Doulas of Cincinnati gives local moms-to-be, the support, guidance and empowerment they need. They also focus especially on the post-partum period. Doula, Emily Johnson, happily shares advice on pregnancy decisions, remembering to prepare for the fourth trimester and why she cares so much about post-partem preparation.
What’s the biggest
misconception people have about doulas?
That we only support one type of birth, or one type of birthing person. I’m not mad at Hollywood for portraying us as patchouli-smelling hippies who only support water births at home (hey, at least we’re on the screen at all!), but they definitely don’t have a solid understanding of our role. A doula is a nonjudgmental, unbiased support person. Not an advocate for one type of birth experience.
What separates you
from other doulas? What’s your focus/specialty?
For birth work, our focus on collaborative care with our clients’ care team. Our desire, at Doulas of Cincinnati, is to leave birth better than we found it. Villainizing obstetricians and hospital midwives, breeding mistrust in their patients (our clients) is not the way to do it. We don’t presume to know more about the birthing process, and what will lead to the safest outcome for our client and their baby(ies) than their chosen care provider. We do facilitate open conversations between patients and providers, asking thoughtful questions that seek to uncover the “why” behind a provider’s recommendation.
In general, though, our focus at Doulas of Cincinnati is what is most often overlooked: the postpartum period. Having support during one’s birth is invaluable, for sure, but we are able to make the greatest impact in the lives of our clients once they return home from the hospital or birth center. As a survivor of severe postpartum depression and obsessive compulsive disorder, my passion is supporting families after the visitors have slowed, the meals have stopped, and partners are back to work. Now, that’s not to say that only folks suffering from perinatal mood and adjustment disorders would benefit from doula support. We prefer to get in the homes of our clients before symptoms appear, helping our clients thrive as new parents from day one.
What are some things a woman often overlooks in her pregnancy that are very important?
A plan for the fourth trimester, or the first three months after baby is born.
Being pregnant can
bring you a lot of anxiety because you don’t want anything to go wrong. What
are things women are often worried about that they shouldn’t be afraid of?
I’m not in the business of telling folks what they should or shouldn’t feel… all fears are valid. And frankly, it’s perfectly normal to feel apprehensive about doing something for the first time (or fifth! Every pregnancy, birth and baby are unique). Understanding the underlying cause of the anxiety is important. For a client who is worried about having a bowel movement during pushing, for example (which is often viewed as a silly or frivolous worry from other birth professionals), we would dig into why… is it because they’re worried about excrement getting on baby (we can explain that medical staff expertly, and quickly!, wipe away bowel movements when they happen), is it that they have never had a bowel movement in front of their partner (we can suggest partners position themselves in such a way that they are unable to view pushing unless given “the all clear” by the doula or nurse), or maybe they’re just embarrassed about the idea of pooping in front of people… knowing where the anxiety is coming from allows us to address it and make a plan for if it happens.
What benefits can a doula add to a woman’s life during her pregnancy?
At Doulas of Cincinnati, we are on call 24/7 from the moment our clients sign their contract (not from some arbitrary point in their pregnancy, like 38 weeks). We offer expert guidance from what products are most helpful to have in the nursery, how to choose a pediatrician, if this sensation or that discomfort is normal (and how to relieve it), when to call their provider for concerns, objective support (ours is likely the only opinion our clients won’t hear) and, most importantly, connection and validation.
More and more people
are embracing the natural route. Natural births with no medication, organic
baby foods and even cloth diapers. What
advice do you have on women who are deciding which path to take?
There is no wrong path. And there’s no rule that says a parent can’t pick and choose what works for them. Parenting “styles” aren’t all or nothing, despite what various mommy blogs might have us believe. They might be a parent who desires an unmedicated birth and wants to formula feed. Or, perhaps they want baby to sleep on a schedule, but love baby wearing. These choices can coexist.
The most important thing is to make decisions that feel best to them. If that means they go with their gut and make changes as necessary, if they follow what’s trending, after crowd sourcing everyone they know, if they do it the way their mom did it, or if they’ve done hours of research and analysis before coming to a decision… they should feel comfortable with their choice. If they feel good about it, great! They’re on the right path.
How long have you been
in business and what are your goals?
I’ve been a doula for nearly ten years, now. In early 2016, I launched Doulas of Cincinnati (a doula agency) with my co-founder, Katie Brenner. Our goals are to create sustainable, profitable practices for doulas who want to make this a career, to support over 1000 families every year and to leave birth and postpartum better than we found it.
Anything else you want
our readers to know?
Doulas live life on call, leaving our families on a moment’s notice to be wholly with our clients for an undetermined amount of time. Our expertise is not in medical jargon, in how many births we’ve attended, or how many babies we’ve personally had… our expertise is the ability to attune to birthing persons, their families, and their care teams in the intimate setting of a birth room. We are pros at connection. That’s where the real value of a doula lies. Doulas deserve to be fairly compensated for that expertise. The notion that new doulas work for free or a greatly reduced rate is nonsensical and damaging to the profession as a whole. And while many studies have shown that doulas can greatly benefit birth outcomes for their clients, it is not the responsibility of the doula to provide those services at a rate less than a thriving wage.
Doula burnout is real, with most doulas fizzling out before their third anniversary. The expectation that doulas are saviors who work for little to no money is, in my experience, the number one culprit. So, if you see folks perpetuating this idea that new doulas will work for free, or cheap, please correct them. We are professionals, providing a luxury service, and deserve fair compensation. All of us.