A doula is a non-medical assistant who provides various forms of non-medical support (physical, emotional and informed choice) in the childbirth process. Based on a particular doulas training and background, the doula may offer support during prenatal care, during childbirth and/or during the postpartum period. A birth doula is a continuous care provider for labor in many settings. Thus a labor doula may attend a home birth or might attend the parturient woman during labor at home and continue while in transport and then complete supporting the birth at a hospital or a birth center.
I hadn’t seen the word ‘parturient’ before, so here’s a definition of that term:
1. About to bring forth young; being in labor.
2. Of or relating to giving birth.
3. About to produce or come forth with something, such as an idea or a discovery.
It’s kind of an awful looking word–it reminds me both of ‘prurient’ and ‘nutrient’.
Profound Moments in Life
We employ a doula at what is, presumably, one of the most profound moments of our lives. It’s interesting, I think, that a similar role hasn’t emerged to guide us through another profound moment of our life–our death. This was a role traditionally filled by a priest or pastor, but in North America we live in significantly post-God nations. Who are the doulas of death?
I have some semi-formed thoughts around the association of doulas with New Ageism. In my experience, New Age movements tend to emerge where a receding Christianity has left gaps.
Beyond the comfort of faith, I’m not sure what role the Christian church served in pregnancy and birth, so that thesis doesn’t seem to hold much water. Mind you, speaking of water, we shouldn’t forget baptisms and christenings. So, I’m left with these incomplete statements:
Christianity: As x are to birth, priests and pastors are to death.
New Ageism: As doulas are to birth, x are to death.
If the terms ‘Christianity’ and ‘New Ageism’ are too charged, we could just replace them with, say, ‘100 Years Ago’ and ‘Today’.