Many times doulas are described as someone who “mothers the mother” during the childbearing year. But what does that really mean? Often it is thought of as being nurturing, loving, and gentle while softly and sweetly encouraging the mom-to-be through the process. Most of the time that is exactly what a doula “mothering the mother” looks like. A lot of doula work is speaking softly and telling the mother that she is beautiful and strong and capable of creating this life, bringing it out of her body in the healthiest way for both of them, and then caring for that new little person.
Another aspect of “mothering the mother” has to do with intuition. I can often be heard telling my clients in pregnancy, labor, and parenting that they should listen to their intuition. That they know the best course for their body and their baby. That they are capable of making good decisions for both of them. This is commonly referred to as “mother’s intuition” and I believe fully that mothers have it and it should not be ignored. A similar intuition is innately inside of doulas too. Doulas have a supportive intuition for their clients. A way of knowing what a mom needs or wants for comfort and to help labor progress. A doula may even know what a mom is thinking about herself and the process and what she is fearing in that moment. The intuitive doula knows just what to say to help the hard working mama through that time of self doubt or worry about her journey. All of this without the mom having to say a word. Just like when a mom instinctively knows that her child needs a hug and a shoulder to cry on rather than a lecture to get through a particular trial.
Of course there is another way that we sometimes mother our children. This is the firmer and more direct times in motherhood. Unfortunately, we know that as parents we sometimes have to have those tough conversations with our kids and say things that they may not want to hear and, frankly, that we may not want to say. This occasionally happens when doulas “mother the mother” as well . We sometimes have to put on more of a “tough mama” persona to best support a client. Often this is needed when a laboring mom starts to doubt herself. I have had several moms that I pulled out my “mom voice” on as I told them to look me in the eyes while I said in a firm voice that they *can* do it and that they *are* doing it and then encouraged them to say back to me “I can do this. I am strong enough”. Another time that my “mom voice” might come out in a birth is when a mom starts to shut down and no longer wants to get up and move or change positions to help facilitate her labor progressing and her baby moving down. I may need to use a firm voice to remind mom of her purpose. Something like “I know it is intense but if you are going to help your body to birth this baby we have to change positions”. It is also common for moms to panic around transition and/or when pushing starts. This is another time when a firm “mom” voice is sometimes needed to help the mom to get back on top of things, regain control, and remind her that her body is working and needs her to help by staying calm, keeping her sounds low, and listening to what her body and baby are telling her to do. In postpartum this type off “mothering” is needed even less but is sometimes a crucial tool if a mom needs help remembering that she is the one in charge of how her baby is cared for or if she needs to be given permission to rest and take care of herself and she doesn’t feel that she can do that unless she is specifically directed to do so. Something like “I am going to hold the baby, pick up the living room, and do the dishes and you are going to take a shower and a nap”.
Just as each birth is different, each mother is different at different stages of the childbearing process. As a doula I use the intuition I referred to earlier to know when to switch from my kind and supportive voice to my firmer voice. I know when mom needs a chance to work through the emotions and doubts on her own and when she needs help getting back into her zone. An intuitive doula also knows how to switch seamlessly between each of these, being soft spoken and loving one minute, firm the next, and right back into soft spoken and loving. Doula-ing truly is very much like mothering as we find the right balance to best support and encourage moms to believe in themselves, their bodies, and their ability to make good choices and care for their baby. Every woman deserves to be mothered as she goes through the intense transformation of becoming a mother herself, whether for the 1st time or the 6th time.