An Interview with Amazing Austin Doula Lacreshia Laningham
Many people don’t know what an incredible asset a doula can be to your birth team. They imagine that the role of a doula can be easily filled by their partner, midwife, or a good friend, but this couldn’t be further from the truth!
I’ve heard many women say they decided against a doula because they don’t like to be touched during labor or their partner was prepared and excited to offer hand-on support. But a doula brings so much more to the table than just hands on support and honestly, I think you need one!
As a neutral, experienced birth support, they can work alongside your midwife and your partner, filling any necessary gaps. Their role is like a chameleon, adapting to address any needs that may arise for you, your partner, your family members, and other members of your birth team. They can guide you through the confusing process of planning your birth, finding answers to your questions, and navigating the postpartum period as well.
I sat down with one of Austin’s most highly sought after doulas, Lacreshia Laningham, to get the low down on what doula support really looks like.
What was it that called you to supporting birthing people?
How long have you been a doula now?
During labor, I think a lot of people imagine doulas offer hands on support like massage or hip squeezes, offer drinks of water and cool cloths... but what are some of the more unusual ways that you've supported families during labor?
A birth coordinator of sorts. Calling the birth photographer, family updates, organizing eating for dad and support people, placenta pickup, etc. Encouraging/reminding dad what he can do to help in labor. I've had moms that need grounding and won't let me take my hands off of them. I've had families that need me to run errands, get the nurses. They can snap at me, cry with me...as an unattached party, I can offer support in ways that family just can't.
In terms of the more traditional birth support (like those listed in the last question) what methods do you find you most often employ during labor?
As a massage therapist, I go to my hands a lot! Counterpressure! But, I often use my hot water bottle and fan next.
How many prenatal meetings do you generally have with each client?
1-2. Generally a good 1.5-2 hours each.
What is commonly the focus during your prenatal meetings?
Goals for labor/delivery. Health history. Family labor history. Teach early labor comfort skills. Review childbirth ed. Create birth plan. Explain options. Discuss postpartum support.
What do you do to protect your clients from abuse and trauma when providers are being controlling, manipulative, or pushy?
Education. Warning them of what to expect from their care provider. Hopefully I am able to align them with a provider that won't get into an abusive territory. But, for others that don't transfer care or it is unavoidable due to who is on call...reminding her to ask for time where we can discuss options. Sometimes having to verbally ask in front of the care provider in a way that gives the family the opportunity to voice what they want. I've also asked them if they want to request another provider and helping them to facilitate that.
How long do you stay after the baby is born?
2 hours, but remain on call if they have questions or need assistance.
How many postpartum visits do you generally have with each client, and what is the focus of those?
1 with an option to add on more if they need/want. Generally 1-1.5 hrs. Review/process birth and answer any questions, offer suggestions for subsequent births. Instruction on breastfeeding, babywearing, pumping, swaddling, infant care. Emotional support for family. Infant massage. Troubleshooting. How to get more sleep.
What do your clients cite as the most valuable aspect of your services?
I think my touch is what most people mention. Many births I will overhear the Mom asking Dad to let me do the Counterpressure. I tend to suggest another way to support Mom so that Dad doesn't feel ousted.
What else do you offer to your clients that you feel sets you apart?
I create their birth plan for them. I offer a massage if they would like one. I write their birth story for them. I am contemplating a postpartum care basket and workbook as well... in the works!