You're a what?

I'm a doula. noun

a woman trained to give nonmedical assistance to a woman during labor, providing emotional and physical support throughout the process of childbirth
This, of course, is the dictionary's definition.  It's simple and to the point, but it's really only the tip of the iceberg.
I am used to getting a funny look followed by the question "a what?" shortly after I share my job title with others.  Usually I quickly follow with "a birth assistant"...  I usually hear "oh" and then the subject is changed.  In my experience when a person doesn't know much (or anything) about a certain subject, they usually change it.  It seems there's a small percentage of folks who will actually inquire further.  I am probably a member of the larger percentage of people who simply change the subject.  But with age and growing wisdom I have realized that I benefit more (and learn quite a lot!) when I just ask more questions.  I think naturally as humans we fear looking dumb and to avoid that we avoid digging deeper.
I've posted about my journey into motherhood and doula-hood in previous posts but haven't really given a good description on what I do, so here goes...
As a doula I provide support and education to women and their partners before, during and after labor/childbirth.  I'm a shoulder to lean on.  I'm someone you can trust.  I'm a friend.  I'm passionate about helping women have the birth they desire, the birth they deserve.  Hiring a doula isn't about having someone there to wait on you, it's about having someone there who can help create a safe space for you and your partner to labor the way your body tells you to labor, the way women are meant to labor.  It's about having someone there who isn't in pain and who isn't watching their loved one go through that pain.  I'm a clear head.  An open book.  I'm the person you look to when you feel you can't go any further.  I'm the quiet voice that gently reassures you that 'you are doing this', 'you are safe', 'you are strong' and 'this is normal'.  I don't deliver babies, I don't give medical advice or make diagnosis.  To put it simply, my job is to be there for you when you need it most.
A common misconception regarding doulas is that we only support women who are having a natural childbirth.  True, a lot of doulas only assist these women but there are doulas who will and do support women and their partners in medicated births as well as cesarean section delivers.  I have assisted women in all three scenarios.
Why should you hire a doula?  LOTS of reasons, but mainly: because you deserve one.  Being in labor is hard, medicated or not.  My job is to spend enough time with you beforehand to know exactly what you want from the experience and then to facilitate your birth in a manner that is conducive to your wishes.  I do not judge.  I do not coerce.  Being in labor will challenge you both physically and mentally.  Having your partner there with you will help you through but having a doula there to support you AND your partner is even better.
Where can I find a doula?  Right here: Richmond Doulas
Pregnant?  Go find yourself a doula.