As we make our entry into the world as infants, we are first greeted not by the yearning hands of our mothers, but often, by the hands of a stranger. But perhaps the strange hands that delicately deliver us to our mothers are a reminder of the necessity of companionship as we bring forth new life.
Of course, before the quick turnaround of modern-day obstetrics and hospital deliveries, the birthing process was one that has always relied heavily on the companionship of other women. Laboring mothers and birthing people would be cared for by aunts, mothers, and grandmothers, and ancestral traditions would be invoked and passed on as the new mother was nursed back to recovery. But even as the birthing process in the United States has evolved exponentially, many women and birthing people are returning to those sacred roots of tradition, gentle companionship, and care.
But while doulas are non-medical professionals, evidence indicates that doula support during and after birth contributes to positive outcomes such as reducing the risks of a cesarean, reducing the need for pain medication, and shortening labor.
With Black mothers and birthing people more at risk for postpartum complications owing in large part to health inequities, doula companionship during and after birth has become increasingly common. New mothers have also become more attuned to the importance of their own care and well-being in the critical postpartum phase. Celebrities like Meghan Markle, Jillian Hervey , and Alicia Keys (who’s birth was attended by Mama Glow Founder, Latham Thomas) had doula-assisted births.
With doula support becoming commonplace in the maternal health landscape, the profession has come a long way from the early days of birthing and delivery. Brown University student, Leona Hariharan, who is part of the tells me why she became a doula with Mama Glow.
When did you first become aware of the profession?
I learned about doulas while working as an outreach volunteer for Planned Parenthood in San Diego. The clinic I was at had doulas who supported women through abortions and I thought it was really amazing. I loved that these doulas were filling a gap in emotional care throughout the process.
What drew you to the profession?
I have a lot of experience in the healthcare field, and so much of it felt so academic and removed from the community. I was really drawn to doula work because it is so essentially community-based and interpersonal. It’s a field focused on making people feel held and taking care of them during a vulnerable time in their lives.
What gaps do you think doulas fill in the maternal care continuum?
I see doulas as ancestral folks committed to preserving the sacredness of birth. It’s very rare to have someone involved in the process who is very much focused on the mother in the mother-and-child relationship. Doulas are capacity builders, and they help create space for mothers to explore how to fill the most filled and make decisions that honor their goals and legacies.
What do you find most rewarding about being a doula?
The community for sure! Becoming a doula has very much expanded the amount of passionate, ambitious, and incredible humans in my life. I am so grateful to find myself chock-full of mentors with the right values who are truly doing it all. It’s amazing to be part of a legacy of incredible women who have done this work and also currently share space with people on this journey.
Advice for anyone considering becoming a doula?
Be open and let it radicalize you. The curriculum is truly life-changing and I don’t think you will ever see medicine the same way. It opens up so many new opportunities and possibilities, especially for people who are interested in public health and medicine. Also, make this an opportunity to invest in yourself. Care work can be draining and beautiful and it’s important to have a great understanding of your needs and boundaries to do the work sustainably.
Learn more about the Mama Glow Doula Homeschool Profession Doula Training Program