“Doula” is an ancient word for an age-old practice re-discovered
In times gone by birthing women were usually surrounded by other women. This circle of caring women provided love and support in a variety of ways to the woman giving birth. They would ensure that the midwife was there on time. They would see to it that food for the new mother and her family was abundant and nourishing. They tended to older siblings if there were any and made sure that papa was occupied and informed of progress. They also fed, nurtured, massaged and otherwise supported the birthing woman in any way that she needed them to. Although the term had yet to be coined in relation to birth, these women were doulas.
This vital support network largely disappeared when we took women out of the home and into the hospital to birth their babies the “modern” way. Thus, for many years a birthing woman was generally alone in an unfamiliar setting, often surrounded by strangers in sterile garb while the person she loved most and with whom she had made this baby, waited elsewhere. He too, was alone, nervous and unsupported until news of whether he was father to a boy or a girl came from a stranger’s mouth.
Sadly, this model still holds true in some parts of the world, but luckily is no longer the case here in Switzerland and in many other countries. The loving circle of support for birthing women has returned.