Liliana Lammers explains that it is less what they do, and more what they don’t

I still remember an embarrassing moment12 years ago at Chelsea and Westminster on the Labour Ward. A young midwife was smiling at me and asking, “Oh, you are a doula! How do you spell that? What do you do?”
I looked down, felt a bit lost and didn’t know what to say.
“Do you do massage? Do you do reflexology? Acupuncture?” she insisted cheerfully. Thankfully my silence led her to shut up. Besides, Kate was in labour! And I couldn’t say what I was doing. Anyway I wasn’t doing anything. I was with Kate.
After 12 years of doulaing in London I now have an answer for that midwife. The answer is not so much about what we doulas do but about why labouring women need doulas in a country even where there are midwives.A Spanish grandmother told me a few years ago: “When in labour we need a person who gives us peace”. It sounds better in Spanish: “Cuandoestamos de partonecesitamosque se nos de paz”. At that moment I understood what my role was.
I am a mother of four and grandmother of three, and more to come! I had the extraordinary luck to have three homebirths assisted by Dr Michel Odent. They were empowering births, simple births,and life-changing experiences.
Friends ask,“What did he do?”Again that bloody word DOING. Who said that when we are in labour we need somebody DOING something? And why on earth when a woman is in labour do human beings have this unstoppable need to do something or to say something?
Only yesterday I was at a birth, first time Mum… her cat was lying flat below the Moses basket, silent, out of the way, not doing anything! A lot to learn from our pets!
Is it fear? Is it the need to be in control? But control brings us back to FEAR. Can we replace FEAR with TRUST? Fear closes doors and trust opens them. In a very practical way, when talking about birth it is better to open doors! Yes, so the baby can get out, you have got it!
Let us go back to my three homebirths because I learned so much from them. Michel Odent did NOTHINGexcept PROTECT my space when I faded away in a dark corner, in full labour. He sent my Mum out with the children, kept my partner out of sight, and nobody interrupted me. My big babies popped out without any pushing, any coaching…total privacy. And that is what we need, to be trusted so that we can trust our bodies and trust our babies.
As a doula I have noticed that when a couple trust me, the labour is much shorter. I say ‘couple’ because I need to include the father as if he does not trust methat will of course affect the labour; adrenaline is very contagious and it inhibits the flow of oxytocin.
And what about midwives? Are they not supposed to be with the wife? I actually call most of them junior doctors…check, check, check…inform, inform, inform…lots of questions…and they keep going in and out. Like doctors.Do I need to say more?
For more information on her doulaing contactparamanadoula@aol.comor see www.paramanadoula.com.