~Melanie Griffey, Owner of Heritage Birth Works
Chattanooga, TN

In the previous article I authored, we talked about how education makes such a huge impact on the way doulas are able to work at a birth.  This time, let’s take a look at how different it is for a doula to be the support for a family member or close friend.  What are the challenges of being a Doula for your child who is giving birth to your grandchild?

First, let’s talk about what a doula is.  In modern Greek, it means Female Helper.  The word is used to describe a woman experienced in childbirth who provides advice, information, emotional support and comfort to a woman before, during and just after the birth.  As a doula, I help mom to walk through all the options of childbirth; find out what type of birth she wants and help to create a plan to make that happen.  Of course, I care for my clients, and want the very best for them, but I am not emotionally involved.  

Should you choose to be a doula for your family member or friend, you may find it completely different from any other birth you’ve attended.  I know that was the case for me.  

For most doula clients, I offer 2 prenatal visits lasting up to a couple of hours each depending on how many questions are asked and how much we choose to giggle and chit-chat.  We come up with a Birth Preferences List, talk about exercises and labor positions and then, I leave.  I am available for questions and concerns, but mostly, we just wait until it’s “Time.”  When my daughter chose to have me as her doula, these two prenatal visits turned into 200 (exaggeration, but … only kinda).  We were on the phone every day.  I went to doctor appointments with her.  I went with her to be checked out at the hospital when things weren’t quite right.  I researched and discussed her research.  I ate, slept and breathed her entire pregnancy.  Of course, this was by choice!  She was having my grandchild, after all.  

There were several times that the high-risk doctors’ office sent her to the OB Emergency Department.  I found myself questioning everything I thought I knew.  The Nurse Practitioner and I even laughed – “I’m a really good doula, but being Grammy is HARD!”  She said that it is not uncommon for the roles to be clouded.  I hadn’t really thought about it.  

After the birth, I really needed to decompress and reflect on the whole experience.  The main thing I came up with is that with the majority of my clients, I’m not emotionally invested like I am with my own daughter.  Watching my daughter, and knowing her as well as I do, there were things that I wouldn’t recommend like I would to other clients.  Fear and doubt crept in when the doctors came in and gave their statements that would normally not phase me.  The emotional distance that is intrinsically provided with clients allows me to step back and see things with clearer eyes.  

Please don’t misunderstand my words, being her mother allowed me to coach her through fears she didn’t realize she had, talk about previous traumas and how to work through those, and really be on the same page with her when it came time for the birth.  Fortunately, we are very close and there is not a taboo topic for us.  There was also the relaxing flexibility for her to call me at 3 am just to talk about something she “just thought of.”  I was even able to stay at her house for a couple of nights before the birth and really make sure she was psychologically ready for the birth.

When it was “time,” we went to the hospital and she was able to give birth to a beautiful, healthy, baby girl!

I got to Doula my Baby – my own sweet daughter – and it was an experience I will never forget and will cherish always.

That labor and delivery … well, it’s a blog for next time.  Be watching for “Laugh Your Baby Out!”