Virtual Doula Care ins and outs for doulas and clients
Below I talk about tips for doulas and clients when entering virtual doula care.
Of all of the tools of the trade at my disposal I use my eyes and my voice the most. I believe in the power of that knowing touch during a difficult contraction, a warm rice pack on tired muscles, tennis balls for counter pressure, or that perfect position that eases that back labor.
It is with my eyes I learn through every birth about the power of oxytocin and the human spirit. I also learn from each momma, father, baby, and family the steps of their unique journey. I am watching body language. I am watching your care providers. I am watching your support team. I am watching the room. I am watching all of the connections between all of these things. And not being in the room with a family in labor limits that vision but does not have to eliminate it. Video calls can bring some of that skill to a labor and birth.
I use my voice to reassure, guide, and empower through each challenge. Sometimes that is breathing with them, sometimes it is words of encouragement, sometimes it’s holding space with silence. My voice determines when to speak life to them and when to be with them in the quiet and simply acknowledge that the physiological process is working. My voice is not the same for every labor, at every hour, or even through every contraction; it changes and develops along with the labor as the labor itself develops and changes. Sometimes that means my voice will speak less and touch more: touches that say, “relax your shoulders”, and “you are not alone”, and “you can do this!” My voice is guidance, even where words have grown tiresome. Sometimes my voice is guiding my client’s partner on ways to support them.
Virtual doula care puts a ceiling on my voice, but it does not overcome it.
But it is with my knowledge that the greatest work is done. My knowledge and experience tells my vision what to look for, and tells my voice what to say.
It feels like every aspect of life has been changed to some degree. Everyone is learning new normals. It has crushed some, and empowered others, the rest are just trying keep their heads above water. I know that at different times I have experienced all three during this pandemic.
But one thing has not changed, the human spirit.
And with that spirit families can be empowered through their births, pandemic or not. With that spirit we doulas can find new ways to bring the resources our clients need to them, pandemic or not. And with that spirit we will join together until doulas are by our clients’ side in hospitals again. One hospital at a time if need be.
The power of a doula is in all aspects of their services. But the source of that power lies in the knowledge and wisdom gained from watching and speaking. And that knowledge is not trapped by distance, unless we let it be.
Here are some tips for doulas and for those hiring a virtual doula during restrictions.
1. Online presence:
- Doulas: Have an online presence. Post videos, podcasts, and stories. Show your potential clients who you are and that you are comfortable with a variety of virtual communication platforms.
- Clients: Follow your doulas or potential doulas on social media. Get to know them and build on that trust and familiarity. It is also a great way to help you decide if a doula is a good fit for you or not.
2. Be Clear:
- Doulas: Be clear with what your services are, how you can meet clients needs, and what your virtual packages look like. This is a challenging time to be giving birth and any peace we can bring potential clients will go a long way.
- Clients: Be clear with what you need/want from your doula. And do to interview a few doulas. There are many different doulas with different skills, services, and styles. Find the one that best fits your family.
3. A Doula’s Knowledge
- Doulas: Remember that your knowledge is your best resource to your client. And that knowledge is available virtually. Try finding creative ways to get your knowledge into your clients service. Create graphics, handouts, videos, and more to help clients with a variety of styles.
- Clients: Utilize your doulas knowledge. Remember they likely have a variety of resources for any circumstance that you may be going through. And if you are choosing virtual services from your doula remember that even when they may not always be able to use their eyes, her voice is still there with the knowledge behind it.
- Doulas: Provide as many ways as possible to help educate your clients about their rights, physiology of birth, and coping techniques. Maybe connect with a childbirth educator to help share resources. Have a good childbirth class to recommend. Some childbirth classes are available online. Also be thorough in prenatal visits to get as much information in your client’s hands as possible. Also create a list, handout, or several resources that you can leave with your clients.
- Clients: The best way that your doula can serve you may be in the preparation stage and less in the labor stage. Connect with a childbirth class and make sure that you ask lots of questions during prenatal visits and take lots of notes.
5. Stand in your place:
- Doulas: Find ways that you can physically support clients from a distance. Create birth affirmations, flash cards, or a position pamphlet to help them during the labor process.
- Clients: Consider asking your doula what they carry in their doula bag that you could acquire. A prenatal visit would be a good time for them to show you how to use different tools for coping through labor and birth.
6. Be flexible:
- Doulas: Each client will have different styles and needs through virtual doula care (just like in in person doula care). Some clients may dive into video calls and constant communication while others text periodically. And both are perfectly fine!
- Clients: Communicate with your doula through your preferred method of communication and remember that birth changes through every stage and your doula likely knows that and is ready for your level of communication comfort as it develops over the course of the labor.
- Doulas: As with any client, manage your expectations. Just because a client may be super talkative during pregnancy they may be more withdrawn during labor or vice versa. Again, that’s perfectly fine. It can be hard for us as doulas to be on the sidelines and be less connected in the process. But in truth it is not our process but theirs, and giving them that space to go through their own process is what doulas are all about.
- Clients: Manage your expectations towards your own needs. You may have told your doula in prenatal visits that you won’t need them much during labor and then finding that you want to be in more connection with them than you thought when labor starts, or the other way around. Your doula is more than likely prepared for this shift and can meet you when and where you need her.
Virtual doula care is not ideal. And connection through a phone is not nearly as deep as a physical in person connection. As this pandemic and lockdown has taught us all that life is crazy but we have the tools to adjust and be strong.
Birth is still amazing and life changing.
Doulas are essential because our client’s are essential.