In the pregnancy and birthing community, doulas support a mother during labor (not matter what kind of delivery) or during postpartum to help make the transition into motherhood easier. The term doula means “a woman who serves.” DONA International, a well known doula certification organization, refers to doulas as “experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.” However, did you know that doulas can be used to help with the adoption transition as well?
Jessica McGuire of Agape Birth and Beyond is a doula specializing in not only labor support, but help for the adoption triad as well. I was able to talk with her about how a doula for adoption works and her experience supporting both birthmothers and adoptive parents as they blend their lives surrounding the new baby arriving.
How is an adoption doula different than a regular birth doula?
In my experience, there is more support for the birthmoms in regard to childbirth education. Often they are ashamed to attend a childbirth class alone, and I always offer to attend with them. If it’s agreed upon in advance, I’ll be in communication with the adoptive parents and the social workers too—all have their own personalities and vested interest. It’s a lot more to take on than a more common birth doula role, but worth every minute.
Why is a doula important, for both laboring and the adoption process?
In my opinion, it’s important if the birthmother wants to have another woman there with her skilled in birth. Someone that is constant. Someone they know ahead of time. Regardless of which nurses or doctors are working that day, the birthmom knows her doula. Things go smoother, much like any other birth where a doula is present. We can help the birthmom process her feelings about her decision before, during and after. We help with laboring positions and help to give the birthmom the most pleasant memory about her birth. Also, since I’m not paid in advance, my focus is on the birthmom. She is the center of my attention. I do not want anything else tainting that. If after the birth the adoptive parents would like to gift me with something, then great. I want my support to be unbiased and the message to be clear that I am there for the birthmom.
In what specific ways do you help birthmoms and/or adoptive parents during labor?
I help the birthmom just the same as I would help all of my other laboring clients. We meet once labor has started, I stay for the birth and leave when I feel that the birthmom is in a good place for that to occur. If it’s agreed upon that I do more ahead of time, like meet with the adoptive parents or call the social worker, then that happens too. Those items are discussed in advance though. I basically treat these births as the rest but am more available for processing and the extra emotions that come with the selfless decision these women are making.
What is your favorite memory of helping in an adoption situation?
Finding out the gender of a baby along with the birthmom. We would go to the prenatal appointments together since she had no other trusted support. We all thought that she was pregnant with a little boy when in fact it was a little girl!
Anything else you’d like readers to know?
Yes, that these women are mothers too. Both parties, both the biological mom and the adoptive mom. The babies birth day is really the birth of many parents that are agreeing that this baby has the right to a chance at life that might not be granted under other circumstances. Please know that there are adoption doulas out there that want to help. I service the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas and see it as an honor when I’m at any birth.
I was able to experience the support of a doula in my most recent birth of my 5th child and it had an amazing impact on the experience all around. It was wonderful to have another woman present to massage me during contractions and offer words of support when fear began to creep in. I would imagine having that calming presence during an adoption plan would be even more special and beneficial. If you are pregnant and considering adoption, look within your area to see if a doula would be able to support you through your adoption placement. A great resource is to visit Adoption Doulas to view the list of doulas with adoption experience within your state.