Meet Stella Debiaggi. She is a local mom to 3 children and I was fortunate to meet her through our children’s homeschool co-op 2 years ago. She is so sweet and kind. She has a naturally calming presence, I can easily see her having profound comforting and supportive effects on her clients. Stella is a knowledgeable doula, attending her first birth 10 years ago. Here are her thoughts about being a doula and some tips about labor, delivery, and postpartum as well.
What is a doula?
A doula (from the Greek word for “a woman who serves”) is a person who is there to provide educational, physical, and emotional support to a pregnant mom and her partner. There are different 2 kinds of doula, birth doulas and postpartum doulas.
What does a doula do? Before baby arrives? During labor? After baby arrives?
As a birth doula, I am your constant support during your pregnancy. I’m here to inform, listen and discuss your many choices, such as care provider visits and procedures. During your pregnancy, we create your personalized, detailed birth plan. I teach you how to envision your birth so we know how best to achieve this goal, and we come up with plan B and C in case things don’t go as planned. I teach comfort techniques that I, or your partner, can do with you to relieve pain while you are in labor.
Once you are in active labor and you let me know that you need additional support to handle the contractions, I come to be by your side. Since we worked on your birth plan together, your partner and I have a good idea of things to help you get through your contractions. I might be doing double hip squeezes while your partner faces you and whispers encouraging words, or I might sit on the side and let both of you connect and ride the waves together. Each birth is different, each couple is different, so I adapt as your labor progresses. If you have an epidural, we can massage your legs, help you switch positions or let you rest. My main job is to make sure you feel supported and cared for throughout the process. Everyone else will be constantly entering and leaving the room, but I will remain by your side.
Once the baby is born, I step back and let you and your partner enjoy your new family member. If you decide that you want to breastfeed, I can help teach how a proper latch is established before leaving your side. My job is done and I leave when I see you are comfortable, set up and ready for some much needed rest.
As a postpartum doula, my role starts after you get home with your baby. I am there most importantly to ensure that you feel supported and cared for while you recover physically and emotionally from your pregnancy and the birth of your baby. I will also support you in helping your baby adjust to life on the outside of your body, by assisting with infant feedings, discussing sleeping patterns, etc. And if what you need is someone to fold a load of laundry, clean the bottles or change the sheets of your bed, I can do that too.
Does a doula work with other birth professionals during labor and delivery?
Absolutely. As your doula, I am part of your birth team. Your midwife or OB and nurses have the medical knowledge to keep an eye on you and your baby in case something doesn’t go right and to ensure that everything progresses smoothly. I am the part of the team whose sole responsibility is your emotional and physical well-being. No matter how your birth unfolds, I will be right by your and your partner’s side.
What are the benefits from working with a doula?
The benefits are many. While your medical team might not be able to stay by your side during the whole labor, I am the one person who you can count on being there the whole time. While your nurse might need to check on another patient or go to the nurses station, I will not leave your side unless you are sleeping and comfortable. More importantly, research shows that having continuous labor support decreases the rate of cesarean sections, shortens labor and decreases the chance of being dissatisfied with your birth.
Why did you become a doula?
I became a birth doula before having my 3 children because I loved the idea of supporting a woman in labor. Having my own children made me realize how much of an impact a doula has on a birth. My doulas gave me the unwavering support that I needed during my births and they confirmed that what I am doing while helping a woman in labor is definitely important.
I became a postpartum doula after having my children. The postpartum period is not something that is talked about a lot, but support is definitely needed then. Bringing a baby home is something that can feel very overwhelming. Add the lack of sleep and the hormonal ups and down to the responsibility of taking care of a new person and it can be very stressful. Having a caring person literally hold your hand while you find your footing can completely change your experience. It allows you to feel more confident and enjoy motherhood more fully.
What qualifications should expecting moms look for in a doula?
A doula who is trained with a certifying organization like ProDoula, CAPPA, DONA, etc., will have more tools in her belt and more understanding about the birthing process than a doula who isn’t, so training is important. There isn’t one doula that is perfect for every mom and her partner. There are people who we feel more comfortable around than others, and I think that this is the most important aspect of choosing a doula. Make sure you meet at least a couple doulas and see how you feel in their presence.
If you could give one piece of advice to expecting mothers what would it be? Or What helped you prepare for baby’s birth?
My main advice to an expecting mother and her partner it this: Become informed about the birthing process before the birth of the baby. It could be by reading books or taking a class, but I believe it is important to learn about the process as much as possible to make the best decisions possible. I also think that learning about an event as important as this one, especially given that our society has a lot of fear surrounding it, helps us understand what will actually happen. In addition, it helps to think about what you envision you might want to try or avoid during the birth or your baby.
But don’t solely focus on the birth, the postpartum period can be very overwhelming. Ensuring that you have help in place for a few weeks after you bring baby home will make all the difference in the world in how you experience and remember this amazing period of your life.
How can people reach you if they’re interested in learning more or contacting you for your services?
To contact me you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to check out my Facebook page to learn more about me at www.facebook.com/StellaBirthProfessional or call me at 248-701-8652. I look forward to hearing from you!