Doulaing a belly birth
Interview with Marianna Romanelli, doula
You’re a Brazilian doula living in Paris. You have already supported many families for different types of birth. You often use the sweet term of « belly birth » vs « caesarian section ». Does that reflect more gentleness from doctors nowadays or is it an activist choice of words?
There is so much stigma around having a caesarean section. Some women feel that the power was taken from them, some feel as if they didn’t really give birth. It’s a big surgery and going through it is a powerful sacrifice, definitely not an "easy way out" as some people seem to think… It doesn’t matter how a woman gives birth to her child, through her vagina or her belly, SHE is the one giving birth. So, I find that calling it "belly birth" is much more empowering and positive. To women, it is a reminder that they went through a lot to give birth to their child, that they are strong but also that it is a beautiful moment. Vagina or belly, the important word here is “birth”.
Is there a birth preparation adapted to a planned belly birth? How do you prepare the mothers? How do you prepare the partners?
When it is a planned belly birth, it can be interesting to start visualizing it as a positive experience from the moment that the decision is taken. If it is for a medical issue or the mother's choice, there is usually a lot of fear involved on that decision and putting that into words is important. As a doula, being this emotional support, opening a space by listening and receiving those feelings without judgment, feel like my biggest and most beautiful role.
Informing the family that they can make decisions around the surgery changes a lot also. Would they like the drapes put down so they can see the baby coming out? Does the parter want to cut the cord? How long can we wait until that is done? Is skin to skin with mom possible at the operation room, or with the other parent? Do you want your baby to be dressed up, cleaned up until you get back to the room?
Some times you have to compromise or an emergency happens and things have to change, but deciding on as much as possible is the most empowering side of any birth, vaginal or belly.
How do you support the mother during the birth? How is your support different from a vaginal birth?
My support is the same. I give the mother as much information as possible on her options, propose her to write a birth plan, show the partners things they can do to support and help during and after the birth. And most important, I’m always there to emotionally support the mother and her family.
How do you help mothers to start their breastfeeding journey?
If it is possible, I recommend she has skin to skin immediately with her baby. A lot of times babies nurse at the operation room and that gives the mother so much confidence on her body and on her baby’s capacities. If it is not possible right away, encourage skin to skin as soon as possible. Finding comfortable positions to breastfeed on the first days, while the scar is painful, is also important. Side lying is always wonderful and when there is a scar it can be a life (and sleep) savior! I suggest as much skin to skin as possible, not only right after birth. The mother and baby might feel tired from the surgery and anaesthesia, so being very close to each other helps to stimulate the breast as well as the baby and is much more resting than standing or sitting to feed all day/night long. Belly birth partners are amazing diaper changers. They help so much by changing most of the diapers and become confident pros! Somehow, they feel more involved and that is beautiful to see!
What specific postpartum care do you offer to belly birth mothers?
I have to say I don’t feel like there is a big difference on my postpartum care. The only difference is that I might change some diapers or help to clean the scar if the spouse is not there. I’ll be a bit more present for the breastfeeding, since finding comfortable positions can be harder.
Do you have a message for mothers who plan a belly birth? Why do you recommend them to hire a doula? I would say the most important message I’d like to pass is inform and trust yourself. In some countries, like Brazil, there is a misconception that caesareans are safer. So make sure you are taking your decisions based on facts, not on social beliefs or doctor's convenience. You are the only one to know and decide what is best for you and your baby. A doula is an amazing source of information and will hold space for you and you partner to find your own way. It is rare to have someone by your side who supports all your decisions without judgment, so if you can hire one, give this present to yourself!
Do you have a message for doulas? Take care of yourselves as you take care of your mammas! We all deserve this!
You can follow Marianna on Instagram.