginning of life. The first months and years of a babies life are the most important in their development. I was lucky I had the experience of a beautiful birth. I never met this kind of love with anyone as I felt with my son. It was clear to me that this moment in a woman’s life is a very potent way to connect with our potential, our consciousness, our power, our resources and our creativity. After my own powerful experience I developed a calling to help other mothers make the same empowered choices for themselves, so I started my Doula training when I arrived in Barcelona.”
I hadn’t fully understood the role of the Doula before meeting Ana Luisa, but now I was beginning to wonder why this extra resource wasn’t more commonly sought after, so I begged the question:
“What do you think the future holds for the Doula?” I asked.
“At the moment, the world is divided in two – people that know about the Doula and people that don’t know anything about it. It’s actually one of the oldest professions in our existence. If you look back at ancient ancestral symbols, art and literature, you can see the Doula present at the birth along with the medical aids. So really, it’s a necessary part of a natural and healthy birth.
What I really think is that natural physiological processes like having periods and giving birth don’t have to be painful. But the human mind and human culture has evolved so that we believe it will be painful. and in fact it becomes painful. In our culture for example, the labour process is achieved in a hospital and is connected to pathology, stress and fear, so it can breed a negative cycle. But in fact, at a physiological level, our bodies do the work for us naturally with the aid of hormones that help us feel good through the process. The Doula is very good at helping the woman connect to this aspect of themselves too. So yes, I feel there is a new movement towards this ancient role.”
Deep down I certainly hoped there would be more recognition and interest in a role that brought more peace, love and connection to women, babies and families on this earth. With that feeling, I asked Ana Luisa why she loved being a Doula.
“I don’t know why, I just feel why.” She said with a sentiment which I could relate to.
“I feel like my mission in life is connected to this role. I believe we could change the world if pregnancy and birth were better understood and better cared for. Being a Doula is not a profession but an attitude. It’s really important to be not to do, since the presence and soul is there to serve. I get to be me which is amazing. Also, somewhere inside me tells me I have a mission to give voice to the babies since they can’t speak. The Doula instinctively understands the birth and its process and can communicate on behalf of the baby.”
What an honour it was to hear Ana Luisa give voice this time to this ancient form of wisdom and love. I was quite struck by this lady so I asked my final question before I released her to Tara and my friends at home.
“So did you have a Doula birth?”
“Of course and it was the most amazingly spiritual experience I ever had. My husband, brother and Doula were all present, and me and my son were in the centre of the story. It was stunning.” She added.
I left our conversation there while Ana Luisa attended to a baby massage for Tara.
After that I took a moment to reflect on what she told me and realised that I’d like to see the world changed, more connected, more spirited and more in touch with its true nature. As natural as that came to me, I felt grateful to Ana Luisa for diligently going ahead and serving the mothers and babies of this world with her loving touches.
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Anneka and Teresa