By Amanda Bernstein from Essential Me
Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, is poised to break with royal tradition by hiring her own Doula. But what is a doula, and should you have one at your birth? Sydney-based birth and postpartum Doula, Amanda Bernstein from Essential Me, explains how a Doula can support you before, during and even after birth.
Often I meet people in the street and they ask what I do. Often I’m met with “Oh a jeweller! Cool, are you wearing any of your work?” or “Do you mean something like fencing where you fight people?”… Alas, no. My mum is an awesome jeweller though!
Hi, I’m Amanda Bernstein and I’m a Sydney-based birth and postpartum Doula. I support women and couples during their pregnancy, at their birth and in the postpartum period, providing continuity of care in their journey to meet their new baby.
As a Doula, I work alongside your medical team – whether it’s your midwife, GP or obstetrician – and play a very different part to them at your birth. A Doula is a non-medical role – I’m there to support you emotionally, physically and informatively. Every time I’m at a birth it’s super special to me – it’s a privilege I don’t take lightly or for granted. Your baby will only be born once and I do everything I can to help make sure it is the best possible experience you can have.
Usually we meet for a “get to know you” chat, and you may speak with a few Doulas before you choose the one who’s right for you. This is really important as if you’re going to invite me to your birth – one of life’s most intimate moments – I want you to feel 100% comfortable in my presence. You need to be able to speak your mind, share your feelings and not hold back what you really think.
Before the birth, we spend a lot of time discussing your preferences around birth – all your hopes and wishes – and I go over with you what your options are. I truly believe that you have choice and evidence-based information is important. From this conversation I help you to create a birth plan (AKA birth preferences – as things don’t always go to plan!), which is an important step as it means should something not go to plan at your birth, you understand why. And, if it’s a medical reason why things will deviate from your preferences, you won’t have trauma around them after the birth. The birth plan is something I can use as a Doula in the hospital setting to advocate for you – for your wishes – and to make sure you consent to anything that strays from this. You’ll take this plan to your pregnancy care provider to sign off on during your pregnancy, so there are no surprises about your requests at the birth. It will give you a chance to discuss anything out of the ordinary with them, or anything that may clash with your wishes – like potentially hospital policy.
We’ll also spend a lot of time discussing your fears around birth and address any concerns or queries that you may have around the process, and what happens next. We’ll talk about natural things you can do to be in optimum shape and condition to birth your baby, and can even go over some positions for birth, breathing techniques and visualisations.
Then, from your 38 to 42 weeks gestation (ie your due month), I’m on call for you. You can contact me 24/7 with concerns, queries, questions, and importantly if you think you’re in labour. I then attend your birth with you. If you’re low risk, your hospital may even offer you access to a homebirth or their birthing centre instead of the delivery suite – and I can support you and your partner in your labour and your birth in all of these locations.
To your birth, I bring my giant Doula toolkit (or some say a bag of tricks!). This includes lots of things like motivation and encouragement, massage and acupressure, essential oils and homeopathy, rebozo techniques, Spinning Babies, photography and more… Most importantly, I truly believe in you and your ability to birth your baby. As a non-biased support person, I’m there for you no matter what and will back you in your choices. I can provide you with lots of information so that you totally understand the risks around the decisions you make. I strive to ensure that you are 100% present for your journey, that you consent to every step of the process, and that if this deviates from your birth plan, you fully understand why. Given in 2018 we have postnatal depression rates of something like 1 in 7 women, 1 in 16 partners and PTSD in 1 in 10 new mums, I truly believe that having a Doula is a massive step towards improving these numbers.
We’ll meet after the birth to debrief your experience. It’s the chance for you to own your story and having been at your birth, I can help you to fill in any gaps. Often during a birth, time is warped and it can be hard to judge how long there was between each event or even which part came first. Debriefing is an important step to ensure you have no question unanswered or “stone left unturned” so to speak.
I can also help you with feeding and settling techniques, and go through an approximate “what to expect” for a 24 hour cycle with your newborn baby (not quite a routine). In this postnatal Doula role, we call it “mothering the mother” and so I do whatever it is that you need to best be able to look after your baby. I can help you fold a load of laundry, hold the baby so you can shower, cook a nutritious meal and even pick up some groceries for you on my way. And if you don’t have much support around, you can book additional postpartum Doula sessions with me too. My role encompassing all Doula services, is varied and allows me to offer a true range of support for you in so many different ways.
I absolutely love working as a Doula. It truly is such an honour to be invited to support my clients at their birth, and help empower them throughout this journey. For me personally, there are very few things in life that allow me to feel such raw emotion, and births are very often a rollercoaster of emotions – it’s very special, and each birth experience is just so unique.
Amanda Bernstein is a Birth and Postpartum Doula based in Sydney, Australia. She is truly passionate about ensuring women and couples are supported and educated about their options, and able to make empowering decisions around their birth from a place of informed choice. She believes that this way, no matter the outcome of this journey to meet their baby, it will be a positive experience that sets her clients up to a great start as parents. Amanda is also a VBAC mum of two gorgeous boys, Ka Huna massage therapist and Pilates instructor. She runs two businesses, Essential Me and Pilates With Purpose.
If you’d like more information or to connect with Amanda Bernstein, the Sydney Doula, please check out:
Image of the Duchess of Sussex sourced by pop’d. Other images reposted by pop’d with permission from Essential Me