I recently had a conversation with someone regarding being a Doula during a surrogacy birth. I was surprised to hear their thoughts against why having a Doula would be even necessary. Knowing this would not be the gestational carrier’s first birth and that it would take place in a hospital involving an OB/GYN, nurses, partner, and intended parent(s), they didn’t think another ‘support person’ would be necessary.
My eyes grew wide: “Especially in a birth like this – how could a Doula not be important?”
Whether you are new to the world of surrogacy or you have experienced it before, let me begin by asking if we can agree that not every birth is the same. While some aspects may be similar (vaginal birth, cesarean, a placenta present, etc), environments will change; emotions of at least one person may change; the baby will certainly not be the same; and the domino effect goes on from there. According to DONA International, “Countless scientific trials examining Doula care demonstrate remarkably improved physical and psychological outcomes for both mother and baby. Doulas have a positive impact on the well-being of the entire family.”
Throughout my years as a Doula and Birth Photographer, I have experienced a wide range of birth settings, from one on one with the laboring person to a large group in birthing villages. Each and every one has been beautiful because the laboring person chose their desired and preferred environment. However, despite the differences in setting and people present at the birth, the most important common factor was whether myself or someone else acting as a ‘Space Keeper’ was present. A space keeper is someone who, no matter how few or many people were in the room, was always keeping a watchful eye on both the environment and the person in labor, able to assist in communications when labor becomes too intense to process requests verbally. While the Doula’s primary role is to support the carrier, they are also able to communicate with the intended parents as questions or concerns arise during labor (rather than waiting for a nurse to arrive or trying to hold a conversation during crucial times of focus).
After giving birth, the ability to process the experience with the Doula may be just as important as the support given during the birth process. Even when things seem to go as ‘perfectly planned’, the concentration it takes to give birth can take away from the reality of how things happened. Feeling confused, guilt, or worry over details and being able to process those memories can help alleviate negative emotions or help determine if additional care is recommended.
Doulas can act as a physical support measure during birth; however, the emotional and ‘spatial’ support provided can be equally as important (especially when Intended Parents are excited for this time to bond and connect with their new baby). When you begin interviewing with your prospective Doulas, it’s important to begin discussing what may (or may not) be preferred during your birth and if they seem to be compatible with those initial thoughts. Knowing that you may not be sure how you want your birth to happen is completely fine, too. Doulas are used to developing ideas, helping discover new questions to ask, and being flexible towards what matters most to a surrogate as a laboring mother.
Most Doulas offer complimentary consultations and would work in cooperation with the surrogacy coordinators at Hawaii Surrogacy Center as your birth plan is developed. Both Intended Parents and Surrogates are given birth preference forms. We then come together to create a plan that supports a safe, informed and loving birth environment for all parties involved. On delivery day, we work together as a team – birthing mother, her partner, doula, agency representatives, medical personnel, and Intended Parents – to welcome another miracle into this world. If you are considering working with a doula during your surrogacy journey, please reach out to your Surrogacy Coordinator for more information and referrals to outstanding local doulas.
About the writer: Teresa is a Birth Photographer (BFA Photography, Savannah College of Art and Design) and Doula (DONA International), in addition to volunteering with the organization Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. To learn more about her services, please visit: https://robertsoncophoto.com/doula-birth-photography