Mother’s intuition can be an amazing trait that seems to give women a magical power to know what’s happening with their children.
Yet this natural instinct can get clouded before, during and after childbirth.
It can get mired by medical complications, self-doubt, insufficient knowledge of the intricate processes involved or from a lack of support from family and friends.
Victoria Jones has seen and heard of this happening with many women and wants to try to fill the gap in services she feels exists in western Newfoundland.
Jones is in the process of becoming a certified doula, a non-medical person who helps coach a woman through pregnancy, birth and post-partum.
The Corner Brook woman has two children. She said she developed signs of post-traumatic stress syndrome after the birth of her daughter, Izabelle, and developed post-partum depression after the birth of her son, Gabriel.
She attributes some of the issues after Gabe was born to not properly dealing with the issues that arose from the lengthy labour induction that preceded Izzy’s arrival.
She has also heard of women having had wonderfully positive experiences. Some of those included women feeling empowered with the help of a doula who could explain things that were happening or just be there to nurture them.
“Birth can be one of the most powerful experiences you go through,” said Jones. “You are also at your most vulnerable and there is a real potential there for women to be disempowered and to lose control over what’s happening to them. It can be really scary and that can impact bonding with your infant and it can impact your mental health.”
Jones emphasized that a doula is in no way meant to replace the medical expertise of the physicians or nurses dedicated to ensuring mother and child get through birthing in the healthiest way possible. The doula’s work is concentrated on preparing the mother mentally for what’s to come; to help comfort, soothe and help interpret what’s unfolding during delivery; and to follow up with her well-being in the days and weeks after the child has arrived.
When Gabe was born after a complicated delivery, Jones said, he was whisked away after a short skin-to-skin session involving a nurse rubbing him on her chest and telling her to have a good look at him. Later, she and her husband, David, learned Gabe’s umbilical cord had been wrapped around him and his respiratory function needed to be immediately assessed.
All that was not explained in the moment by medical staff focused on making sure the baby wasn’t distressed, but a doula could have let them know what was happening and reassured them.
“Giving birth to a baby is one of the most intuitive and natural things we can go through as women,” she said. “But in the medical system, sometimes a lot of that is lost with all the complications and interventions that can occur.”
The doula is not just there for the mother, noted Jones. The helpful support is extended to the father and other members of the mother’s family as needed.
She recalled David frantically pacing back and forth during their son’s delivery, frustrated at not knowing what was happening or what he could do.
A doula would have taken him aside and explained what was happening to him, she said.
According to Jones, research has shown that using doulas can help lessen labour times and reduce the number of medical interventions required during delivery. It can also alleviate the powerfully negative symptoms of post-partum depression that can creep into a mother’s mental state after birth.
“Unless we start providing that emotional support, we’ll keep hearing stories of mothers having trouble bonding and high rates of post-partum depression and women coming home mind-boggled and not knowing what just happened to them,” she said.
Jones is becoming certified through Doula Training Canada. She has completed all of the course work involved and is at the stage where she needs to support three families before earning her full certification.
She has launched Intuition Doula Services, is in discussions with one mother due to deliver in February and has been talking to some other prospective clients.
Jones, a social worker by profession, is maintaining her day job as executive director of Violence Prevention West as she works to develop her doula practice. Eventually, she hopes there will be a network of doulas throughout the province.
“This is not a moneymaking venture for me,” she said. “This is just something that makes my heart happy. But it’s not just a passerby project, either. It’s something I hope to grow in this area and I would like to connect with other doulas or aspiring doulas.”