Interview with Doula Lon Gibbons
I first heard about the concept of a doula a few years ago, but didn’t really explore what a doula is until I became pregnant myself. In this interview, Lon Gibbons tells us all about doulas, what they do and offers some great advice on getting ready for birth. You can read more on Lon’s website: www.longibbons.com. Thank you to Lon for taking the time to answer my questions:
What is a doula? A doula offers emotional and practical support to the mother/couple/family during pregnancy, birth and after the little one has arrived. In preparation for the birth, the doula meets with the couple and helps them find answers to any of their questions about birth and looking after a new baby and facilitates them to make the choices that are right for them. A birth doula will also be there with the couple as they are in labour and giving birth, supporting them both at this very special time.
What qualifications does a doula need? To be recognised by Doula UK, the umbrella charity that keeps an eye on all of us (www.doula.org.uk), you need to attend a recognised training course and then follow the mentoring program that lasts several months and sees you through at least 4 births and 4 postnatal jobs
How did you get into it? As a yoga teacher, I was teaching plenty of pregnancy & postnatal/mum and baby yoga. The whole process fascinates me and I couldn’t believe it when I discovered the role of a doula, as if perfectly fits the gap in the middle! To be witness to the miracle of birth and to be part of the precious early weeks is an utter privilege. In the modern fast-paced world we become easily disconnected from our inner wisdom. Childbirth is a totally natural process and we have to learn to trust our bodies and the process. The womb is wise! I am passionate about encouraging women to explore and reconnect with their deep inner strength to make this an empowering and positive experience.
What are the benefits of hiring a doula? For birth – the benefits are that you have someone really looking out for you both, who has got to grips with what is really important for you. And of course, when you actually go into labour, unless you are paying for an independent midwife, it is very unlikely that you will know any of the medical team looking after you. Postnatally, a doula is a great comfort, especially to first time mums and dads who feel a little clueless, or for 2nd/3rd time parents who need an extra pair of hands. Many of my clients come from overseas and don’t have family nearby and some just want the independent reassurance and support that a doula provides.
How do midwives usually react to having a doula in the room? I have had a very welcoming response from the midwives who have looked after my clients. A good midwife knows how important it is for a woman to feel safe and relaxed, and a doula helps to provide this
I am thinking of having a water birth. Do you have any advice? The use of water is such a brilliant idea! When you see a woman get into the pool, the look of complete and utter relief is unmistakable! The general belief is that you shouldn’t get in too early as it may slow things down. It does make you very relaxed and helps you to really ‘get into the zone’. I would recommend exploring different positions in the pool as it can make you so relaxed that you tend to stay in one place, but as most expectant mums will know it really helps the passage of the baby if you can keep moving around. The water should be lovely and warm, so it is good for the partners to have cool flannels to hand to help cool your brow! Also, if you are on all fours in the pool, it can feel amazing to have water poured over your sacrum (plastic cup/jug would do the trick!)
Do you recommend home births above hospital births? Having been born at home myself, I’m naturally drawn to home birth and that would be MY first choice. However, the most important thing to consider is where you feel safest and therefore where you will be most relaxed. Many women want to be near all the emergency equipment, which is a valid fear, but I always come back to my favourite quote by midwife Jeannine Parvati Baker: ‘Birth is not an emergency. It is simply an emergence.’ There is lots of really sane advice about home birth. Listen to your own instincts, and make the choices that are right for you and your baby….
What should women look for when choosing a doula? Number one is personality. You all need to get along famously to avoid any unwanted stress in the birth room! If you are birthing with the support of your husband/partner, it needs to be a joint decision as if the women take this on as something vital for them, the men can feel a bit left out and this really isn’t the point.
Is a doula just for birth or can she be helpful afterwards too? You can have a birth doula or a postnatal doula or both. Not all doulas offer both services.
How much does a doula generally cost? You can expect to pay between £500-£1000 for a recognised Birth Doula in the London area. Postnatal doulas charge on an hourly basis. The prices vary according to where you live, the experience of the doula and what else she brings with her (yoga/hypnobirthing/massage, etc). Doula UK also has a Hardship Fund that aims to provide doulas to those who need financial assistance. And trainee doulas can only charge a small amount, this is a fabulous option for those on a budget – we have all been trainees!
What is your best advice for women who are planning their birth experience? Prepare yourself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually for the biggest transformation of your life. Be aware of all the choices and options available to you. Learn tools to stay calm and relaxed (yoga, hypnobirthing etc) and have faith in yourself and your baby and then be totally open to the experience. It will unfold as it is meant to.