Virtual doula support? That’s the latest buzz word since COVID-19, when hospitals began restricting visitors. Of course, doulas are not visitors, we are part of the healthcare team. And a tremendous thank you goes out to all the midwives, nurses, doctors and doulas themselves who’ve advocated for us staying with our clients during this stressful time. But we also respect and understand the very necessary limitations, and we care about doing our part to flatten the curve.
In my own practice, I’m committed to at least 14 days of quarantine in between each client interaction, staying apprised of the latest guidelines regarding personal protective equipment, doing my best to stay healthy by exercising every day, drinking plenty of water and getting plenty of rest, and of course attending births only when the client, the provider and the facility have recommended that I do so. I also give myself full permission to evaluate the safety of attending a birth week to week and am committed to maintaining open and honest communication with my clients.
Kudos to the doulas everywhere who’ve been getting creative about what our role looks like these days and recognizing the value of our knowledge and support, even if we can’t be physically present. Here are 10 of my favorite ways doulas can still support you from afar.
- We know the hospital landscape. We can create lists and floor plans and signs to put up in your room–all of these tidbits create a road map for you as you navigate labor in an unfamiliar environment. This will be a part of a larger self-advocacy strategy. It’s all the countless little things we do to help protect your birthing space, gently closing the door to keep the hallway noise from distracting you or turning down the light that’s shining in your eyes, that we’ll paint the picture of ahead of time in our prenatal planning session, so that you will have a much more detailed birthing plan than was ever necessary before. If your partner will be there, they’ll have a good handle on how to get most of it taken care of.
- We can still talk you through it. We might not know in real-time what’s happening in the room, but we can still interpret what the nurse meant when she said xyz which sounded like it could be concerning (but really wasn’t), or if it was, we gently explain what this might mean and the choices you do still have. If you want on-call virtual support, we will answer our texts and phone at 2am (or any time you need us). Those phone conversations will be invaluable for you.
- We can talk you through the contractions. Even if we won’t be able to provide comforting touch the way we can in person, our voice still remains our best tool. “You’re doing great.” “Slow, deep breaths.” “That’s it.” “Can you try moving into this position?” These are the scripts that doulas execute so well and we can absolutely continue to provide that. Just put us on speaker!
- We are community builders. We know the resources that will help you get through any rough patch you may be experiencing, while trying to conceive, while experiencing a loss, while making a tough choice, during pregnancy, while birthing, while feeding your baby, and during the entire postpartum (and reproductive health) cycle.
- We listen. We hear your concerns and your struggles. We remind you that you are respected, you are valued, you are doing what you need to do, and we validate your feelings and experience.
- We offer options and troubleshooting. We celebrate with you when it works and we offer other solutions if it doesn’t.
- We’re here for more frequent check-ins. I’m finding that there’s great value in increasing the volume of shorter, higher-quality conversations. Why spend two hours meeting at your house when instead, you could call us for a 15-minute chat after every medical appointment?
- We can empower and support your partner with ways to support you, physically and emotionally, both during the birth and postpartum.
- We can support your partners, too in their own journeys.
- We’re here for you always! Doula work tends to have a high burnout rate. As a collective industry, I’m inspired by the ways we are dreaming about creating more nourishment and sustainability in our practices. With more virtual support and more time to build in rest between clients, we can be more alert and more effective.