In this new world of “virtual everything” people are replacing a lot of things like learning, business meetings, real estate closings, etc with a virtual version.
But not everything can be virtual.
Birth isn’t virtual. So, then, why are we hearing so much talk about “virtual doulas”? What is a virtual doula? How does having a virtual doula work? Why would anyone want a virtual doula?
I’ll admit. I have been very skeptical about the virtual doula concept. It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Doubts and concerns about this approach to support are totally valid… and I don’t think it’s necessarily “right” for everyone. After all, nothing is one size fits all, especially in birth. But the truth is, a virtual doula can be an amazing option for a lot of families!
Why have a virtual doula?
Unfortunately some hospitals are still not allowing doulas because of COVID-19, and many of the ones that are make doulas jump through hoops (ie. Only accepting doulas certified through certain agencies, requiring COVID testing, and more). On the flip side, your doula could end up being symptomatic and unable to attend your birth. Ideally, they’ll have a backup, but may have lost their usual trusted backup if she happens to be symptomatic or immune compromised. What happens if policies change and last minute curveballs mean your doula is unable to be in your birthing location with you?
Furthermore, you might just be having a hard time finding a doula you click with in your area. Some remote towns don’t have many options for doulas, and no one should settle for what’s available if they don’t feel a connection.
None of these barriers to support should mean you have to settle for losing out on support. This is where a virtual doula comes in handy.
What does a Virtual Doula Do?
Well, every doula runs their practice differently, so I’ll share my approach to virtual doula support.
I offer many options for virtual support, but today I’ll give you a quick rundown of the benefits of being a Bear Cave Member and how that works, to give you an example of what having a virtual doula can do for you
I have always stood firm in the belief that prenatal preparation for birth is vital. Even for in person clients, this is where most of my work is done. To be honest, if I have done the prenatal part of doula support the right way, the mom and her birth partner should be absolutely confident in their birth experience without me even being present.
This does not change virtually. In fact, the need for prenatal support is now amplified.
During prenatal preparation for birth, clients will have access to Birthing With Confidence 2.0, a self paced virtual childbirth education class that provides a foundation of knowledge everything mother should have.
Additionally, Bear Cave Members will get 2 virtual support visits. While these visits will flow naturally to cater to mom’s needs, generally we will discuss things like your fears and concerns about birth, how to overcome them, how your partner can support you, how to address unique personal situations and need, and depending on when your baby is born, breastfeeding and postpartum support.
Additionally, I will be continuously available to the mom for messenger support. This is useful to use before and after prenatal visits with your healthcare provider, during suspicions of early labor, and any other time a random question pops into your head.
Furthermore, Bear Cave members will be invited to join twice monthly group support calls to connect with me, other mothers, and other professionals. Occasional guest speakers will join us to share their advice for new MamaBears.
This isn’t much different than in person support at all!! But then we get to your baby’s birth.
How does a virtual doula support you ON your baby’s birth day? There are many options. For Bear Cave members who upgrade to the Premium Support package (which includes additional private support calls), mothers have the option to set up an iPad or computer on video chat and we can just continuously or intermittently video chat while I talk you through contractions, remind your partner of tools for supporting you, etc. While I love the hands on support aspect of being a doula, there’s something very powerful to be said about a mother and her partner doing all the physical work, as I act more as an emotional support and “tour guide”. For Premium Bear Cave members I am available 24/7 for labor support.
Alternatively, all Bear Cave members are welcome to text regularly during labor or as needed - this would typically be done by the partner as the mother is focusing on laboring. You could ask questions and ask for resources and comfort measure suggestions.
Premium Bear Cave Members would also enjoy 2 postpartum visits, regardless of when their baby is born. One would be to focus on debriefing the birth experience and the second would be to discuss any new parenting challenges, breastfeeding, etc. Even if everything is going perfectly well, I encourage mothers to take advantage of this visit, even if it’s just to chat about all the little things they thing people don’t want to hear about… I want to hear about it!! You deserve to have someone to celebrate with, lament with, and just simply connect with.
Additionally, Premium Bear Cave mothers will get ongoing messenger support until 6 weeks postpartum (if their baby is born outside of the 6 month Bear Cave cohort) at which point they can choose to either end their virtual doula support or add an extension of additional support visits/messenger time.
The truth is, while doulas are all about hip squeezes and counter pressure, we do so much more than that… Your doula is here for you emotionally, spiritually, to provide you with resources and information about your options and to help you process the array of emotions you experience throughout pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.
Are you considering using a virtual doula for your baby in 2021? If so, I’d love to schedule a free meeting with you where we can get to know each other better and figure out a support package that meets your needs!
If you haven’t already signed up for free access to the Mama Bear Resource Library, I highly recommend doing so now! Start your journey to a positive pregnancy, birth, and postpartum with a constantly updated digital resource library! Have ideas for resources you’d like to see added to the library? Let me know when you schedule your free 30 minute call!
Jaimie Zaki is an Air Force wife, mother, Doula, Birth Photographer, and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Jaimie offers in-home, in-hospital, and virtual labor support, lactation home visits and virtual lactation visits. Jaimie‘s mission is to support women in finding their inner fierce MamaBear so they can Birth and Breastfeed with Confidence. Birthing With Confidence 2.0 is a self paced online childbirth education class that will be available in March! The Bear Cave is a 6 month mother support group plus virtual doula support that runs March 2021 through September 2021.