There is something magical about watching participants arrive into a doula workshop and slowly blossom and open like a lotus flower as they become part of the special circle of doulas supporting one another in birth and life.
As the her-story of female companionship in birth is told, the circle begins to form and I can see the oxytocin and calmness begin to rise as each person realizes not only is the doula role ancient, it is supported by research. The doulas learn the incredible benefits for MotherBabies and Partners when they have the support of a doula, as well as the fascinating hormonal research of the female stress response, “tend and befriend”. When women are together and connected, the hormones of calm grow and stress is reduced which is a gift we give each other in birth and in life. As this information is shared, I can truly feel the doula spirit emerging from each participant, as they realize their deep intuition that this circle is crucial to a healthy life and is supported by research.
Every culture around the world has rich traditions of female companionship in childbirth. In Japan, where I recently had the honor of teaching, I learned more about the history of women in their culture, gathering to offer comfort and support, singing and dancing thus bringing joy and pleasure to birth.
It doesn’t not take long to remember and reclaim the traditional wisdom of our ancestors, as its deep in our knowing – within our circle of doulas the oxytocin levels begin to rise and we move, dance and share our stories. From each woman in our circle a doula is born, not only to support birth, but to support each other in life too.
Japan has a rich tradition of birth at home and in birth homes which were often the homes of the midwives. As an American, I feel so sad to know that after the war many countries around the world, including Japan were shamed into moving birth from home to the hospital. Thankfully, Japan was able to keep their midwives, but now they are under the hospital doctors who still arrive to catch the babies after the midwives have been there throughout the labor.
All over the world when birth moved from home to hospital women have been disconnected from the traditional circle of support and in time the knowledge and loving care that women provided has been replaced by machines, random hospital staff members, and those that only have time to care for physical health, not the emotional and physical comfort that is needed to birth with ease.
Japan is at this tipping point, where the knowledge of comfort, joy and love in childbirth is disappearing and is being replaced with technology, cesarean birth and the use of the epidural is climbing. It seems the fear and pain of birth is growing around the world and I believe doulas are a missing piece in this puzzle to reclaim the joy, love and opportunity that birth holds when we trust birth, trust women and give women the support and care they deserve in childbirth.
We must turn the tide as science is supporting that we have gone too far -we are offering “too much too soon” in industrialized countries and the overuse of technology and medicine has a big price to pay for MotherBabies health and well-being with growing rates of postpartum depression, PTSD and trouble breastfeeding.
While Japan still has a wonderful model of care with much better outcomes than the U.S I worry they are at risk of losing this if they don’t take a long hard look at the trend and reconsider traditional ways they cared for laboring women and welcome the use of doulas. The recent WHO report says- “create positive birth experiences for all by supporting the natural physiology of MotherBaby”. And who is best to do that? Doulas of course!
Midwives, nurses and doulas are perfect together – as doulas are the missing link. With our loving skill and wisdom, we expand the circle of care and provide continuous companionship with comfort skills that other caregivers no longer have the time to do.
As I return home, I have a warm glow in my heart as the doulas of Japan or “Doula Ship of Japan” as they now call themselves have set sail.