I would like to take a quick moment to say thank you. Thank you 2020, you have completely and totally turned our world upside down. Without you I would have never had the wonderful experience of hand sanitizer stinging my chapped and over washed hands. I would not know the joy and relief of grabbing the last 4 pack of toilet paper off the Walmart shelf. I have always wondered what it was like for the family in the Shining trapped together for months on end in the Overlook Hotel, slowly and steadily going insane. But now because of you 2020 I no longer have to wonder, I know.
Chances are if you're pregnant and reading this you might be thinking something along the lines of “you think you got problems lady? Try being pregnant during this. Try juggling the normal anxieties that come with growing life inside you and ever changing hospital policies. Try losing your deposit on a birth photographer because you can now only have one person at your birth. Try explaining that new policy to your mom or your sister. Your biggest problem is the lack of toilet paper? I wish that was the only thing I was worrying about.”
Yep, 2020 has made a lot of things harder for a lot of people, especially if you're pregnant. Most hospitals in the United States now only allow the laboring person 1 visitor during labor. Most of the time that person can’t leave and can’t show any signs of being ill including cough or fever. With stricter than ever hospital policies and anxiety at a new high, some of you might be wondering what support options are out there. Some of you might have even heard something about “virtual doulas”. But what is a virtual doula and how does something like that even work? Well never fear! Kayte is here to help break it down for you!
What is a virtual doula?
A virtual doula is a doula who is available to you over the phone or a video call but not physically in the room with you during your birth. And virtual doulas aren’t a new thing! They have always been an option for people who might not have a doula available in their geographic area or might not be able to afford a traditional doula service.
What is the point of a doula who is not in the room with me?
Most people think the bulk of a doulas job happens in the room during the birth. They have this picture in their head of a long haired hippy lady rubbing another womans back as she give birth in a kiddie pool in the back yard as someone else plays the recorder...and I’m not going to tell you that that hasn’t happened to someone...but it certainly hasn’t happened to me. The truth is most of my work as a doula is about being a resource of information for couples. I talk to people about hospital policies. I help sort through feelings and anxieties. I talk couples through emergency inductions. I explain what they might expect during a c-section. I remind people of their rights during birth, and I help make space for them to make a decision for themselves. Of course it helps being in the room! Of course I think a woman has a right to have the labor support that she wants during birth and a doula can be a valuable part of that team! But the part of my job that I just described is very important and can be done over the phone.
So what should I expect when I hire a virtual doula?
Every doula is different. Even here in our little collective our packages will vary from doula to doula. However, I feel like the package I offer for my virtual services is pretty standard so for the sake of simplicity we’ll use mine as an example. My virtual package starts with the doula interview. This is normally a phone or video call that only last about 30 minutes or so. After I’m hired I’m available for questions or quick conversations via phone or text throughout the whole pregnancy. I also do two birth plan visits normally over video chat. During the visits I try to answer some of your questions in a more in depth way. We also go over your birth plan and a variety of comfort measures that you and your support person can physically use at your birth can. We also have a variety of online childbirth classes that you can take to build your "tool box" for your birth. You will receive a copy of our amazing client workbook, Supporting Arms, that you and your partner can utilize as well. I go on call at 37 weeks. What this normally means is at 37 weeks you can call me at any time or day or night and tell me it's time to get to the birth location and I will get in my car and go. What “going on call” means when you are a virtual doula is that you can call me anytime day or night to help talk you through labor, talk about options during birth, help you decide if it's time to go to the hospital or not, etc. You can call me once and I will stay on the phone with you for the whole labor OR you can call me and talk to me for a few minutes, hang up, and call me again 15 minutes later. I am happy to come labor with you at your home if you'd like and then offer support by phone when you decide you are ready to head to you birth location. After pregnancy I do one postpartum visit over the phone to talk about the birth, how you’ve been feeling and any other questions you might have.
The world looks a little different right now. We’ve all had to make changes and adjust our expectations, but support and education are still available to you! Feel free to contact any of our doulas about offering virtual support for you at your birth and while you’re at it, talk to our instructors about our amazing virtual classes! Just because the world is different doesn’t mean that we are alone and just because we can’t physically be there to hold your hand that doesn’t mean we won’t be there to support you in any way we can.