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  • Gabrielle Coppernoll

What is a Doula Really Though?

When people ask me what a doula is in passing (not an uncommon question in Lewis County), I usually tell them that a doula is a childbirth coach, a support person, an assistant, an expert in labor comfort measures, and that I also encapsulate placentas. This is the easy description. But I could, more briefly and more accurately, describe a doula as a "professional space holder," if that wouldn't raise more questions than answers.

What is holding space? It is to be a witness and a helper to someone else, withholding your sense of self and personal judgement. You become detached from your own reaction to the situation while simultaneously being fully entrenched in the situation itself. More on that here:

Space holding takes place more often and for more reasons than just being a birth doula.

It happens when your best friend is going through a rough breakup, and you spend the night at her house crying, eating ice cream and watching movies together.

It happens when you are acting as your child's instructor, strength and sense of safety as they learn to swim for the first time.

It happens in simple moments that nobody will ever notice: random acts of kindness when you see a need, a tear of empathy when you see someone hurting, an uncontrollable grin when you see someone else happy.

It happens in the most beautiful and the most dreadful of moments: holding the hand of the birthing, the grieving, the dying, and everything in between. The common ground is making yourself into a vessel of comforting presence, letting yourself melt away while you support someone else's experience, both physically and emotionally. A doula is the person who will remain constantly available to you, waiting to support you through both the intense pain of contractions and the elation of welcoming your child into the world. Doulas bring their knowledge, their "bag of tricks," and their skill to births of course, but our most valuable contribution, the one that makes the difference in the birthing room, is our empathy.

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