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Birthing is a blessing: How a doula can help you prepare for a beautiful birth |

Health And Family

Birthing is a blessing: How a doula can help you prepare for a beautiful birth

Tina Santiago-Rodriguez -

When I was pregnant with our first child, my husband and I were still based in Timor Leste. We had no access to pregnancy-related books and childbirth preparation classes there, and relied mostly on the Internet and advice from more experienced couples when it came to preparing for our baby’s arrival.

Fast forward to the present time — we are now back in Manila, and have been here for the past five years or so. And we’re now waiting for our fourth child to be born.

A lot has changed since our eldest’s birth, but one thing certainly hasn’t: Just like our other children’s births, we hope that this coming one will be a beautiful one; a truly special occasion to celebrate the gift of life.

Every birth is unique, and every child is unique. While preparing for this child’s birth, I came upon the website, and was “introduced” — albeit virtually — to Betty San Luis and her husband Manny. I realized that I had stumbled upon their site before but never thought to explore it — and what they offer as childbirth mentors — thoroughly.

All that changed though, as my husband and I agreed on exploring their childbirth preparation classes, and Betty’s services as a doula. Even if this is our fourth child, we knew we still had a lot to learn (or relearn), and attending the Birthing Is A Blessing childbirth class helped us a lot in preparing for Baby No. 4’s birth. 

Attending Manny and Betty’s childbirth preparation class with our three kids. We had a beautiful “birth art” session where each family member drew what we felt about Baby No. 4’s upcoming birth.

This is why I’m sharing this interview that I did with Betty with you, dear readers. Maybe it will help a fellow mom (and dad!) out there to prepare for “the beautiful birth you and your baby deserve,” as Betty and Manny would say. I sure hope it blesses you somehow!

Tina: Can you please tell us a little bit about what a doula is, and what her specific tasks are?

Betty: A doula is a woman of experience, professionally trained, to give continuous support to expectant mothers during labor, birth and immediate postpartum.  She draws on her knowledge, training and experience of various births to provide emotional, physical and informational support, to both the expectant mother and her partner or family. Studies have shown that continuous support benefits laboring women. Among the benefits are shorter labors with less need for medication to speed up labor, more spontaneous vaginal births (lesser births that use forceps or vacuum extraction or cesarean delivery), and fewer requests for pain medication and less dissatisfaction with birth experience. Unlike a caregiver (doctor or midwife), the birth doula doesn’t do clinical tasks (cf “Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn”, P. Simkin et al).

Tina: Why did you choose to become a doula? 

Betty: My journey in becoming a doula started with the powerful birth experiences I had with each of our five children—all born naturally in a hospital setting.

I was so fortunate to have a husband who was committed to be my constant companion and encourager in all of my pregnancies. He was always there to love and support me especially during labor and birth and even post partum. He was my “doula” who helped me achieve our goal of giving our children the best and safest birth possible.

I would say that my birth memories were so positive and empowering that they transformed me. Truly a woman becomes stronger when she owns her birth, her body and her baby.

When I looked into my heart, my passion was really helping families build a good start in their family life by encouraging expectant mothers and fathers to have a meaningful, beautiful and positive birth experience.

I just stumbled upon the Doula Course in my search for equipping me for the mission. I saw that the doula is a person who is a mentor and a birth companion at the same time. I felt that it was really for me since I am a nurturing person and I know how valuable a support person can be to a woman in labor, the way I have experienced it in my births. I felt when I said yes to be a doula, it was a yes to a vocation of serving expectant families.

I have experienced accompanying women in both medicated and un-medicated births. I see my role not only during births but also in my postnatal visits to my clients. I see the need to listen to them on how they are after the birth.

I recall with them the memories of the labor and birth and try to integrate the experiences we had together, to mirror back to her what has transpired, what was good and challenging in the experience.

The emotional support for me is essential as she moves on to motherhood. What’s important is women are supported, cared for, listened to, encouraged to focus on how and what they want their births to be.

Tina: How long have you been providing doula services?

I was certified as a Birth Doula in 2011 and I became a full time doula and childbirth mentor in 2013.

Tina: Are your clients mostly foreigners or do you also have local clients? What is your experience with them so far?

Betty: When I started to work as a doula, my initial clients were foreigners. Most of them were pregnant with their second child. They told me that they had a doula for their first birth. So I slowly discovered through my experience with them on what it means to be a doula. 

When I started having classes, I was able to introduce to the class the concept of doula support. In the class, I share my various experiences of birth in my practice. Because of this, my students were inquiring about my services. And today, I get most of my clients from the classes that we have.

Tina: Why did you set up "Birthing Is A Blessing"?

Betty: Birthing is a Blessing Childbirth Mentoring and Doula Services is a venue for expectant parents to get the help and support they need as they enter into a new phase in their life as new parents. As birth keepers, we advocate for gentle and empowered birthing and parenting from the womb.

Tina: What topics do you cover in your classes? Why do you recommend such classes?

Betty: The Birth Basics Workshop is a one-day workshop filled with the basic information and skills necessary for expectant parents to have an instinctive and empowered way of birthing. It is designed to educate, empower, encourage and enlighten expectant parents for the extraordinary journey of pregnancy, birth and beyond. 

Topics include:

- Guiding Principles of Empowered and Instinctive Birthing

- The Maternal Anatomy

- The Physiology of Labor and Birth

- Stages of Labor

- Comfort Measures

- Role of the Father/Partner as Guardian of the Birth Space

- Your Labor and Birthing Options

- Gentle Birthing

- Prenatal Exercises, Relaxation and Breathing

- Basic Hospital Procedures

- Basic Newborn Care and Postpartum Care

Tina: What do you think sets your classes apart from other prenatal/childbirth classes?

Betty: We see birth not only as a physical or medical event but also a very intimate family event. We teach the class as a couple. So, it’s learning with the perspective of the father and the mother, coupled with the perspective of the doula.

The workshop can help build the mother’s confidence in her body’s ability to give birth. The father or the partner will discover and be equipped with his role as a birth partner.

The expectant parents can learn about the benefits, risks and alternatives that they have when it comes to medical procedures/interventions, thus, they will be empowered to make informed choices.

Most of all, they can find that attending the class together with their partner will create a special bond not just with each other but also with the baby.

Tina: How can people contact you if they are interested in availing of your services and/or attending your classes?

Betty: They can get in touch with us through our FB page Birthing is a Blessing Childbirth Mentoring and Doula Support Service, our website, or contact me at 09165205787 or landline 9861546.

Tina: Do you have any bits of wisdom or advice to share with expecting couples out there, especially the moms?

Betty: Women, by nature, are wise and courageous. Every woman just needs the right birth environment and support for her to have a satisfying birth experience whatever the outcome of her birth.

As long as she calls the shots, or has the say, through making informed choices and simply trusting her body’s capability to give birth, she will experience a transformational birth—the birth of not only her baby, but her birth as a mother.

I love the saying “Birth is something that you do. And not something done to you.” We birth our babies. Our bodies are hardwired for birth. I believe that we first need to give birth to our babies in our hearts.

We have the innate capacity to birth our babies. It’s the most natural and physiological thing to do as women. This womanly power of ours has been proven through generations and generations from even way before our grandmothers. 

I encourage you to have a vision for the birth that you desire and work for it. Take hold of your birth. Preparation of the mind, body, heart and spirit is key to having a fulfilling, memorable, and beautiful birth experience. 

Attend a childbirth preparation class as a couple or with a partner. Choose the right care provider who will support you with your plan. Have a support person in labor and birth like a doula. If you don’t have a doula, just make sure your partner or a family member is there to give you continuous support.

Be engaging in your pregnancy and birth through informed choices. Surrender to the process of labor and birth.

No matter how much we plan for a birth, even if we have made a birth plan, we have to be open to whatever the outcome of your birth will be. As long as we are consulted, respected, and our preferences honored as much as possible, we will be having a satisfying and fulfilling birth.

It’s our belief that the womb and birth experience of a child creates a permanent imprint that has a great impact on who the child will be in the future. So if we want a society of positive people then we start during pregnancy and birth. 

It is our desire as a couple to contribute in our own little way to change the prevailing culture of traumatic births into a culture of positive and empowered births so that our vision of “transforming the world one birth at a time” can come true.

Did you find this article useful, or know someone who will benefit from it — especially someone who is pregnant? Please feel free to share it so that others will learn more about how birthing is truly a blessing!

(Note: All photos shown here {except the second one} are courtesy of Manny and Betty San Luis of Birthing Is A Blessing.)

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