This is one of the most frequently asked questions! And quite important! You've made the decision to hire a doula, you've probably spent the last few months getting to know each other and building a relationship. And now you're getting ready to have your baby and you want to make sure your Doula is with you for the big event!
If you learned anything in Childbirth Ed, you know that birth can be l o n g. Like, hours long. Like, days long. And things in birth tend to happen in 1 hour increments. So unless you're in an emergency situation, you usually have time to make decisions and call your doula. (This does not include Precipitous Births!) Anyway, so how do you know when is a good time to have your Doula come to you?
Well, theres two answers.
The long one first:
Those early hours of childbirth are called Early Labor. This is a time when your body is gearing up for the next phase (Active Labor) and contractions are typically somewhat irregular, mild (its all relative but one can usually talk through them or at least come right back to the conversation after), and this is a GREAT time to relax and R E S T. We always suggest to clients to sleep through Early Labor if possible. Often it happens at night when our bodies automatically relax and go into "bedtime mode" so we say, SLEEP THROUGH IT! But before you close your eyes, its a great time to text or call your Doula and let them know whats going on. You're not calling them to come meet you- only to let them know what you're experiencing so they have a heads up and can get their life in order. (Other clients, childcare, appts, etc)
Along with sleeping during Early Labor, its also a great time to bond with a partner! This may be the last time you're together, ALONE, for the next few....decades...(GULP) so use the tools you learned in Childbirth Ed to cope and stay relaxed and calm during this time. Your Doula probably already told you this- but they can meet you at home or at the hospital. Dealers choice! It's nice to think about this decision ahead of time and then of course if things change you can make that adjustment in real time.
Now, when things begin to intensify, in any way- physically, emotionally, etc, and you think to yourself, "I want my doula" thats a great time to call your doula. If your Doula is an hour+ from you, you will likely know that ahead of time and you can factor that travel time into your timing. Voila!
The short answer:
Call your Doula to come when you want them. BOOM.
We know that theres a collection of rules and guidelines out there about when your Doula can meet you. Some Doulas say "Active Labor", some Doulas say "5cm". The thought behind those rules is that sometimes having a Doula in the space can make you feel like a Watched Pot, or it can take away quality time with your partner. We so get it! But we believe that YOU know when YOU need support. And if that's before Active Labor or before you're dilated to a certain point, we're here for you.
When you call us in labor we will ask you certain questions to assess where and how you are. In those conversations sometimes we decide together that you just needed some phone support and we can check in later. And sometimes we say, OK! See you soon!
The main takeaway here is, CALL YOUR DOULA WHEN YOU WANT THEM TO COME IN. THAT'S THE RIGHT TIME. (and take into account travel time) ;)