"Doula, shmoula" - or so many people think. An extra person in the delivery room may intimidate you, but Nicolette believes her role is vital to the labour process.
What led you to be a doula?
In 2009 I gave birth to my beautiful daughter by caesarean section. My gynae recommended it as I was nearing 42 weeks, and my daughter was not yet engaged. My choice to have a caesarean was a choice that haunted me.
When delving deeper into these feelings I realised that my unease was simply the result of being uninformed. When I realised this, I embarked upon a journey to educate myself fully about labour. I trained to be a doula and a hypnobirthing practitioner. I wanted to be fully prepared when the time came to birth my next child.
That time has not yet come, but I am able to share my knowledge with others. I have found huge reward in empowering women, providing them with knowledge, but more importantly instilling in them faith in their bodies and nature. We are designed to have babies.
Never during our pregnancy does anyone question whether we are able to grow corneas and lungs, or fingers and kneecaps. Yet the world seems to question whether we can birth our babies our own way. This questioning then leads to doubt. Through education we can reverse the stigma attached to natural birthing.
Read: Natural birth or c-section?
Where does the doula journey begin?
The journey tends to begin with an informal interview with the parents so that they can decide if I am the right doula for them. I then meet them in their home at around 36 weeks.
We will go through their birth preferences, as well as discuss what to pack in their hospital bag, when to call me (once labour has started) and what to do should special circumstances arise. I spend time talking about what labour “looks” like and how things may happen.
At what time do you join the parents; is it once labour has already started?
I join the parents at any point during their labour whenever they feel they need me. I remain with them for the duration of their labour, and for an hour or two after the birth. I leave once mom and dad are comfortable, and baby is latched and nursing.
I will then visit again after the birth (either in hospital or at home) to talk about the birth, and parenthood. From the moment they choose me as their doula I am available to them via an open channel of communication (by email, text, or phone call).
You are a hypnobirthing practitioner. Does this mean I will be hypnotised during the birthing process?
No, absolutely not. All hypnotherapy is self-hypnosis. You are always fully conscious and able to open your eyes or talk at any time. If someone is unwilling to be hypnotised it is not possible to hypnotise them.
Hypnosis is a state that everybody passes through at some point in their day whether by daydreaming, watching TV, reading or driving – have you ever arrived at a destination and not remembered how you got there? That’s what hypnosis is.
I teach hypnobirthing, a course of five antenatal classes. Alongside self-hypnosis techniques, hypnobirthing teaches couples practical relaxation and breathing techniques to remain relaxed and in control throughout labour and birth.
Read: "I gave birth in our car"
What boundaries do you create for yourself when working with several different people (the mother in labour, the husband and the doctor or midwife)?
I am very careful not to replace the father at the birth. Childbirth is after all about a mom and dad bringing a baby into the world. I will encourage involvement from dad, and always try to position dad in front of the mom, with me behind her.
I think dads are fabulous at birth – they just often don’t know what to do and I can guide them. My focus is clearly on the mom and dad but I treat other team members with utmost respect.
I have worked with a wide variety of doctors and midwives and they have all been more than happy to have me present. Labour ward midwives are often relieved when couples arrive with a doula, especially if the ward is very busy.
Why is a doula worth investing in?
According to research, having a doula has been shown to reduce the caesarean rate, reduce the length of labour, reduce requests for epidurals, reduce the use of pain medication, reduce the use of forceps, and reduce the need for induction of labour.
Women who receive doula care are less likely to be dissatisfied with their births as compared to women who did not use a doula. Also, mothers receiving doula care are significantly less likely to feel a loss of control in labour.
Mothers who had a doula experience less postnatal depression and can have a better success at breastfeeding.
What would you say to a husband or partner that is reluctant to hire a doula?
I would explain to the father that I am not there to usurp his role. I would also explain that sometimes seeing their partner in discomfort can affect them more than they expect. Men are solution-driven. When a woman says to her man that she has a headache, he wants to give her a painkiller.
Childbirth, however, is not like this. It can really help having a doula present to guide and reassure the husband. I also recommend that they meet a couple of doulas to get a feel for the right one.
Read: Doing it with a doula
At what point in my pregnancy should I hire a doula?
I had a woman who hired me when she was seven weeks pregnant. Another couple hired me when they were 38 weeks pregnant. There is no right or wrong time.
*Nicolette Hadden is a WOMBS trained doula, and Beautifully Born Hypnobirthing practitioner in Cape Town. Visit www.beautifullyborn.co.za