According to the Australian Doula College, a ‘doula’, or birth attendant, is a woman offering non medical support and information to parents in pregnancy, childbirth and the post natal period and for many women, they are the link between support and advocacy throughout the birth process.
It takes a special kind of person to want to be a doula. Firstly, you’ve got to be ok with the actual birth process. I mean c’mon, there’s blood, there’s gore, there’s all the perfectly natural things that take place which can be a little confronting.
You’ve also got to be kind, understanding, supportive and confident.
For a labouring woman, having a doula can be a grounding, comforting force in what might be an otherwise clinical setting.
She’s not part of the medical staff, but she knows her stuff. She’s there, advocating for the birth that the mother wants.
It’s not just the mother who benefits from having a doula but also the father or birthing partner. Doulas know when to step in, when to step back. They’re a support to both parents-to-be and for some women, an absolute must when it comes to making a birth choice.
Angela Gallo is one such lady. Not only is she a widely respected doula based in Melbourne but she is also an accomplished birth photographer. She has managed to combined the two skills and provide families with a unique support system.
Angela is a highly sought after doula who is sharing her tips with others who may be interested in the profession. Image: Supplied
She is now guiding other women who may be interested in entering the profession.
What was it that made you become a doula?
The birth of my first baby propelled me into a whole new world. I ate up every single inch of my experience! Pregnancy, birth, and parenthood captivated me from the get go. The more I read about it, the more like minded people I met, and the more I saw; it really was a no brainer for me to pursue my passions.
What do you think are some key characteristics that people should have if they want to become a doula?
Anyone can become a doula, but it takes more than a formal piece of paper to make you one. Some of the greatest birth support people I have ever known, possessed all of these qualities (and it was no coincidence!)...Compassion, tenacity, honesty, patience, bravery, humility, love. In my opinion, you cannot be an amazing doula without them. This is what I am for in every single birth. This is what I strive to be. Also, strong wrists and a sharp mind won't go astray!
TAP THE IMAGE and scroll through the gallery of some of Angela's amazing birth photos.
What made you decide to hold your training webinar and what do you hope people get out of it?
I get emails from bubbly, inquisitive women who are so hoping to pursue doula or birth photography professionally. It's become challenging for me to answer everyone individually, so figured a wonderful webinar would be a great place to nurture that enthusiasm, as well as a fantastic opportunity to answer burning questions from budding birth workers! It's something that I wished I had access to when I first became interested in this line of work. The turn over is very high in doula work - I am hoping that answering any questions they have, whether about lifestyle or training, will give them the real time information they require to make the decision that is best for them! I also run a mentorship for birth workers who need the savvy to build the business of their dreams. It is a great way to meld both worlds!
Tell us something about the role that would surprise people?
How little sleep doula's get, how much sacrifice is involved, and how little most doulas are actually paid. Being a doula is not a hobby job - it is my life's work and I love it. Oh, and how jaded you become to blood, poo & boobs - I don't even take notice anymore! Ha!
What does a typical doula/client relationship look like? Are you involved from the beginning of a pregnancy?
Yes, absolutely! That depends entirely on when they hire me. So whether they engage me while they are trying to conceive, or when they are 39 weeks pregnant - my support starts immediately and continues till parenthood. I have wonderful relationships with my clients, and remain very close to so many of them. It is such an intimate journey...I become too emotionally invested in these people & their families, it is impossible to walk away cold turkey. We laugh together, cry together. It's an amazing experience I don't take for granted.
What are some typical things that a doula would do during the birth?
It changes birth to birth, person to person. Every mama has entirely different physical and emotional needs in labour. We work with women & their families extensively, in order to prepare them as best we can, for their own experiences. Typically, I meet them when they are in active labour, and stay with my mamas until a couple of hours after birth. A doula is like a supreme chameleon; changing her colors, with each person, in order to serve them in whatever capacity they need. Could be massage, aromatherapy, singing bowls, reflexology, soft whispers, caring for siblings, tidying up, or even a dose of tough love when things get difficult. I can honestly say that my role changes with every single person, which is certainly one of my favorite parts about this work.
What is the most memorable birth that you have attended?
TOO MANY! Recently, I have 3 that come to mind. All equally life changing for me.
One midwife mama who had her baby at home, alone, in the company of only her husband & I. This was pure magic. She was so switched on, so capable, and so incredible. I have two distinct memories of her - one where I am running up the stairs to find her coaching herself through pushing phase, and one where she catches her own baby, and is just GLOWING with pride..Her husband is just in awe, telling her she did it...She is saying over and over, "I did it, I did it." It was a really healing experience from her first birth. Just a privilege to be a part of that space. She was inspecting her own placenta, eating a lollipop and just being a general womb warrior.
Another was a gorgeous woman I had the honour of supporting, who smiled from first contraction to last. She laughed the whole time. She literally smiled and laughed her baby outside of her. We got to hospital, didn't even have time to run the bath. She hopped in, and birthed her baby within 5 minutes. The golden bit? I remember staring at her, just awe struck at how positive she was. I have images of her where baby's head is out, and she had this massive smile on her face. I said, "You look so happy! I wish I could tell you how beautiful you are right now." And she responded, "What is there not to be happy about? I am going to meet my beautiful baby!" A positive, enthusiastic attitude makes WORLDS of difference in labour. Smiling diffuses any pain. It's just remarkably gorgeous and I will remember that forever.
A few weeks ago my best friend gave birth. I had so much misplaced anxiety because of how protective I am of her. Plus it didn't help she convinced me her pain threshold was lower then the ocean floor! I did my best to make sure I did not project my worries on her, and supported her whatever way she needed me. But she seemed so...calm? It made me feel nervous! Like watching your daughter birth your grand child!! And you know what, she NAILED it. Any assumption I may have subconsciously made - she squashed it. She taught me a very valuable lesson that day - that ALL women are strong. And that every woman copes with birth differently. You cannot assume how any woman will be in labour. It was so humbling for me. A real eye opener. She had an amazing birth. Afterwards she wrote me this massive message about how my positive influence hugely impacted the way she birthed. She said that prior to meeting me a few years ago, she would have asked for a surgical birth because of how afraid she was of the pain. But seeing me birth my own babies, and seeing how I spoke so warmly about birth, about other women's births - it transformed her perceptions and made her infinitely stronger as she approached her own birth. I cried, so much, because of how proud I was (and still am!). Watching someone so close to you birth with that kind of grace, and seeing your little niece be born - is just as close as I will ever get to God.
To be a good doula, you need to (finish the sentence)
Be comfortable pissing someone off, it means supporting your woman in whatever way she needs you. Do not take her trust in you for granted.
Angela's training webinar will be on Sunday the 8th of May and it's open to the public. You can register for the webinar here.