Doula’s are becoming increasingly utilised by women as a form of support during their labour and birth of their baby.
Here, Amanda Bernstein from Essential Me gives you a detailed run down of what a Doula does and how one could support you, and your partner, during the birth of your baby…
“Often I meet people in the street and they ask what I do. Often I’m met with “Oh a jeweller! Cool, are you wearing any of your work?” or “Do you mean something like fencing where you fight people?”… Alas, no. My mum is an awesome jeweller though!
Hi, I’m Amanda Bernstein and my business is called Essential Me. I’m a Sydney based birth and postnatal Doula, supporting mums in the East / Eastern Suburbs, Inner West, Lower North and Southern parts of Sydney. It’s a combination of Doula services and you can choose one or the other, or both. The word originates from the Greek language and used to mean “slave woman” which overtime became “servant woman” and is now “support woman”. Essentially, I support women and couples during their pregnancy, at their birth and in the postpartum period, providing continuity of care in their journey to meet their new baby. Every time I’m at a birth it’s super special to me – I feel honoured that a couple who were effectively strangers invite me into such a personal time in their lives. It’s a privilege I don’t take lightly or for granted. Your baby will only be born once and I do everything I can to help make sure it is the best possible experience you can have.
As a Doula, I work alongside your medical team – whether it’s your midwife, GP or obstetrician – and play a very different part to them at your birth. A Doula is a non-medical role – I’m there to support you emotionally, physically and informatively. Usually we meet for an obligation free interview, a kind of “get to know you” chat. I think this is really important as if you’re going to invite me to your birth – one of life’s most intimate moments – I want you to feel 100% comfortable in my presence. You need to be able to speak your mind, share your feelings and not hold back what you really think.
If you wish to proceed from there, we arrange for at least two further prenatal meetings. At the first one, we discuss your preferences around birth (all your hopes and wishes) and I go over with you what your options are. I truly believe that you have choice and evidence based information is important. From this conversation I create a birth plan (AKA birth preferences – as things don’t always go to plan!) and send it to you. This is an important step as it means should something not go to plan at your birth, you understand why. There will be a medical reason why things will deviate from your preferences and you won’t have trauma around them after the birth. The birth plan is something I can use as a Doula in the hospital setting to advocate for you – for your wishes – and to make sure you consent to anything that strays from this. You’ll take this plan to your pregnancy care provider to sign off on during your pregnancy, so there are no surprises about your requests at the birth. It will give you a chance to discuss anything out of the ordinary with them, or anything that may clash with your wishes – like potentially hospital policy.
In the second meeting we discuss your fears around birth and address any concerns or queries that you may have around the process, and what happens next. We’ll talk about natural things you can do to be in optimum shape and condition to birth your baby, and can even go over some positions for birth, breathing techniques and visualisations. Though of course, you may have already done this in your independent birthing classes. Importantly, it’s spending more time getting to know me (and me you!) and feeling more comfortable and at ease in my presence.
Then, from your 38 to 42 weeks gestation (ie your due month), I’m on call for you. You can contact me 24/7 with concerns, queries, questions, and importantly if you think you’re in labour. I then attend your birth with you. If you’re low risk, your hospital may even offer you access to a homebirth or their birthing centre instead of the delivery suite – and I can support you and your partner in your labour and your birth in all of these locations.
To your birth, I bring my giant Doula toolkit (or some say a bag of tricks!). This includes lots of things like motivation and encouragement, massage and acupressure, essential oils and homeopathy, rebozo techniques, photography and more… Most importantly, I truly believe in you and your ability to birth your baby. As a non-biased support person, I’m there for you no matter what and will back you in your choices. I can provide you with lots of information so that you totally understand the risks around the decisions you make. I strive to ensure that you are 100% present for your journey, that you consent to every step of the process, and that if this deviates from your birth plan, you fully understand why. Given in 2018 we have postnatal depression rates of something like 1 in 7 women, 1 in 16 partners and PTSD in 1 in 10 new mums, I truly believe that having a Doula is a massive step towards improving these numbers.
We’ll meet after the birth to debrief your experience. It’s the chance for you to own your story and having been at your birth, I can help you to fill in any gaps. Often during a birth, time is warped and it can be hard to judge how long there was between each event or even which part came first. Debriefing is an important step to ensure you have no question unanswered or “stone left unturned” so to speak. I can also help you with feeding and settling techniques, and go through an approximate “what to expect” for a 24 hour cycle with your newborn baby (not quite a routine).
In this postnatal Doula role, we call it “mothering the mother” and so I do whatever it is that you need to best be able to look after your baby. I can help you fold a load of laundry, hold the baby so you can shower, cook a nutritious meal and even pick up some groceries for you on my way. And if you don’t have much support around, you can book additional postpartum Doula sessions with me too. My role encompassing all Doula services, is varied and allows me to offer a true range of support for you in so many different ways.
While I absolutely love this Sydney based doula support work, it does mean I need to juggle some other things in my personal life. My children are young (currently 6 and 3.5 years old) and are at school / preschool 5 days a week. My amazing husband can help cover the nights and weekends, and we have a demi pair (like a nanny) who lives with us who helps with the drop off and pick up times from school. Given I have to drop everything on the fly to attend a birth, it’s essential that I have these sorts of measures in place. It also means I don’t commit to very much personally. When we are invited to something I can only say “I’m on call for a birth at that time so while I’ll do my best to be there, there is a chance I’ll be supporting a Doula client”. Also, as I mostly see my clients on nights and weekends (as they work in the day and that’s what usually suits them), it does significantly limit the time I can spend with my husband and kids. I try to keep one week night free a week to spend with my husband, and at least one of the weekend days to spend as a family – tricky when we juggle things like swimming, jiu-jitsu or dance classes – plus kids birthday parties etc… I see this mostly as a sacrifice for loving the Doula work I do. Every job has its ups and downs, and the “job” part of being a Doula doesn’t feel like work to me as I love it so much, it’s more the missing out on other opportunities in my life that is the down side.
In addition to my Doula services, I’m also a Ka Huna bodyworker and a Pilates instructor. Ka Huna massage is an incredible Hawaiian style that uses long flowing strokes from head to toe and back again, over and under the body, and this underbody work is so unique and different to any other style, making Ka Huna a full body massage in one sweeping motion. You are encouraged to relax deeply on the table and truly let go – physically, emotionally and spiritually. I didn’t get into Ka Huna to become a massage therapist, rather it’s the personal development that comes with it that I gain so much from. You see in Ka Huna, we focus on the flow of love energy, and if I can stay present and focused, not thinking about the laundry or what’s for dinner or any negative things that may be happening in my life, then I feel so much more positive in general. When giving a massage, I draw on my Lomi Lomi Heartworks (another Hawaiian style of massage) techniques which makes the massage like a meditation – I imagine I’m breathing air in from my head to my heart, and love out my arms and hands into the body on the table. I’m trained in pregnancy massage and bring a little bit of flow to each birth with me too.
As a Pilates instructor, I specialised in pregnancy Pilates and postnatal Pilates for recovery. I offer a unique mobile service to you where I come to your home in Sydney and help you apply functional Pilates exercises back into your everyday life. This helps to reduce the risk of injury and allows your body to adapt as your baby grows. This is available during pregnancy and usually as a postnatal service.
Thanks so much for reading all the way through this blog article. I hope you have enjoyed my sharing all aspects of my busy lifestyle and exactly what’s involved in being a Doula (or hiring me).”
If you’d like more information or to connect with Amanda Bernstein, the Sydney Doula, please check out:
Phone Amanda: 0411 607 608
Facebook & Instagram: /essentialmeservices