What does a Bereavement Doula Do?
Doulas are not new to society. In fact, the word ‘doula’ is an ancient Greek term. There are birth and postpartum doulas. While they have two very distinctly different jobs, some doulas choose to train in both skills. Some people also pursue training that is more specialized in order to become bereavement doulas.
Bereavement doulas have the very distinct role to support a family through the loss of their baby. These types of losses can include chemical pregnancies, ectopic pregnancies, early term miscarriages, late term miscarriages, termination and stillbirths. Many trained bereavement doulas are only prepared to support families during pregnancy and up through the birth.
BirthWaves is the first non-profit doula agency in Central Kansas that specifically serves families that experience pregnancy and infant losses.
BirthWaves doulas provide both birth support and postpartum care. We know that the end of your story does not come with the birth of your child.
What does that support look like exactly?
Having a doula by your side during or immediately after the birth of your child will help you feel like you are not alone in your journey. One of the things that the doulas of BirthWaves hear most often is that after a loss the family is left feeling very scared, confused and alone.
Here are some things that your doula can help with:
Creating a birth plan- No, you did not plan for this. None of this is going as you ever imagined. That does not mean you do not have a say in the way you birth your baby. Together with your doula, you will create a completely personalized birth plan. This plan will take your needs and desires into account.
Offering a listening ear- When it feels like everyone has their own piece of advice, unwelcomed words of wisdom or no words at all, your doula will be the welcoming relief you are looking for. Phone calls to BirthWaves are answered 24/7 by trained doulas. Whether you speak with the doula on call or you visit with your personally assigned support person, we will greet you with warmth, kindness and dignity.
Support during birth: Your doula is qualified to offer the exact support that you need during the birth of your baby. Your baby may be born at your home, in the doctor’s clinic, in a birthing suite or the operating room. In any case, you can rest assured that the doulas of BirthWaves are prepared for whatever you may face during birth. Once you call your doula at the onset of labor, she will join you and your partner and stay with you as long as you need. Typically, your doula will stay until at least 2 hours after the birth unless you request her to leave sooner or stay longer.
The first bath- Many parents choose to bathe their baby after birth, even if the baby is no longer alive. Your doula will help you bathe and then dress your baby in whatever clothing you feel is most appropriate.
Funeral arrangements- If you want a funeral or memorial service for your baby, the doulas at BirthWaves can help you with whatever you may need. We can offer a list of recommended funeral homes as well as talk with you about the many options that you have when it comes to the service and burial.
Lactation support- Some women desire help and support safely stopping breastmilk production after birth. Others may find relief in pumping and donating their milk to another family. Whatever may be your preference, your doula will able and willing to offer lactation guidance or refer you to a kind and caring Lactation Consultant.
After the dust settles
After the dust settles- What happens next? The service is over, your body is healing and your family have all resumed their normal lives. Where has that left you in the mix of it all? Do you feel expected to return to the life you had before conception? Are you thinking, “what if I’m not ready yet? What if I will never be ready?”
The postpartum doulas are ready to help. They know that the end of your journey isn’t when the last thank you note drops in the mail. You will have good days and you’ll have bad days. Days will turn into weeks, then months, then years. Having a postpartum doula by your side during the first year means having someone who truly cares for you and your baby. Someone who understands that some days you want life to be back to normal and other times you are excited to embrace this new normal and find out what life has in store for your family.