For most of human history, and in most cultures, women birthed their babies with the support of many other women. Community members. Family members. Mothers. Grandmothers. Sisters. Aunts. Neighbors. Their “village.”
Once upon a time, a birthing mama had no shortage of help to get through labor and recuperate during the postpartum period while doing the important work of bonding with baby. These days, in developed countries and modern societies, we just don’t have that kind of support anymore.
So what’s a modern expectant mom to do? First, it would be helpful to decide what kind of birth you want (or want to plan for, because birth can take unexpected turns) – a home birth? A hospital birth? A natural birth? A c-section?
With that decision made, finding a provider is next.
If you’d prefer to birth outside a hospital, finding a midwife and/or birthing center is your next step. If you’re on the fence, recent studies have shown that home births are just as safe as hospital births for low-risk pregnancies.
If, however, yours would be classified as a high-risk pregnancy due to medical conditions like epilepsy, heart disease, or diabetes, or you’ve had serious complications in a previous pregnancy, it would be best to visit a physician first. You’d also want to go direct to a physician if you’re certain you want, or need, a c-section. (And, yes, VBACs, or vaginal births after cesareans, are possible and not nearly as scary if you know the facts!)
After choosing a midwife or a physician, you should consider engaging a doula for additional support. Why? Because while your midwife and/or doctor is focused on the health and safety of both you and your baby, a doula’s job is to focus solely on YOU!
According to the American Pregnancy Association:
“A doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical, and educational support to a mother who is expecting, is experiencing labor, or has recently given birth. The doula’s purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable, and empowering birthing experience.” (source)
Birth Takes A Village has a fantastic overview of the benefits of having a doula in their article “What Does A Doula REALLY Do?”
Between your doctor, midwife, or both, your doula, your partner, and some helpful friends and family to bring you meals and help with errands during your postpartum period, you should have plenty of time to heal, recuperate, and bond with your beautiful baby…giving your little one the best start in the world it could ever have – time with you!
So when asking yourself, “Who do I want to help me through this experience?” the answer should be:
Your entire “village!”