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Why Doulas can't be replaced by an App! or What the heck does a Doula do?

Today marks the start of World Doula Week! It's a time to honor the women who've chosen to serve families during the birth of their babies (and postpartum) , often putting their own lives on hold. That's why when a fellow doula posted a link to this app, simply named Doula, I was intrigued. This is my calling...and apparently there's an app for that! I immediately download it and about 3 minutes later fought the urge to throw my iPhone across the room!

This particular app was developed by a midwife so I had high hopes of it maybe having some guided meditations and breathing exercises, perhaps an overview of normal unmedicated labor, information on interventions, or possibly photos of positions you could try with benefits. Nope. Not even close.

First, here's what you get with this app, it has three options with waves or "spa" music playing in background:

Voice- an airy voice tells you to "let the wave come and wash over you" and goes on with few other encouraging phrases, including "that's the way".

Breathe- you can hear a slow ,possibly deep, breath breathe.

Rest- the aforementioned voice comes back to instruct you to let the waves fade away and to relax various body parts.

THAT'S IT, only three options. THIS IS THE APP THAT'S SUPPOSED TO REPLACE ME ?!?!?! I am baffled. Has this midwife ever met a birth doula?

I believe that, while not to be the center of any attention, my job is more important than these three “App Options”. I do sometimes help laboring women imagine waves during contractions (but mostly they're surfing on them). I do encourage women when they are leaning in to the discomfort of labor to get through the other side of a contraction. I do breathe with women. I do encourage them to rest and make the most of their time between labor surges.

But it's about more than that. I also:

  • Help families look over their birth plans and help them gather information they may be missing.

  • I try to develop trust with women and their partners so the birth environment not only feels safe to have me in it but safer because they know I'm on their team.

  • I often show up in early labor, before you need the "app options" when nerves and excitement jumble together and can make you forget about sleep, food and water which women desperately need further down the labor road, to make sure they get it!

  • I make sure nervous partners have a significant way to help and support the women they love.

  • I pack goodies for massage, accupressure, aromatherapy or any coping mechanism women have said they want to try in labor.

  • I take notes of what's going on and who said what so we can remember the events of the day and if needed women can use to make decisions about their care.

  • I suggest new positions, a change of scenery or new music when things feel slow moving ,physically or just mentally, in labor.

  • I massage, I touch, I hold hands in hopes it makes labor a little easier, a little more comforting.

  • I offer fluids like a crazy everyone in the room! .....and lip-balm and hair ties and cool wet washcloths to mommas to whom these small gestures make a difference.

  • I take into account what emotions are going on in the room and I try to validate them.

  • I help families focus on the moment and while the medical team is focused on what could go wrong hours from now.

  • I encourage mommas to keep going when it's tough and I praise them when they do!

  • I make soon-to-be-dads eat a snack so they don’t miss the big moment due to low blood sugar.

  • I remember what's on the birth plan and notice when no one’s read it or it’s being disregarded. “Actually, the birth plan says they’d like you not to bathe the baby.”

  • I stay after all the equipment and people are out of a once-packed labor room to make sure new little families have everything they need, even if that’s just for me to wait with them a little longer until they’ve “got it”.

  • I visit a little after the birth (or a lot, depending on what families) and try to be helpful when I do.

But more than any of that, I love my clients. Their mourning of a birth that could've been, their sense of defeat are opportunities for me to tell them the truth about how hard they worked and to sit with them with a listening ear. And likewise, their joy over their sweet littles, their pride of having worked so hard, their sense of accomplishment in doing something that scared them silly, those are my joys too.

I love my clients. When 2 days later I get a text about "milk coming in" , weeks later photos of first smiles, or months later about genius babies learning to walk and talk, I am genuinely thrilled. These little moments and milestones are the result of the hard work it takes to birth a baby and become a mother, of the transformation that makes women into something new and celebrations of the everyday miracles we call children.

Which brings me back to my first question....what Doula App is going to do all of this with only three options? What App is going to devote it's time and it's love in the same way as a living, breathing, loving doula?

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