I interviewed Linda van Laer who is a doula. Do what? Find out what a doula is.
1. Tell us about yourself
I am a doula! When I mention this to people, I’m often met with confusion, as this is not a commonly known profession. Basically, a doula is a non-medical professional who supports a mother (and her partner) during childbirth. The services I provide are entirely based on my client’s needs and focus mainly on emotional and physical support to help her cope with labor.
The concept behind what I do is nothing new. Since the beginning of time, women have supported each other through childbirth. When childbirth increasingly started taking place in hospitals during the 20th century, mothers’ contact with their personal support system was often cut off during this important life transition. For some mothers, this resulted in alienating or even traumatic birth experiences. Doulas fulfill new parents’ needs for more personal support of their emotional wellbeing at this crucial time in their lives.
Aside from working as a doula, I am also a doula trainer with Childbirth International, renowned worldwide as a training and certifying organization for childbirth professionals. I enjoy connecting with other professionals through the profound passion we share for supporting families and the miracle of childbirth. I feel fortunate that I can be there for new doulas while they learn how to make their passion their reality.
2. Why do you do what you do?
I am a mother of four, and know firsthand the benefits of having a doula by my side throughout labor and birth. During my first pregnancy I experienced quite a culture shock, since the medical system in Singapore is quite different from my native country, the Netherlands. My doula helped me to explore what mattered most to me for this completely new experience I was about to embark on. My partner and I felt reassured throughout my labor, and it was empowering to discover strengths I didn’t know I possessed.
Being a doula really is the best job in the world. It is such an honor to walk beside new parents as they bring new life into this world. I am humbled by my clients’ strength as they actively shape this important chapter in their lives, to give their baby the best possible start.
Each person, and each birth is unique. So it is important that there is space for you to create your experience according to your own wishes and beliefs. Well meaning friends, relatives, and doctors may share advice or anecdotes that may clash with what you want for yourself and your baby. Don’t let that discourage you from picking your own path. A good doula leaves her own bias at home as she knows her personal viewpoints have no place at your birth. Instead, she works hard to help you envision your own goals and preferences.
4. What are your future plans?
There is so much more I want to do to support the emotional wellbeing of new and expectant parents. I have a degree in psychology, and in the near future I wish to pursue higher qualifications in counseling. As momentous as childbirth is, it is only the beginning of a journey. It is not uncommon for new or expectant parents to feel adrift, to struggle with their confidence in their new role as a parent, with their significant relationships and their self-identity. I’d love to be there to provide them with the space they need to direct their own lives.
5. What advice would you give to mothers, fathers, and birth professionals?
To mothers: please know that you can do this! Millions of mothers went before you, now it’s your turn to become part of this club. There is no single best way to give birth; what matters is that you get to decide what is best for you and your baby. In Singapore there are capable doctors to support any type of birth preference, so take your time to surround yourself with the support team that values your wishes.
To fathers/partners: even though it is your partner who is giving birth, you do not need to be an outsider to this experience. Remember that you can be your partner’s best advocate! Your partner’s labor will progress more easily if she feels safe and loved, and you are the best person to provide her with that sense of security. Your doula could never replace you. She recognizes that this is a very important shared experience for you and your partner, and will work to support both of you.
To aspiring birth professionals: if you feel passionate about childbirth, you may have wondered whether becoming a doula is something for you. While this can be a very fulfilling job, it does require flexibility as you will be on call 24/7 around the time your client is due to give birth. Do reach out to other doulas; in Singapore we have a thriving and supportive community of birth professionals. There are several certifying organizations that are accessible from Singapore. Some training programs are based on extensive online coursework, others provide workshops, so choose a course that suits your personal learning style.
To learn more about Linda’s work:
Doula Linda www.lindavanlaer.com
Childbirth International www.childbirthinternational.com
Note: I have not vested interest or benefit from interviewing Linda. I am doing so in the pure intention to inspire more people.