7 Things I Like to Ask You Before Birth
Heads up potential clients!
If we haven’t met yet, I’m very much looking forward to getting to know you better. This is a list of questions I like to ask birthing people I’m meeting for the first time, or during one of our prenatal visits, so that you can think ahead and ponder on what your answers to some of these might be. It’s not a test. I just want to get to know you! After all, building a relationship is a big part of why doulas are so magical. So here goes:
What do you want from a doula?
Some people want a doula so hands-off that they want her to wait in the hallway until they call for her. Others have a lot of anxiety and want a doula to be texting in the middle of the night every night through pregnancy to answer all the questions that come up. Some want a doula to advocate for the birthing person’s choices, and help protect them from obstetric violence or stick to a birth plan. Others are afraid that a doula might interfere with her choice to have an epidural, or that she might make the partner feel useless or alienated in the process. I want to have a clear view of what your expectations and fears are for a doula in general, so I can do my best to meet those expectations, and calm those fears.
What is your birthing history, and your family’s birthing history?
This becomes relevant to me not from a medical standpoint, but because the way you and your family have given birth will influence the way you think about birth, and your beliefs in your own abilities. The stories you are told and that you tell yourself are the fabric of your worldview. It also becomes relevant if past trauma or sensitivities that have not been faced might come up again during your birth, as it can manifest in myriad ways.
Do you have any special family, cultural, or religious traditions I should be aware of?
I always want to ensure that I’m showing absolute respect for your origins, your family, and you especially. Incorporating your history, your family, and your spiritual life into your birth can help you feel more fulfilled, loved, and supported. Another way to think of this question: what are some non-physical coping tools you’d like to incorporate into your birth to help you feel more emotionally grounded?
Are there any places you don’t want to be touched, or words you don’t want said during your birth?
Even if you can handle sensitive topics during your everyday life, many people are especially emotionally sensitive and vulnerable during birth, where things that wouldn’t otherwise bother you very much may become all you can focus on. In order to keep you in a good space emotionally and mentally, I’d like to do my best to avoid anything that might lead you down an unhelpful thought path.
How involved do you want your partner to be?
Ideally your partner would be with you during our conversation, but either way, I want to know to what level of involvement they are comfortable with. Some are hands-off, and would rather wait outside or occupy themselves until the main event, while others want to be in control and always be by the birthing person’s side. If I’m being honest, I prefer the partners to get as involved as they want, because your partner has a special loving touch that I can’t replicate, so we both fill important roles.
Do you have any specific hopes or desires for this birth that I should know?
If you’re planning a vbac, what would having a vbac mean to you? What does a ‘perfect’ birth look like to you, and what is it specifically that makes it a good birth? It’s important to explore these questions, mainly because identifying an attainable goal often means redefining it. For some people, a VBAC is everything, but on self-reflection, it may actually be a certain feeling they are after that can be achieved by other means in case an alternate route should become necessary. Mental preparation for the unpredictability of birth is crucial to help you remain centered and still achieve a fulfilling birth in less than ideal circumstances if those should happen.
What are some fears you are grappling with for this birth?
It takes a bit of emotional work to truly identify what fears are bothering you, as you may not recognize them as such at first. Maybe you’re planning this birth to a tee because you are afraid of repeating a bad experience. Or maybe you don’t know what to expect. Or maybe you’re not sure if the information you currently have is reliable. It can help to talk through some of these concerns or fears, and get guidance on which concerns need to be discussed with a doctor, a therapist, a lactation consultant or other professional.
Are you getting induced/having a cesarean/waiting for labor? When are you due?
This is relevant only for the sake of my scheduling. For spontaneous labors I usually allow 2-3 clients per month on my schedule, and pray they don’t conflict with one another, as we all know they can be unpredictable over the course of about a month. Planned births can still happen unexpectedly, but at least I have an idea of which spot to reserve on my calendar.
There you have it! I hope to do my best to follow your lead and validate your concerns and bolster your confidence. Your birth is about YOU, so I want to do everything I can to fit right into your space comfortably and fulfill some of your needs.