Heather Jones is an amazing 20-Something woman that helps bring life into the world. She is a certified doula and personal trainer with bebo mia, which she balances with raising her two year old son. As a doula, Heather provides emotional support and guidance to pregnant women and their families before, during and after the birth experience. Not sure what a doula is? Heather clears up some misconceptions about doula care and lets us know about the busy lives of Toronto doulas.
What is the difference between a doula and a midwife?
A doula is a support person during a birth; we are not a part of the medical staff. We do not do anything medically related to the labour and delivery, such as blood pressure, fetal monitoring, that is what your care provider is for. Midwives aren’t able to provide the same emotional support to the mother or couple in the same way that a doula can. A doula’s support role is tri-fold; physical, emotional and informational.
What’s your typical experience with a client?
Usually clients call us somewhere around the middle of their pregnancy, but some people call us as soon as they find out they are pregnant or a week before their due date! We meet with them for a consultation, and if they decide to continue with our care we set up their pre-natal visits. We create a birth plan, talk about what to expect during the labour, any wishes around the labour or any fears. At the second pre-natal we discuss what to expect with the first few weeks with the baby, newborn’s appearance and behaviour, as well as a lot of mom care and focus on breastfeeding. We are there for the entirety of the birth, and also make a postpartum visit to the new family within the first two or three weeks after the birth.
So what happens when the mom goes into labour?
When they reach term, which is 37 weeks pregnant, we are 24/7 on call. We like to keep in touch with them regularly because we like to know what’s going on both physically and emotionally leading up to the birth. Moms notify us as soon as they think labour might be starting, and after that we keep in touch every couple of hours until we join them in labour. We are there for the entire labour, whether it’s three hours or fifty hours we are there! Then we stay a few hours after the baby is born to help establish breastfeeding and make sure mom and everyone is comfortable. Once they are ready to have a little nap, we sneak out.
What types of births do you attend?
One of the misconceptions about having a doula is that is it is something for hippies or only people wanting all-natural births. We support and go to all sorts of births ranging from scheduled C-sections to all natural home births. The majority of births are in the hospital and many with an epidural. It’s not our birth experience; we are there to help the mother or couple have a positive birth experience for them. Whatever path they take to get there – we support them.
What’s the best part of the birthing experience?
That’s a tough one. I really like preparing the parents for childbirth and the post partum period through educating them at the prenatal meetings.
Then at the actual birth, it’s really great watching women feel empowered and in charge of their birth; there really are lots of choices when it comes to childbirth, and as a doula I educate couples around those choices so that they can make informed decisions. A woman that is confident in her own choices and follows her instincts and really listens to her body – that’s probably the best part for me.
What is that moment like when the first baby emerges and you hear that cry?
It’s pretty intense. Even though you have only met the couple a few times and spend a few hours with them face to face before the labour begins, it’s still very emotional. Tears are shed and there is usually lots of celebration.
What are some of the challenges with a job like this?
Being on call – especially if you have young kids yourself, like I do. It’s hard to find on call babysitters. If I am called in the middle of the night, which typically happens, then I have to arrange for care early in the morning. My plans can be interrupted, so if I’m called on a weekend and the family was going to the zoo, for example, we would have to reschedule. It’s a challenge to work around your own family life.
How do you provide support to mothers when you are personally feeling exhausted or worn out during a long labour?
You need to make sure that you are still taking care of yourself. If the mom is taking a little rest then we can rest too. It doesn’t always have to be “try this position” or giving a massage or giving encouraging words. It can also just be our silent presence that is required. There have been studies where a doula has just been sitting in the corner, not doing anything, and birth outcomes are still better because the mom just knew she was there. However, we work with a secondary doula for each client and if need be, the secondary could relieve us.
Tell me about bebo mia and how you got connected with them?
We are a great company. We do all sorts of care, everything from fertility support and nutrition, to hypno-birthing, all the way through to parenting, including grandparents and sibling preparation classes. It’s really a full spectrum service. I work for bebo mia as a birth doula, a personal trainer and as a post partum doula.
What’s great about bebo mia is that each client gets two doulas; a primary and a secondary. Most doula companies offer a doula back up if the assigned doula cannot make it to the birth. This can create a lot of anxiety for the mom because she hasn’t met or established a relationship with the back-up – it’s a stranger coming into an intimate situation. With bebo mia, both doulas go to the consultation and we share your care during the prenatal meetings so that you are familiar and comfortable with both of us, even though it is most likely that the primary doula would be at the birth.
Do you ever have resistance from family members at the birth who question why you are there?
Oh definitely, often the partner will ask, “What’s my role if we have a doula” and they have concerns that they will be pushed out of the picture. We try to eliminate any of those apprehensions and emphasize that we work with the partner and become the mom’s birth team. We are also there to support the partner and ensure that they are eating and drinking and resting. We relieve the pressure on the partners to remember everything they learned at their birthing classes because we have all that information at the tips of our tongues, such as what position to try, or if something is normal or not.
It doesn’t matter if it’s your first baby or your third, extra support around your birth and the postpartum period is beneficial to everyone. In our society we are expected to be Supermoms and we really need to take a step back and just be comfortable asking for help. There are high rates of post partum depression and negative feelings about birth experiences. I think having a doula helps eliminate a lot of those negative feelings surrounding the birth and uncertainties post partum.
I know that one of your mottos is “A Doula for everyone that Wants One”. This is a business, how do you manage to make it affordable?
Yes that is the goal. Bebo mia works with families of all budgets. We do have set fees which are on par with Toronto doulas. However, we do also take volunteer clients or can offer lowered pricing for families that cannot afford our full fee. We don’t want to turn anybody away, so we each take on a certain amount of volunteer births. All of the doulas a bebo mia are passionate about our jobs. We also offer a doula mentorship program to help new doulas through their certification. One component of certification requires attendance at three births, so volunteer clients are a good way to obtain those births for certification. It’s win-win because the families get great doula support and the doulas get an opportunity to work towards certification.
Want to know more about BeboMia? Visit their website at www.bebomia.com