Most people think of unicorns when they think of rainbows. They just go together, with all the magic and mysticism they represent. Some people use the term rainbow baby, or baby born after pregnancy loss, and they have that same sense of dreaminess and hope. The following reasons are why doulas are like unicorns, and therefore should logically go together with any rainbow pregnancy.
1. Doulas support a woman and her family emotionally.
A unicorn is most recognized as a type of horse, and a horse often stirs up feelings of freedom and deep emotional connection. Doulas are there to do just that, to create an environment of trust in which any and all emotions are welcome. We have long recognized the scientific connections of feelings and physical being; birth is absolutely no exception. In fact, birth and postpartum are times when women biologically need to release the hormones of love in order to safely birth and care for their babies. And when do we love freely? When we are safe, we are comfortable, and we are in the presence of a team we trust to keep us there. Doulas help to build these connections in pregnancy, facilitate the environment in labor and birth, and build up the team to sustain this “love nest” into the future. We cannot be in the best frame of mind when we are afraid, anxious, and feel unsupported emotionally. As many of us know, pregnancies after loss are full of deep emotion and often intense worry. What better and more important time to bring in a skilled and trained woman to meet you where you’re at emotionally. In fact, of the statistics collected through research on doulas, one of the most important is the decreased likelihood to be dissatisfied with your birthing experience (Evidence Based Birth).
2. Doulas create a space of empowerment for women and their partners.
Some parents enter the world of parenthood on the wings of loss. Others have their blissful attitude shattered by the reality of pregnancy and infant loss. These experiences create an association of trauma and distrust, not only in their own bodies, but also in their parenting abilities, in birth, and sometimes even with their care providers. Doulas have no goal except that parents feel confident about their own decisions along the way. They are there to reduce fear with education, to offer choice, and to normalize the experiences of birth and parenting. Many rainbow pregnancies are in a high-risk category simply because they are after loss and this often feels overwhelming. In these cases it is especially important for families to know their choices, the processes along the way, and to get the professional support necessary. Doulas are there to hold present all the positive aspects of previous labor and birth, which for many include their loss(es). Though terribly difficult, this sacred birth day may also hold special memories that need to be included. A doula helps a family find those moments and share them with the rest of the care team in order to get the support they deserve. Just like the horn of a unicorn is thought to turn poisoned water into that which can be tasted, doulas are there to help reframe parts of loss birth into a new and more affirmative experience for everyone.
3. Doulas are connected to the community.
One of the most bittersweet parts of pregnancy after loss is the secondary shift in relationships. It can feel like this is a time when you don’t fit in anywhere. Support group can feel uncomfortable because of your growing belly, though prenatal yoga is often full of moms that thankfully have no idea just how stressful pregnancy can really be. Doulas serve as your community “wings”. They know the resources in your area and can help sift through the choices and the uncertainty, not only in pregnancy but in the postpartum period as well. Their professional recommendations continue to help build your support network and find the trusted people in your community.
4. Doulas are intuitive.
One of the most important skills a doula has is the ability to know and meet your physical and emotional needs, often without much dialogue. Doulas use the valuable prenatal meetings to gather information about your individual preferences, add that to their experience with birth, and top it off with their own intuition to offer full spectrum support for the entire team. A unicorn is often associated with magic. Many times I’ve been told a similar story by clients, “I don’t know how you knew I needed my hand held/cold wash cloth/to be reminded how strong I am at that moment but I did; it was magical”.
5. Doulas are recognized around the world.
Though the career of a professional doula may be fairly new in modern society, women have been supporting women as long as they have been giving birth. In fact the term “doula” is from an ancient Greek word that means “a woman who serves”. Many cultures and countries have doulas or similar caregivers; in fact some states and countries even employ doulas in the hospital setting because of their recognized ability to successfully support families. Unicorns, like doulas, are a known symbol and have been so for hundreds of years and across diverse cultures.
Pregnancies after loss are tremendous blessings that deserve to be treated as such. Doulas help women and their families by offering emotional support, instilling confidence, reframing birth in a positive way, offering trusted referrals and/or resources, and normalizing the journey of parenthood. As discussed above, unicorn has many similar characteristics. After every storm comes a rainbow, and nothing would make this beautiful picture more complete than the presence of a strong unicorn. Therefore, every family pregnant after loss deserves a doula!