A Glimpse Into the Life of a Doula
El Paso doula Rachel Curtis shares a glimpse of her world
When you picture a doula at work, what do you imagine her doing? Maybe speaking encouragement to a laboring mom?
Doulas certainly have a knack for knowing the right thing to say during birth, but their work begins long before the powerful hours of labor, and it ends long after baby’s first cries!
Take a peek inside the tender, supportive work of El Paso doula Rachel Curtis, and see how a doula can beautifully enhance the birth experience for mom, partner, and baby.
Doula support starts long before labor
Effective support comes from building a connection with clients before labor day, so Rachel spends time getting to know her clients and their needs early on.
“The most powerful tool is our rapport, which has to be built before game day. The more comfortable mom is with me, the more comforting I am to her during labor,” says Rachel.
To give us a realistic picture of a day in the life of an El Paso doula, Rachel invited us to follow her relationship with a real first-time mom we’ll call Bekah.
Bekah, nervous and thrilled about her upcoming birth, first connected with Rachel at a quaint cafe. They enjoyed a warm drink and relaxed conversation that included Bekah’s hopes for her birth.
“She wanted the reassurance of an experienced companion — someone to help guide her through the process of planning for her birth, as well as labor itself. Her husband was wonderful and supportive but they were both crystal clear that he also would need guidance, as he had very high anxiety and childbirth was unfamiliar to him,” says Rachel.
The big day arrives: a doula’s tools for labor
The phone buzzes. Bekah thinks it might really be time!
“I like to have an actual call before going in, because I can get a much better idea from their voice and listening through a pressure wave if they are approaching active labor,” Rachel says.
Rachel packs her toolkit, which includes staple favorites like a hot rice sock that feels great on the sacrum, and cool rags ready to soothe mom’s neck and forehead during the hardest parts of transition and pushing.
But much of Rachel’s toolkit is customized for Bekah’s preferences, and based on her birth plan.
“We work together on this prenatally to familiarize both of us with her preferences to build her own tool kit. What does she want to hear? What words of encouragement resonate with her personally? What kind of touch does she like (or hate)? This informs how I behave with her,” says Rachel.
When the going gets tough, the doula gets hands-on
When Rachel arrives, Bekah feels excited and in control. But as labor progresses and her body takes over, her confidence starts to waver. That’s when Rachel’s toolkit and strong, gentle presence becomes crucial.
“I tend to get very hands-on as pressure waves intensify. By the time mom is having a hard time coping on her own, I am usually touching her in some way, which often depends on what position she’s in. I’ll massage her hands or feet, or her calves or thighs, or even her temples and scalp. By the time she is deep into labor land, I find running my fingers through her hair, ear pulls, and other gentle touch around her face can be very relaxing to her,” says Rachel.
But she’s also passionate about helping the partner stay involved in the labor. And there’s always a role they can play.
“If they are having a hard time knowing how to engage, or what’s OK, I’ll offer a suggestion. Or if I need to leave the room, I’ll have them take over what I’m doing. Often they will automatically follow my lead, repeating the things I say, or massaging or soothing her the way I have been. Even the nurses will follow along when we get the vibe going!” says Rachel.
When it’s time for Bekah to push, Rachel focuses on helping her visualize the finish line. She encourages Bekah to touch the baby’s emerging head, and offers to hold a mirror so she can see how close she is.
Birth and postpartum support
When the baby is born a huge wave of relief washes over the room — Bekah did it!
“I’ll step back and either take pictures (if they’ve asked me to in their birth plan) or just observe. If anything unusual is going on with baby I make sure the parents understand what’s happening and reassure them. That can be really scary for them and I stick close if that’s the case,” says Rachel.
But today the baby goes straight onto Bekah. Mom and dad are awestruck as they drink in that new little person. “That moment is my biggest reward,” says Rachel.
Rachel remains a quiet support until the baby has fed and Bekah is able to rest. She will check in over the next few days to troubleshoot breastfeeding (Rachel is a Certified Lactation Consultant as well) or answer other questions.
Learn more about working with a doula at The Retreat
For more information about Rachel and her work as an El Paso doula, visit her website here.
Rachel is one of the doulas who partner with The Retreat, the perfect environment for a powerful natural birth.
We would love to meet you and take you on a one-hour tour of our beautiful birth center!