you might be wondering...

How are you different from a midwife, doctor or labor & delivery nurse? 
Each of the people mentioned above is a key player on your birth team.  Your midwife or doctor will provide clinical support to you throughout pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum.  Usually, midwives and OBs differ in their approach to pregnancy, labor & birth (but that’s another topic).  If you're giving birth in a hospital, you'll have a labor and delivery nurse who'll care for you and your baby during labor. 
As a doula, I'm trained to provide nonmedical physical, emotional and informational support to you and your partner.  I do not perform clinical tasks such as taking your blood pressure, checking fetal heart tones, checking for cervical dilation, making diagnoses, or prescribing treatments.  This is part of the care you'll receive from your OB or midwife and/ or a labor and delivery nurse.

I want my spouse or partner to be the one to help me while I’m in labor, would having you as my doula take that role? 
This is the second question I’m most commonly asked.  I wondered the same thing myself.  Laboring and giving birth is a process unlike any other you will experience.  While you and your partner can read, take classes, talk to others and prepare in various ways for the birth of your child (and all of these are GREAT), there is no guarantee that when labor day arrives, that your partner will know how to best support all of the needs you have. During labor, women are not always able to communicate exactly what they need when it comes to physical support.  As a doula, I'm trained to look for signals from a woman as to what might work best for her.  Doulas are conscious of the normal flow of labor and often, we're able to think ahead and be ready for what a woman might experience.  This isn’t to say that there aren’t partners who rise to the occasion… I’ve seen them in action.  However, often times, partners don’t know how they’ll be once things are actually in motion. A partner isn’t always prepared for the intensity the woman experiences and isn’t sure how to handle seeing their loved one going through this process.  Having a doula can help to ease the unknowns.
In addition to supporting you, I'm there for your partner.  When I start working with a couple, I make it known that I’m there for the both of you.  My main focus is you, since you’ll likely need the majority of my attention, but I am also there for your partner and strive to support them the best I can.  This can range from talking them through what’s happening during labor, to suggesting ways they can help provide physical comfort for you, to staying with you so that they can get something to eat, rest or get some fresh air.  I'm not meant to take over the unique role of your partner.  Instead, I help them support you, the woman they love, at a level they are comfortable with.
When it comes to possible interventions, I can talk openly with you both and help you understand why something is being suggested.  I can’t speak for you, but I can help you be informed and feel confident in making any decisions needed.   

A few posts that address how dads/ partners and doulas work together to support laboring women:
Dads & Doulas from DONA International 
How Fathers Benefit from Hiring a Doula from Pregnancy Beat 
I Challenge You to a Doula from Daddy Confidential

I’m planning to have an epidural, would having you as my doula still be beneficial? 
I’ll speak from my experience on this one.  A client of mine planned to have an epidural but wanted to labor as long as possible before having one administered.  It was her second birth and she was hoping for a calmer and less interventive birth than her first.  During early active labor, I worked with she and her husband as I would with a woman wanting an unmedicated (natural) birth.  When she reached about 6cm, she decided that she wanted an epidural.  After it was placed, she rested, but I stayed by her side and we chatted while her husband took a nap.  Even with an epidural, women still have an emotional and informational need for support.  They’re still in labor and it’s important that this is acknowledged. 
Another reason that a doula can be helpful in this scenario is the possibility of labor slowing down after an epidural is administered and/ or other interventions that may take place.  Having a doula present means support throughout the remainder of labor and birth.

I’m having a scheduled cesarean, would having you as my doula still be beneficial?  
The simple answer is yes.  However, I think that the full answer is longer than what I have space to write here.  I’d like to suggest this post as an excellent and thorough answer to this question.

Other than during labor & birth, how else do you provide support?
I find that a big part of my job is the support provided before and after birth.  In the months and weeks prior to estimated due dates, I’m in touch with my clients via email, phone and prenatal meetings where we talk through a wide variety of things. 
Immediately following birth, I stay with my clients and their families until they are settled in their recovery room.  I'm available to help with early breastfeeding.  In the first few weeks following birth, I check in with my clients and am available for any questions they might be having.  One of my favorite parts of being a doula is processing my clients' births with them.  In my experience whether a woman has a difficult birth or the birth of her dreams, women and their partners find it helpful to talk through their recollections of birth with someone who was there for the duration.  I can help to fill in the pieces.  I also enjoy giving referrals to new parents when they are looking for lactation consultants or new parent support groups, etc.

What do you see your role being at a birth?
This plays out in similar and different ways with each client... it's truly dependent on the way a woman's labor and birth unfolds.  For some, I tend to give more physical support by way of comfort measures, while for others, more encouragement and emotional support.  I don't have a set script when it comes to the support I give... I listen, watch and adapt to your labor pattern.  I come to each labor and birth that I'm invited into with an open mind and a consideration to what this woman and baby needs, as well as her partner.  As a doula, I know that my role on your support team is one that is constant and is looking out for both you and your partner.  I see myself as a vital addition to the care that you receive from your L&D nurses and your care provider. 

Do you work with a back up doula?  When do you use a back up?  Can I meet her?
I absolutely work with a back up.  She's more like a partner in that she has clients of her own and is my "back up" should I be unable to attend a birth.  The only times that I would be unable to attend a birth are: preplanned vacations (something clients would know in advance), unexpected family situations where I need to be present, and illness (trust me, you don't want a sick doula around when your brand new baby is born).  My clients know who my back up is and introductions can be made via email.  If they would like to meet her, arrangements can be made to do so.  

What do you love most about being a doula?
I thoroughly enjoy walking with women and their families through pregnancy, labor and the birth of their babies. I’ve always been someone who likes to take care of people and as a birth doula, I get to nurture and provide comfort and support during one of the most transformational times in a woman’s life. I also love knowing that the conversations that I have with my clients help to calm uneasiness or fear they may have about the unknowns ahead. I enjoy helping my clients find answers to their questions and watching them gain confidence about their wishes for their care and their births.