When I made the decision to focus on birth photography and family sessions, I did so for a number of reasons. One being that I am passionate about all things birth, and I think birth photography can be a gateway to making some changes regarding birth. Why? Birth in our country has turned into a very medical process and with all of our technology, some things are meant to be simple. And one simple thing that we can give to mothers and families during birth is a doula.
What is a doula? The word ‘doula’ is Greek for ‘caregiver’ and the term is now coined for a woman who helps another woman and family during birthing time. Why is a doula so important? Doulas are great for many reasons, helping the mother during labor, supporting the partner, doulas help with postpardum issues, they provide care for siblings during birthing time, they can give breastfeeding support, and many other things that you’ll learn about in this series and I am beyond excited to share this with you.
My first feature is Leila Maisonneuve from Maternal Bliss Birth. Its fitting that Leila is my first feature, because she was the first doula that I had the pleasure of working with as a photographer, and it happens that she is the perfect person to feature first. Keep reading to find out more.
Now that you know a little about the backstory, let’s talk about Leila. She and I met when during a homebirth. This was my first homebirth and I was a little nervous. Walking into someone’s home, in the middle of the night, while they are experiencing something so intimate, was a little intimidating for me. I remember walking in the door, everyone was upstairs focusing on the mama-to be, I got out my gear and took a deep breath. I was nervous and excited, and I walked up the stairs.
The room was lit with candles and very low light, hypnobabies was playing on the CD player and everyone was peaceful and quite. Right away, Leila introduced herself as their doula, she had been the person who called me to tell me baby was near. Then she stepped away to help her client get into the birthing tub. I was so glad she introduced herself, I felt much more comfortable immediately! I started taking pictures, beautiful pictures, that told a story of a mama who was very focused. Once her client was settled, Leila busied herself adding hot water to the birthing tub, giving the mama some nourishment to drink, supporting the husband, who was then able to support the mama. Intuitively, Leila knew what mama needed and she had it ready before it was vocalized.
The family has a 3-year old daughter as well, and she wanted to be present for the birth, so Leila went and got Aster out of bed, and held her until she was ready to get down and take it all in. Doulas usually meet with their client several times before birthing day, to establish a connection with the parents and children. Their daughter knew Leila and was comfortable with going to her. Just a few minutes later the new babe was born. Leila helped mom out of the tub, brought plates of prepared food, and helped to support dad and daughter. She didn’t stop for a moment, and she always seemed to know what was needed, even before anyone asked, including the midwives.
It’s been two months since the birth of the baby, but Leila and I have kept in touch, and she happily obliged when I asked for some info in her own words. My question for her was, “What would you tell a person who didn’t know what a doula was, or how a doula could help a family during birth?” Here is her response:
The fact is, that once upon a time, we had other women supporting us at our births. We were able to count on the experience of the other females in our family, to help ease our fears, provide comfort, and to generally hold our hands through our births. Society has changed so greatly, that we frequently don’t live near our families. And typically, a lot of the women that we find within our social circles, are no longer as familiar with “normal” birth, as they once were. As doulas, we are able to step into the role of experienced mother, sister and educator. We can provide the care and comfort of a family member, while also bringing evidence-based information and education to the table when needed.
It’s an understatement to say that doulas are passionate about birth, every doula that I’ve ever met is a nurturer, and a giver, and I wanted to know more about Leila. Why did she want to be a doula? Why does this work speak to her? Her response made me tear up little each time I read it.
~ John H. Kennell, MD