The Value of a Labor Doula: An Interview with Erica Konya

Erica Konya Nurture Birth Cincinnati

Thanks for talking to me today, Erica! You have been a doula for over 10 years now. What got you started in this field?

I had an amazing experience with a doula with my second baby. The first time I didn’t hire a doula because I felt very private and didn’t want someone else in my space. And my husband didn’t know what his role would be with this other person in the room. So we took classes, and got him prepared to be my support in labor, and I didn’t think we needed the extra support. What you don’t count on in labor, though, is that you are a mother and a father. So when the outside care providers start to make recommendations, it was hard to think clearly and calmly about my options.

The next time I was pregnant I still didn’t really want someone else in my space, but I knew I really wanted a VBAC. So we hired someone we knew. It was a lot of money, but afterward we felt like she was worth her weight in gold! She was that calm presence we needed. She also knew the hospital, she knew the protocol, she knew where everything was, so we didn’t have to do anything other than just be in labor. And that’s a huge job! Just being in labor. Just being a dad.

I look back and I realize that I could, of course, have done it without her. I think if we put our mind to something, we can do it, but I am so grateful that I didn’t have to do it without her! I had a 10lb VBAC baby! Before that I had no idea what I was capable of as a woman. I had no idea how significantly giving birth and being a mother would impact my life. From there I decided to become a doula myself. I took a training, and started doula-ing on the side for my friends.

So you didn’t start off full-time?

No. It was a way to make a little income on the side for my family, and do something I love. And I still feel incredibly grateful to be able to do this job. I love what I do. There is never a day that I wake up and I don’t want to do what I do anymore. Not everyone gets to say that about their job.

You became a Childbirth And Postpartum Professionals Association (CAPPA) faculty and training doulas in 2014. How did you step into becoming a doula trainer after being a doula?

I started thinking about it in 2013. Yes, when I started, the doula community was still quite small, and there were no doula trainers in Cincinnati, and no real CAPPA presence. At that point I had become a CAPPA doula and educator because I felt philosophically we matched. CAPPA is very forward-thinking, and I wanted to be invested in that. I realized that we needed more of CAPPA in this area, to give people more options to become a doula, and I also felt that CAPPA was the next vehicle to get me where I wanted to be going. Joining the CAPPA faculty really renewed my love for this profession, and helped me feel more connected to a larger community across the country.

Yes, doulas are all about filling in the gaps, and connecting people to what they need! It sounds like becoming a trainer was just another extension of that life work for you. So, as a doula and trainer with a lot of experience, can you tell me a little bit about what you see the role of the doula in the community being? What is the importance of having doulas in the community, and what do we bring to families?

I see doulas returning to pregnancy and birth professionally. Women have always attended other women during birth, but we just didn’t know it was called “doula work.” Now, professionally speaking, I see that doulas are becoming an important part of modern birth again. People say, “I’ve got my doctor or midwife, I’ve got my nurse, and I’ve got my doula.” The role of a doula is becoming a lot more accepted in the perinatal professional community, even more-so then when I first started over 10 years ago.

I think the doula’s role is to give the informational, physical, and emotional support before, during, and after pregnancy. It’s somebody that walks alongside the woman during pregnancy from the time that the doula is hired, and often that’s early on because the woman wants that informational support. They want the resources we have. People can spend a ton of time looking for what they need, but we have spent a lot of time looking for research and resources, and we can streamline giving that to our clients during pregnancy. And of course we are also there during the labor to not only give information, but giving physical support as well. The same carries over into the postpartum.

Doulas need to value what we bring, and not feel like we need to justify our existence. We don’t need to be intimidated by the fact that we are not medical care providers. We are the only emotional and mental care providers. We are there to see the woman holistically, mind and body. There have been studies have shown the effectiveness of that support. It is extremely beneficial to the family, and we can be confident in that. We are valued member of the support team. You are welcome, doctors and midwives! We are there to bring our skills to focus on the normal process of birth

That is a valuable perspective, especially because I often think that women sometimes say, “I don’t need emotional support.” They don’t always implicitly see us as a part of the care team, right alongside the doctors and nurses.

Well it’s not just a physical event. It’s emotional as well. And having doula support helps to support a safe and satisfying birth for all women. I don’t think our species births in isolation. We surround the woman and help her feel safe and comfortable to give birth!

Women might think it’s expensive to hire a doula, but really, there is no prior frame of reference. I do think doulas need to value themselves, and make an honest living. Think about the time you put into your education, and what your experience is. As your experience and education increases, so does your pay. But there is, of course a ceiling. Doctors make more than nurses, and they also have a lot more education, and debt to go with that. But we don’t want to undermine doula work. It should be clear and simple what a doula offers, and that it is absolutely invaluable to a laboring woman.

We are a part of the team, right alongside the doctors and nurses providing an important role. Doulas are often someone who loves science, but don’t want to put IVs in people all day. They are drawn to the emotional aspects of the work, and being able to really be there for families, and explaining what is going on with their bodies, and what the doctors and nurses are doing, and why.

To learn more about Erica, or to find out about her upcoming doula trainings coming to the Dayton and Cincinnati region, you can find her on her website: nurturebirth.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook.

Comment