Meredith McLean, CD(DONA), HBCE
Meredith is a DONA certified Birth Doula and HypnoBirthing Childbirth Educator based in Toronto. Her passion for birth led her to working at The Ella Centre, a pre- and postnatal studio in Leaside, as well as volunteering in the Family Birthing Unit at Toronto East General Hospital for three years. After completing a degree at McGill, Meredith returned to Toronto, where she is now supporting mothers and their families prepare for the births of their babies. She has a special interest in postnatal breastfeeding support.
"Chris and I cannot thank you enough for your support during the labour...what a Godsend for me. You really were the one who kept everything under control and I really did feel in safe hands and that I could get through it with you there. I hope you stay a part of our lives, you were just like family..."
- Theresa and Chris
"We wanted to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for helping us plan our baby's birth and welcome her into our lives. Your warm and caring support allowed us to appreciate what would otherwise have been a stressful event... you will continue to have a positive impact on people's lives."
- Van and Nadia
"We can't thank you enough for being part of our son's birth. Your gentle support was incredibly helpful to both Jason and I. You are an incredible doula who is going to help so many women."
- Cynthia and Jason
What is a doula?
A doula is a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous support to a mother and her family throughout pregnancy, labour, and the postpartum period. The word is derived from Greek, and refers to a woman who serves the needs of another woman. Unlike a midwife, who provides medical support, or a nurse, who may be in charge of multiple birthing women, a doula provides continual support throughout a woman's entire birth experience, whether it lasts two hours, or two days.
Whether you intend to give birth at home or in a hospital, under the care of an obstetrician or a midwife, the presence of a doula gives a labouring woman the nurturing guidance to follow her body's cues, and birth with confidence. Labour can be unpredictable, but a doula's experience and knowledge can allow a woman to immerse herself in the birthing process.
Why hire a doula?
The presence of a doula has been proven to reduce rates of cesarean section, reduce the length of labour and the need for pain medicine, to enhance mother/baby bonding and the increase the likelihood and success of breastfeeding.*
*See Klaus, Kennel, & Klaus, The Doula Book: How a Trained Labor Companion Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier, and Healthier Birth. 3rd ed., Da Capo Press, 2012
What qualifications does a doula possess?
Doulas are not required to be certified in order to work for birthing women and their families. However, those that are will use an acronym after their names in order to distinguish themselves as experienced, certified doulas. Meredith is trained through DONA International, the largest certifying body of doulas in North America. More information about DONA can be accessed at http://www.dona.org.
Are doulas only for mothers aiming for natural births?
Absolutely not. Although doulas often the recognize the benefits of low-intervention births, some of the most integral moments of support come from births involving inductions, epidurals, and cesarean sections. When we recognize that birth not only creates new babies, but also new (or new again) mothers, we see that all mothers, regardless of their individual birth journeys, can benefit from the unwavering support of a doula. Whether she is providing physical relief through massage, emotional support when the going gets tough, or holding a mother's hand while explaining her c-section to her, a doula is always paving the way for a smoother and less stressful birth experience.
Does a doula replace having a partner?
Having a doula's presence can be extremely beneficial to women birthing without partners. However, a doula is not a replacement for a partner, nor will she ever threaten a partner's integral role in the birth of his or her child. Rather, most partners speak enthusiastically of the doula's role, finding that it enables them to immerse themselves fully in the experience of participating in their child's birth. If a labouring woman is more comfortable receiving massage from her partner, a doula can demonstrate effective techniques. Doulas and partners often support the birthing mother in tandem, or by trading off positions or techniques in order to provide the greatest benefit to the mother. Working together with the mother's partner not only creates a harmonious birth setting for the labouring woman, but also creates the best experience possible for the family as a whole.
What is a birth plan?
A birth plan is usually a single page, written in advance of the birth, for the purpose of following a birthing mother's wishes as the labour progresses. It usually contains information related to preferences for pain medicine, optional procedures such as delayed cord clamping, and postpartum care of the baby.
In the bustle of labour, it's easy to lose track of the goals and intentions you may have planned during your pregnancy. A doula not only creates the birth plan with a family, but helps to see that the plan is not forgotten during labour. This doesn't mean that the birth plan is carved in stone; a birthing woman is always able to change her mind and feel confident in her decisions. It simply provides a gentle reminder of how the mother envisions her most satisfying birth experience, and can help guide her path through the more difficult moments to the birth she desires for herself and her baby.