When preparing for childbirth, there are often certain expectations or desires that we bring with us about how things are going to go or what the process will look like. For some, there is the desire to have a natural, unmedicated birth. For others, the epidural is the only way to go. Sometimes there is an emphasis put on something else: "Anything else but pitocin, please," or, "I really don't have any desire, except that I don't want a c-section."
I think it is the work of every pregnant woman to educate herself and explore her own desires and expectations about birth and pregnancy by working on a personalized birth plan. The birth plan is like the construction plans we might develop for our dream home: a well thought out overview of the direction we are headed and the over-all feel of the project. We might have an idea of the types of tools we might need to have on-hand to complete the project, however once the project moves from paper to real life, there is no 100% step-by-step of how that process will unfold or the tools we might need to accomplish each aspect.
This is the way it is with labor and delivery. We have an over-all desire and feeling we wish for the process, but we can't always foresee every circumstance. And that's where our options and choices come in to play: it's not about avoiding things like epidurals and pitocin and c-sections. It's about knowing when and how to use them as effective tools in the course of labor to help us achieve the ultimate goal of giving birth to our baby in the healthiest way possible for both mom and baby.
What is a doula's role in all of this? To help laboring mothers and families to learn what tools are available to them in their toolbox during pregnancy and what tools will be available to them during the birth, how those tools might be used and when, and also how to adjust and keep moving forward even when a tool we weren't expecting to have to use comes out of the toolbox during labor and delivery.