What It’s Like
What It’s Like … To Be a Doula
Crunchy momma tells all
Crunchy Mom Wendy Drewelow says she can’t just let things be. She has to research, test, try and question things that are generally accepted in everyday life. Her quest for the unknown led her to doula training, and she has now overseen eight women through the most amazing journey of their lives – the journey of giving birth to their babies.
In between births and caring for her three children, Chloe, 7, Austin, 6, and Noah, 1, Wendy had some time to tell us What It’s Like to Be a Doula!
What’s it like to be a doula?
Being a doula is amazing! As a doula, I get to help women through one of the biggest milestones in their lives while empowering them to have the birth they desire. It can be tiring at times, but every birth is a unique and special event for a doula.
Why do you consider yourself a crunchy mom?
The more I looked into topics such as health, birth, and child-rearing the more I started to feel less comfortable with traditional American culture and more comfortable with a natural, holistic approach. Now I have adapted a holistic lifestyle, and I feel as if my family has benefitted from this break from what would be accepted as culturally “normal.”
How long have you been a doula?
Unofficially, I have been attending births since 1999, but only last year did I finish my DONA (Doulas of North America) training.
What’s the difference between a doula and a midwife?
The difference is the medical training. Doulas are trained to provide nonmedical support, whereas midwives monitor the mother and baby’s health during the pregnancy and birth. Doulas are not trained to perform cervical checks, take blood pressure, monitor urine or do any kind of medical interventions. They are there to support, educate and encourage the birthing mother and her partner.
What kind of training is necessary to become a doula?
Some women never go through training; they just attend births and use their experiences as a sort of on-the-job training. There are organizations that have specific requirements for their doulas and offer certifications to doulas who meet their standards. Some examples of those organizations include DONA, ALACE, CAPPA and Childbirth International.
Were you scared when you assisted with your first birth?
For the first birth I went to, I wasn’t planning on being a support person, but I ended up being held captive by a mom who begged me not to leave her side for 24 hours. I wasn’t scared, because it was so natural to be there with her. When I was hired for my first birth, I was nervous that I would forget my training. I just had to keep coming back, telling myself to listen to my instincts and that everything would go well. Of course, it did.
How many births have you assisted in?
So far, I have attended eight births.
What was the weirdest thing that happened during a birth?
The mom peed on the nurse while pushing. I secretly cheered because the nurse was being really bossy and getting on the mom’s nerves.
Are they mostly home births, or do you assist in the hospital?
Most births occur in a hospital setting but I am going to be attending a home birth this May that I am excited about. I am hoping for more home births in the future.
Have you given birth at home or in the hospital?
Actually, I have given birth in two hospital settings and in a birth center. I am planning my fourth and final birth to be at home. My birth-center birth was fantastic. I was able to eat, drink and walk freely during my labor. My son was big, and I believe that if I were in a hospital they would have given me an episiotomy, and I didn’t want one. I recovered quickly and was able to have more control over the birth and what procedures were performed afterward on my baby. I was the only one in labor, so all the attention and respect was given solely to me.
What does a doula do for the pregnant woman during the birth?
During a birth, the doula will stay with the mom and keep her as comfortable as possible by using massage, creating a soft ambience in the room, offering encouragement and assistance in relaxation, and helping a mother and her partner weigh their options if they’re faced with a decision that was not originally planned for during the birth. A doula is the constant gentle and relaxing presence in the room who is there to serve the mother and to encourage her partner.
After the birth?
Doulas usually stay until mom is comfortable, baby is nursing well (if mom desires to breastfeed), and she and her partner are settled in.
Have you ever become good friends with any of the women for whom you’ve been a doula? I can imagine the connection is pretty great.
My best daddy client was actually a friend of mine from the first grade. So a lot of times I am hired as a doula and a trusted friend. I have developed wonderful, caring relationships with my clients, and I keep in touch with all of them. I love getting new pictures and hearing updates. The connections I have with my clients are really special. It’s a bond I don’t even know how to describe. My heart lights up when I see or hear from them.
How do you personally feel about hospital births?
Good question! I am not opposed to hospital births in general. I believe that there is a time and place for medical interventions at a birth. However, I am opposed to women being treated like an assembly line or like ticking time bombs. I hate that women are confined to a bed or put on their backs to push, when those are usually the least comfortable places for a woman in labor to be! I think that lawsuits have pushed doctors to intervene too much and those interventions cause side effects that lead to more interventions, and before you know it, you are no longer in control of your own [child’s] birth. I think that the general way of thinking in hospitals is that women’s bodies are defective and don’t know how to birth without medical interventions, and I don’t think that is true in the majority of births.
Do you have a pregnancy mantra or quote you like to remind women of when they are in labor? What’s your go-to message for getting women through that final push? (Pun intended.)
Usually whatever I say goes along with what I think that mom needs to hear at that moment. You can never go wrong with “I’m so proud of you,” “You can do this, you are so strong” or “Every rush or contraction brings you closer to meeting your baby.”
What are some of the things women do during labor that you recommend they not do in order to make birthing much easier for them?
The hardest thing for a woman in labor to do is to remain calm. From birth, all of us have interpreted pain as damage that’s being done to our bodies. This leads us to try and run from it and stop it instead of letting it do what it’s supposed to do and surrendering to it. So my advice is not to fight the rushes. Easier said than done, I know! Also, if you have a hospital birth, don’t go to the hospital in early labor. Laboring at home as long as possible has been shown to lead to the best outcomes.
What do you recommend for postpartum moms to ease recovery?
Take all the help you can get! Don’t be prideful. Even if you feel great, it is important to remember that your body is recovering from a huge event, and that if you can grab a nap and leave the dishes, then you should just do it. The dishes will be there later. Your sanity, well … not so much if you are sleep deprived. Also, if you notice any signs of depression, talk to your health-care provider. Don’t let embarrassment stop you from getting help.
If a woman is interested in finding a doula in her area, where should she go to find a reputable one?
She should ask her health-care provider for referrals or refer to DONA.org for a list of certified doulas in her area.
1. When you were 10 years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A mommy! I have always wanted to have children of my own.
2. What type of kids did you hang out with in high school?
I was really a social bug with everyone. My main group was the academic people, but I also hung out with the drama club, my football-player boyfriends, and I even got along with the gangbanger kids. I knew everyone, and I made friends really easily.
3. What women from the past do you most identify with?
I think Princess Diana and I would have gotten along famously. I really admire all she did, and I aspire to be as fearless and caring as she was.
4. What’s your workout?
I Jazzercise four mornings a week. Jazzercise incorporates cardio, strength training and core workouts. It’s my addiction!
5. Cat or dog?
I have never been able to decide. I guess the dogs edge out the cats a little because some have floppy ears and I love floppy dog ears.
6. What do you do when you want to completely tune out?
I love a hot bath with lavender and music. And sex – that is a great way to melt the stress of the day away.
7. What book is sitting on your shelf, waiting to be read?
Birthing from Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz
8. If you could have dinner with any two people, who would you choose?
Ina May Gaskin (famous midwife) and Jesus.
9. What is the one thing you want or do not want the next generation of girls to encounter?
I want them to know that they are created to be beautiful and spectacular people, and that they are capable of so much more than they give themselves credit for. I do not want them to feel unworthy, inadequate or powerless.
10. If there were one thing you could change in your life, what would it be?
I wish I would not have been so hard on myself. There were times when I was pushing myself to my limits when I should have been enjoying my youth.
Photos above: Top: Wendy with a baby she helped bring into the world; Bottom: Wendy with her own family.