Be-la vs. Dou-la: How to Enhance the Client Doula Relationship

posted in: Doulas, News | 13

At doula workshops, we contemplate doing vs. being…. Doula beginning with the word DO. I am suggesting that we become Be-las – practicing the art of being present and allowing the birthing woman and her partner to lead with their inner wisdom and with their connection to their baby, who will guide us all in the path to a safe, satisfying and pleasurable birth.

Enjoy the tips in this blog as well as this Skype chat with Bridget Baker of Doula UK, which was part of the EDN annual meeting.

Here are my Top 10 Be-La Tips!

1. Disconnect and Connect. Turn off your cell phone and remove any impulse to text or engage in social media. Provide your full focus to the mother and the environment.

“We need to talk about how cell phones…. So I’m sitting in the corner and what’s the difference between my iphone and knitting needles? Personally, I think there is a huge difference and I believe that when a mother can feel you are engaged with something else. Knitting is different, you can be on auto-pilot knitting, moving needles and yarn while staying actively engaged with her, you are still present with the mother.” – Debra Pascali-Bonaro

2.  Release all your expectations, judgments and your own challenges…. Leave all your baggage at the door in order to enter a woman’s birthing space with unconditional acceptance, peace, and love. Your role is to emit and encourage the energy of love, oxytocin, and it can’t flow easily with obstacles in the way- including your own.

“Your peace becomes the mother’s peace. Your calm becomes her calm. She is giving birth, you are attending. Her space is sacred. You will know when you need to act but most of the time you will knit.” – Midwifery Digest

3. Breathe and Practice Your Path to divinity, connecting to the sacred wisdom within – your intuition.

Mason candles

4. Create peaceful, sacred birth ambiance with lights, sounds, smells….

5. Silence is Golden. Women remember forever how you made them feel with your unspoken language – with your eyes, body language, heartfelt intentions. When the time is right, provide gentle touch, sharing your love, respect and trust of birth for each MotherBaby, father and/or partner. Check in with the messages your eyes hands heart and body are speaking, as they are louder than words.

“After the birth (the parents) would thank me profoundly and all I did was sit in the corner knitting, and they would say ‘I couldn’t have done it without you.’ And I would say ‘I did nothing! You did everything!’ and the response was, your presence, your smile, your nod, let us know that we were doing good and that’s all that we needed was someone to hold that space and believe in us and that we could do it.” – Debra Pascali-Bonaro

6. Use a Language of Power, Health, Strength, Sensuality & Pleasure. In using this language, remember to honor the challenges as they are part of any rite of passage. The heroine journey is not devoid of pain and challenges. It is the depth of our challenges that allow us to stretch and grow and discover new strengths and wisdom within. Be-las honor the journey by our trust – providing respect, dignity and support with unconditional love.

7. Be Ever Present. Continuous support is key! It is okay to tend to your basic needs and care for yourself, via using the bathroom and having a snack, but once the mother is trusting you to be present, she will rely you on a primal level so it is important to stay present.

8. Follow & Don’t Lead. In following with your trust and belief in her and birth, she will become the birthing goddess. As Ina May Gaskin says, “If a woman doesn’t look like a Goddess during birth then someone isn’t treating her right.”

9. Don’t Become a Doula-Drug by replacing her hormones and wisdom with yours. As much as we wish we can take the shortcut, like helping the butterfly out of its cocoon, doing so will often make it impossible for the butterfly to fly, as its wings need the struggle to be born to fly. Like birth, being present, holding the space for the all that is needed to be born, allows each MotherBaby to fully stretch and strengthen their wings.

10. Provide Comfort Measures as Last Resort – after all the above are in place. Holding a hand, using touch, acupressure, rebozo, changing positions and techniques when they have outlasted effectiveness (or every 30 minutes when things are not progressing). Gently guide and follow the mother as she finds her path from Pain to Power.

Tweet with us:

Doulas and partners give the gift of being, so women can do the powerful work of giving birth #doulabeing #birthkeeper #birthdoula

Doula vs Be-la, how do you describe your role as doula? #doulalife #doula #doularole 

#Doula Love, Be + Love equals Bela #bela

13 Responses

  1. Christine

    Beautifully said Debra – LOVE it – we must always remember it’s about Her and Be-la is a wonderful way to remind ourselves when we want to ‘fix’ it…just be – hold the space with breath & be ready when it’s needed.

    • orgasmicbirth

      Love how you said instead of “fix it” to “hold the space with and breathe”. So true, as our culture often feels the need to fix when we aren’t broken but in need of more time, more love, more trust and someone to believe in birth and us!

  2. bodil frey

    Thank you Debra! I agree totally and I love the image of the butterfly that needs to free itself of its cocoon. It is helpful to be in a calm, meditative state as a doula and not wish to perform and show all our skills!

  3. Debbie

    After having had a Caesar, a stillbirth Another Caesar and then my recent orgasmic natural birth I couldn’t agree more with the be-la attitude. I support doula/bela as team players but in my case Luckily for me I got this whole attitude from my team- a very experienced midwife- Jan- from Mama Midwives , a fantastically supportive Obstetrician who supported my trial of birth and upheld my sacred space (Ravi you are a model to the medical world in Australia) and the hospital midwife present and of course my helpful midwifery student who learnt on the job – so young but so aware of a mother’s needs. Personally I held a very clear view of what my birthing was about and key to it was the connected support that I garnered from this special time. My beautiful little VBAC warrior triumphed into the world with Daddy witnessing how awesome birth can be too. Forever grateful and inspired to follow the path of connection in the future through birth education and sure to network with more doulas. Your ideas and work resonates well within me.

  4. annakwilde

    This is such a good reminder Debra. It is so tempting to want to be in the centre of the action, even with parenting. Stepping back and just be-ing is a learned skill isn’t it!

  5. Alice

    It may be helpful if each labor support doula, during the pre-birth class, talks about the original published research showing decreased cesareans, decreased need for pain medication, etc., just by the presence in the room of another caring woman. Then there may be less concern on the partner’s part: “We are paying $1500; what did she actually DO?” This would also extend to the need of some doulas to bring a lot of equipment. Question whether your presence is as valuable as a huge birthing ball or smaller wooden massage balls… or more so?

    • orgasmicbirth

      Thank you Alice. Yes, I agree in these times when people are paying high fees in some regions for doulas, this adds to the sense that doing something is more important that our nurturing presence. As you suggest we need to share both the research on the benefits of a doula and our role in our prenatal visits so there are realistic expectations and clarity on our role and the important of “being there”. All the early studies were community women who were present, held a hand, rubbed a back and mostly brought their trust of birth and women, “holding the space” and in this helping partners to also feel calm and confident. In my mind that is worth the doula fee and more!

  6. Martina

    Thank you so much Debra for these wise words…

    Until now I only have had the chance to be a not-attending-the-birth-at-place Doula what means I did support several of my good friends as much as I could in advance and after giving birth…
    I had always been very near to them by heart and not by my own presence in the same place… But it seems to work out quite well, too.
    My friends giving birth were so happy to have my support even if I was not there!
    All of them had experienced wonderful births, they told me…

    So I am very happy to read about Be-las –
    especially as I feel much more like a Be-la than a REAL Dou-la :-)

    Lots of love,
    Martina

  7. alison bastien

    I really loved this. thank you for bringing it forth! you are such a gift to the world. thank you in general.