This past weekend I found myself perusing the busy booths and displays offered at the Expecting Parents & Baby Expo held at Cherry Hill’s Crowne Plaza. Along with the bustle and buzz of the ballroom event, there was also a welcoming excitement and no shortage of friendly smiles. In a sea of booths showcasing knitted onesies and baby-carrying slings, expecting parents wandered the aisles discovering the latest trends in family planning – from the latest car seat model to the newest innovation in formula feeding, from family entertainment to college fund options! The expo offered a bit of something for everyone! No matter your interest, there was a particular booth that almost had a gravitational pull – the booth set up by Two Hands Birth Services, a local co-op of certified doulas who provide a wide range of services for expecting families including before and after birth care, lactation consultation, and new/expecting parent classes. It was hard to walk past this booth without stopping, as it was the most colorful one in the room –it exuded warmth, lured you with gift bag displays, lollipops, and warm rebozos that made one feel as though they were walking into a cozy home. Yoga and peanut balls added a playful dimension to the space, and all six, yes six, of the women who comprise of the THBS co-op, were in attendance. Donning matching shirts and comfortably leaving the confines of the “behind the table” stance, this community of women happily engaged with guests, answering questions about the role of a “doula” in a family’s birth experience.
A valuable feature of the expo was the opportunity to attend talks hosted by vendors and so I quietly snuck in on the intimate session held by THBS doula, Brandi Robertson. Here I gathered a crucial and valuable perspective on the role of a doula in a family’s birth experience: to ensure the entire process is an inclusive moment for mom and her partner. Throughout pregnancy and certainly during labor and delivery, the partner is left unattended to. The safety and health of mom and baby are justifiably paramount, but what is easily forgotten is that mom’s emotions during this time are often closely tied to the emotional well-being of her partner. What Robertson compassionately emphasized in this talk was the integral role of the partner to a mother and the doula’s desire, not to step in between that connection, but to aid in that connection. Robertson discussed the common occurrence of partners staving off their own needs – the need to eat or step outside – in their focus to comfort their loved one. A supporting doula would work to recognize these needs for the benefit of the partnership, would work to foster an environment of empowerment and comfort, and would work to ease the nerves of those eagerly anticipating their new arrival.
That colorful booth that greeted guests at this week’s Expecting Parents and Baby Expo was on to something wonderful – the gift of family experience. The welcoming of a little one is a joyful time. It is a journey that allows hope and love to take form. It is also a time of preparation and learning, and the more avenues of knowledge a family has, the better. Two Hands Birth certainly extended the idea that the gift of a doula is not only the assurance of resources and expertise, but also the promise of a caring advocate for you, your partner, and the loving moment when the family welcomes one more member.