When I was a new doula, I used to rack my brain for all the things that I'd need in my doula bag to help my clients through their labors. Massage tool? Light-up candles? Rebozo? TENS unit? Heating pad?
When you are new to how childbirth happens, all the tools and gadgets surround you seem like they simply must be important for labor. Why else would they exist? As I began to recognize the arrogance of assuming I was responsible for these extra details, I started letting these things go.
The more labors and trainings I attended, the more I realized that I only need three things to provide the very best support to my clients. Indeed, without all the extra “doula tools” to trip over, I was able to be more present. Not only was I more physically and emotionally available, my clients felt more in control of their births because they knew that if a rebozo was needed, they were already on top of it themselves!
1. My Head
I never stop working on being a better doula. I am always researching, networking with healthcare providers, and reflecting on what I learn from my clients. Anyone who has ever met me can tell you that being the best possible doula is my number one priority. Constantly learning about up-to-date procedures and useful relaxation techniques is my jam.
In a labor and during postpartum care, I bring all that knowledge with me, and my clients have full access to their doula throughout their entire pregnancy and after they settle in at home.
2. My Hands
Every time I've tried to use some massage tool, I've tossed it aside after about three seconds. No plastic claw can compete with these strong knitter's hands. My hands squeeze hips and massage shoulders. They gently remind clients of where to release tension. They count out moments until contractions are winding down. They relieve swelling and help clients rest between pushes. They make home-cooked meals and rock babies to sleep.
3. My Heart
A huge part of what makes a good doula is the ability to be in tune with our clients and aware of what's happening around them so they can stay in the moment. You can't pull that out of a bag. When my clients open their eyes after a heavy contraction, I am looking right back at them, and our connection is genuine. The honor of being part of their birth deserves my full presence.
Special thanks to Heidi Shulista, Randy Patterson, and Debbie Forbes Aglietti from ProDoula for their continued support, and for training doulas everywhere to believe in their clients.