For expectant mothers, the journey of carrying a child through pregnancy and ultimately delivery can leave one feeling overwhelmed and alone. For Black women, it is of the utmost importance to have a strong birth support team and education of care and rights for a successful and peaceful delivery. Often times doctors push new mothers to make birth decisions against their wishes for the convenience and profit of the hospital. Having a doula can put mothers’ minds at ease, knowing someone is in the room to fight for their needs.
A study published by Harvard Public Health found that
“black women far more than for white women, giving birth can amount to a death sentence. African American women are three to four times more likely to die during or after delivery than are white women. According to the World Health Organization, their odds of surviving childbirth are comparable to those of women in countries such as Mexico and Uzbekistan, where significant proportions of the population live in poverty.” site
Black women who have access must take every precaution to make sure they and their babies survive pregnancy and delivery, to give birth in peace and not in trama. In taking back our power in these situations, new mothers must educate themselves, build a strong support system, be able to choose their birth team of doctors or midwives and have a birth plan. Sadly, even the most prepared mother can still face serious medical complications or even death due to negligence from hospital employees and protocols based on bias and racism.
In my research as a new mother, I was introduced to the practice of birth doulas. On the top of that list for me, was Latham Thomas, celebrity and wholistic doula and her book and offerings in Mama Glow. Here, Latham Thomas offers her insight on how to have a healthy pregancy and birth experience for mother and child. I also listened to a few podcasts on the subject of birth doulas, queue Good Moms, Bad Choices.
Choosing to work with a doula through one’s pregnancy is essentially adding another person to your team with the sole focus of the mother’s emotional, physical and mental health through the process of pregnancy and new motherhood. When your partner may not understand what you’re going through and the hospital staff conveniently forget to offer care or assistance, this person is there to speak of for your needs and rights.
To further understand the subject, I interviewed a local doula to gain her perspective as a practicing doula. Meet Katlyn Foulks.
Can you define the role of a doula?
Katlyn: My role as a doula is to be an expectant mother’s “wing woman” who provides emotional, psychological, and sometimes spiritual support. A lot of times, women who recall their birth stories have many regrets, instances they wish they could do over, and the biggest regret of them all, “I wish I had the support I really needed.” Birth itself is a very tedious, drawn-out, and beautiful process. So my role as a doula is to actively support the mother and father/partner in whatever aspect they need. Whether that is staying with the mother after birth while the baby is whisked away and the father/partner follows, supporting the father/partner if they have any feelings of uneasiness, worry, and etc, or simply just sharing positive energy in the room where the birth will take place.
However, most importantly I am present solely for the mother. So my actions/support/movements are mainly dictated by what she needs specifically. It is also important to note that doulas and midwives are two totally different roles. As a doula, I DO NOT administer any medical intervention. Midwives do not focus on the emotional aspect of birth, but more of the actual birth and status of the baby being born safely into the world.
What is a birth plan?
Katlyn: A birth plan is usually one page and front side only document that doulas strongly encourage every expectant mother to sit, think and write out. It is the plan to how you as a mother see yourself delivering your child(ren) into the world. It normally entails what the mother does and does not want during her birth. How the mother wants the atmosphere in the hospital room, birthing center, or at her home to be and feel like. What she does and does not consent too. Along with any interventions she will or will not allow. Lastly, any other important details the mother wants her, doctor, PCP, nursing staff, and doula to know essentially. One could almost think of this as a birth game plan. It is a list that we as doulas have and want to make sure we reference when something isn’t going as planned, so we can make sure the mother is having the birth she hoped for.
What tips do you advise new mothers for the best delivery experience?
Katlyn: For the best delivery experience, I advise new mothers to know what they are potentially headed towards when that day of delivery comes or is near. For all new and expectant mothers, I would thoroughly encourage a doula. There are some doulas who practice for little to no payment at all simply because they know the benefits it provides to new mothers. I also encourage mothers to read, watch videos, and attend classes provided by hospitals and some birth centers that are there for new moms. This is brand new territory for you and your partner. Make sure you both are well versed and know what to expect so when the day comes you won’t be more stressed than you will already feel.
How would an expectant Mother find a Doula?
Katlyn: Finding a doula can be challenging and I would not put a rush to the search. You will want someone you can trust and feel comfortable around being included in such an intimate time of your life. One may go with the first pick they find or it could be eight interviews later. However, do not grow discouraged there is a doula that will provide your every need and I think finding the perfect one is a process that is worth taking the time to go through diligently. There is a website by the name of DoulaMatch.net where one can access a number of doulas in their specific geographic location. There are some doula agencies or independent doulas who offer their services for little to no payment at all. Simply because they know the positive impact of having a doula can bring to not only the mother, father/partner but also the baby.
What services do you offer?
Katlyn: Currently, I offer Birth Doula services as of now, in the Columbia, SC area. I am actively pursuing my DONA certification and I am American Red Cross CPR and AED certified. New mothers can contact or find me on Doulamatch.net by simply typing my name Katlyn Foulks. They may also contact me by email. As of now, I do not have a fee I am charging. I want to gain as much experience as possible and ultimately just be a blessing to someone by using my skill set and knowledge to ensure they have the birth they envisioned!