I met Erin at Bryant Park one day while she was on a break from interning at a nearby fertility clinic. We got talking and when I asked her what she did I became interested to know more. Before this conversation, I had never heard the term, Doula...What do you do?
I am currently a full time student, will eventually start my own Doula Service Practice. Right now, I'm studying, in my fourth year of traditional Chinese Medicine.
What's a Doula?
A Doula is an aid to the mother and father during child birth, there are two kinds (of Doulas): one for childbirth and one for post, some doulas do both. Typically my services provide physical, emotional and informational support for the mother during the child birth.
What a rewarding job, what is the typical rate?
The rate varies, I'm new, I'm getting started so my rates would be of the lower end around $350-$550, but a doula can get paid as high as $1,000.
What services would be included?
Several visits for various...one post, one to two prenatal visit/on call and the actual birth, which is the main role...
Ever experience any complications?
Not as a doula, not under my care, one time in my senior year, I assisted in a birth with another doctor and there was a slight complication but nothing serious.
Any misconceptions of a doula?
Yes, doula's work in home births but they also work at hospitals, which many people don't realize. Doulas can be really helpful in a hospital setting also...
Can you describe an experience with a home birth?
During one home birth in Costa Rica, I assisted in a birth with a midwife and the whole experience was so beautiful. I arrived about nine that night, she (the pregnant woman) was pacing, her partner was setting up a tube of hot water for her, the midwife and I massaged her neck, arms, etc.
Was there other people in the home?
Yes, but not right there but they were around...in the kitchen, living room, just chatting quietly. She delivered within 4-5 hours...
Sounds so relaxing! How did you and the midwife create the atmosphere/setting?
Low lighting, soft music, relaxed her with massage and herbs and other natural remedies and the baby came so peacefully without any complications and then the grandmother came in and had some food cooked, it was quite wonderful really.
Sounds like the way to go, I'm definitely more interested in this approach now, it seems to make a lot more sense, ever been a doula for a Manhattan mother?
Not yet, no, hopefully soon, actually, I have two pregnant friends who I may be assisting!
How wonderful, so, what inspired you to do this?
I think it's my philosophy...I have a passion for women's health care and how one comes into the world, not really the medical process, but the natural aspect of the birthing process...which can sometimes get overlooked in hospital settings.
What's most important to you in your assistance that you give?
It's really important the woman and/or couple attains the birth they want, did my doula training a year ago, I traveled the world while training also and I really look forward to starting up a practice myself.
That's really cool! So, how would one compare Chinese to what is it, Western Culture (medical care)?
(Laughing) That's it. Um, That's a good question...
(Laughing) Um...I think both is good, I like Western; it has its own paradigms, patterns, tools for diagnoses of/for treatment but with the Chinese method (for treatment) it looks at the body differently.
What do you mean exactly?
Looks for underlying cause and/or root, and then the aim becomes how to treat rather than mask...Western medicine is more about symptoms and treatment whereas Chinese medicine seeks to learn the root of the problem.
So, you appreciate both?
Well, yeah, their differences really compliment each other, wherever Chinese medicine lacks, Western makes up...both are great combined.
I think this is a silly question, would you say, you are more passionate about the Chinese methodology?
(laughing) I am more passionate yes...its how I think about life, birth, makes the most sense with my philosophy. I am not against Western medicine, this is just my tool, if I can help, then I will...I have a teacher who once told me, 'there's no super medicine and there's no super doctor,' I really like that philosophy.
Best time to contact a doula?
Anytime, however; doulas usually come into the scene during the second trimester to make a connection with the mother (communicate), make sure it's a good fit, then the scheduling of the due date...
What if the mother's due date isn't correct, what would you do then?
That has happened, one women had to have a last minute Cesarean but I was still there for her for the post care, I brought her in some food, herbs, massaged and supported her during the after care part of it.
Any other unique forms of healing you study?
In April I will do private practice acupuncture, Chinese herbal.
You would acupuncture any part of the body?
(Laughing) Yeah, the entire body, trained to treat many problems.
That sounds so difficult, I was never that great in Science, would you use acupuncture on a pregnant woman?
Absolutely, I want to focus on women's health/gynecology and combine that with Chinese methods: acupuncture, Chinese herbs...
There are hundreds of herbs, hundreds of formulas, plants themselves, pills. The form of medical treatment is based on the form of the pathology. For example one woman could come in with terrible pain...cramps, I evaluate everything...examine her tongue, different pulses and treat her with a specific form of treatment to help her help her body heal itself, not just relieve itself of these symptoms.
And it's different depending on the person. If another woman comes in with the same problem (cramps) she'll get a completely different treatment because her pathology is different.
That's the complete opposite of the Western approach, that seems to focus only one thing.
Exactly. Most people take a pill for cramps and the pain may go away but it doesn't fix the root of the problem and so the next month the pain will return...this method actually stops it from returning.
So is it fair to say that even though you are more passionate about Chinese medicine, you would include Western if needed?
Yes, once I graduate, I can combine...it's a big move now in this city, women have used acupuncture and Chinese herbs successfully in delivers.
Really, what have these methods done specifically?
One or both have been used to turn breach babies, reduce blood pressure, quicken the labor process, prevent Cesarean.
That's major! Which setting would you prefer to help a women deliver; hospital or home setting?
I actually prefer whatever the mother prefers, the more comfortable she is, her partner, the family, the easier everything goes...
What are some aspects to consider?
Looking at it not only from the family...but also the transition of the baby from dark into a bright environment, taking a moment-process for everything, how can we all three work together and make it an awesome experience for everyone, kind of what Chinese medicine does a little bit...whatever can be done. It depends on what the couple wants, some women want the doctor and lots of medicine, while another just wants candles burning, doesn't mean one is better than the other...it's about taking the steps to make it happen whatever it may look like, I can assist in every situation.
Little history on Doulas?
Been around a REALLY long time, the women in village (laughing), there's always been support people..then medicine came along and pushed the natural ways to the side.
Got rid of the doulas you mean?
A little, yeah, but it's coming back now, and midwives. Both are doing a lot more delivers now, people are considering it more of a necessary practice more and more now...
Seems to make a lot of sense, I'm so relieved natural medicines and practices are making a comeback!
Yes, I always encourage people to think about it (getting assistance with a doula) a lot of research on doulas with birth, Cesarean rates, interval rates of Western medicine...one misconception, a doula doesn't replace but equally supports. There's no emotional attachment but there is compassion and information to be provided objectively, which leave more room for family support...other research proves successful outcomes with mommy-baby attachment, family dynamics, the support is very good...
Any advice for current pregnancies?
Get a doula (laughing), Be good to yourself, stay true to that, kind of like in anything, depends on the situation, everything is different, different set of rules. For example if one pregnant woman believes drinking orange juice will help but I don't I'm not going to stop them, that's why the doctor is there...oh shoot! (looking at her cell), class just started, don't want to be late!
Thank you, I think I'm going to get a doula when I have a baby now, I want to be spoiled!
Erin Hessel is a DONA Trained Doula who is also licensed in Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture, among other things, please feel free to contact her to set up a meeting time so you can have a peacful, happy and healthy birthing experience. Not pregnant? Then, treat a friend or family member! http://www.esemahealingarts.com