How can a Doula help me - doesn't the GC just need one?
I’m an intended parent and will be meeting my baby soon! Should I get a doula? Aren’t they just for the birthing person?
Yay! Congratulations on your journey into parenthood! I love that you are looking into adding a doula to your birth team. To answer your question, doulas do so much more than simply supporting the birthing person, in this case, a gestational surrogate. If fact, did you know there are doulas who specialize in the surrogacy dynamic? It’s true! These specialized doulas have the experience and training to help both you, the intended parent(s), and your surrogate.
During the pregnancy you, your gestational carrier and your doula will closely work together to help create a birth vision that meets everyone’s desires and needs. She will introduce a number of sensitive and important topics that sometimes are hard to bring up, or simply haven’t been thought of by either party.
Some of these may include:
Who will be in the birth room?
If a cesarean birth is needed, how does this plan change? Will the surrogate’s support person be in the room, or an IP, if only one person is allowed in the OR?
For those in the birthing room, where will they stand? Will the parents want to watch as their baby is born, or are they and the surrogate more comfortable with them staying by the head of the bed?
Who will cut the cord? If delayed cord clamping is desired, where would the parent like their baby to be during this time? In the arms of the midwife or OB?
Does the intended parent want to do immediate skin to skin? If so, are you comfortable with your baby being handed to you while still covered in vernix and fluids? Or do you want baby to be cleaned up first?
Will you be doing skin to skin in the delivery room or will you want your own space right away?
Does the birthing location have the ability to give the parents their own room with baby? If not, what is the plan for the 24-28hrs baby will be in the hospital?
How will baby be fed? Will the surrogate be pumping to provide milk? If so, will you as parents be using formula or purchasing milk from the hospital until the surrogate’s supply is established?
This list is only the beginning! This is just a short example of topics to be dug into.
Together, as a team, you will also go over the role of the doula during the birth. This is when your doula’s specialty is really going to shine! She is there for both you, the intended parents, as well as the birthing person. And as each person’s needs are going to change throughout, so will her role. Initially she will be providing labor support to the surrogate, often before you have arrived to join the birth. This may be together with the birthing person’s partner if they have one, or one on one. Once you have joined the birth she will continue to focus on the birthing person, while being able to help offer emotional support to the intended parents. She will continue to be your guide throughout the labor and birth. This may include answering questions you have about procedures that may be brought up (plain language, not medical terms), reminding you of the knowledge you have in your tool bag to be able to make informed decisions. And maybe most beautifully, she will be able to help ensure everyone’s needs can be met, without missing out on the birthing experience. This can include helping to facilitate phone calls, playing bouncer at the delivery room door (yes this is totally a thing!) and getting food and drinks to keep everyone fueled! She is there for it all!
Once baby has arrived, your doula will either stay with your gestational carrier or accompany you to your room with baby for 1-2hrs. It is important to know beforehand where everyone has agreed she will be best utilized. You may even consider having her split her time, such as the first hour with the surrogate while the parents have their golden hour of skin to skin, and then the second hour with the parents to help with feeding and newborn procedure questions.
After everyone has returned home from the birthing location, doulas can still offer an amazing amount of support to the new family and gestational surrogate in their individual homes. This includes:
Cooking meals to nurture the new family or healing surrogate.
Helping new parents to become comfortable in their new routine.
Assisting in nighttime feedings while the new parents get in some much-deserved sleep.
Doing light housekeeping to keep the house in working order. Who knew so much laundry was possible!
Run errands and pick up groceries while everyone adjusts and heals.
There is no shortage of ways a doula can help you during your journey. They are there to help guide you, but more importantly, they are there to enrich your experience. Together with the rest of your birth team, your doula will help welcome your sweet baby into your waiting arms.