Hiring a Doula – Two Cape Town stories

For a pregnant mom or couple, deciding which professionals to hire for the birth of your child can be a more difficult decision than you’d expect. Our next blog series is going to be on the subject of doulas: what they do, what moms who have hired a doula say about their experience, what doulas say about what they do and who you can contact if you’re considering hiring one.

This first post contains two stories by previous participants from our Online class. Janine and Amy happen to be friends and happen to have used the same doula, Jill Bergman, for the births of their children in Cape Town.

First up, Janine describes their decision-making process in hiring a doula and their experience of Jill at the birth of Luka, now 2 years old.

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Who knew pregnancy and childbirth would bring about so many important options for a new mom and dad to deliberate? Being quite an indecisive person by nature, I felt slightly overwhelmed with the task of finalising my birthplan and deciding who we wanted beside us during labour. 

Upon doing some research I soon realised that there were two distinct schools of thought around childbirth and that it was quite vital to choose which one I wanted to be in, and build people around me who would support my wishes. I’ve always been bent towards doing things the natural way, and so my desire was to do things as natural as possible, without of course putting me or our baby in any danger.

I liked the idea of building a relationship with a medical professional running up to my birth and having a professional obstetrician involved in the birth. However, I knew that I needed more than just a medical professional beside me during my labour. My husband and I needed a calm wise voice, a caring  encourager whose sole focus could be to encourage me and take care of my emotional and mental wellbeing; I am convinced that it has a significant impact on what’s happening to you physically during labour.

A Doula-Obstetrician combination was therefore our choice.  When I saw Jill Bergman’s session on the Just Engage Antenatal course, I knew that she was the doula we should use. A few of my friends shared with me their own positive experiences with Jill, and from the first moment we met with her, I felt at ease. Her gentle and warm way (almost motherly), matched with her wisdom and incredible insight on the topic of antenatel and postnatal care, made our journey with her a very positive one indeed.

She led us gently, not enforcing her opinion on us, yet offering her perspective when we asked for it and defending our desires/preferences when we needed her to. She didn’t in any way replace my husband’s role (something that many people are worried about), but rather empowered him to be all that I needed him to be. She played a significant role in talking to my doctor (who wasn’t initially fond of the idea of a doula) beforehand about my wishes. She teamed well with the hospital staff during the labour, and brought a real ‘calm’ to us, even during stressful moments. She took care of silly admin things that could easily have stolen our attention, and reminded us of what was really important when we needed it the most. Her role continued even two weeks after the (natural) birth of our son, when she visited our home a second time to assist me with breastfeeding questions and concerns.

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In a nutshell, a doula bridges the gap that is often felt by woman during childbirth at a hospital. A gap that some may say is insignificant, yet I can say first hand that the level of support we received from our doula played a significant role in the positive outcome of my birthing experience.

Our second story is by Amy who hired Jill Bergman as a doula alongside Jacky Searle as their gynae for the birth of Ava at Vincent Pallotti. In Amy’s words they were the dream team:

I had a high risk pregnancy, after having lost twins at 23 weeks due to cervical incompetence. Jill was involved from the very beginning of Ava’s pregnancy and was such a strong support while I was on bedrest.

I went into labour at 38 weeks and delivered naturally. Both Jill and Jacky were instrumental in Ava’s birth being so calm and straight-forward. Jill massaged my back and encouraged me the whole way. She helped me with breathing through the contractions and different positions to aid labour and make me more comfortable.

One of our concerns in using a doula is that she would replace Gareth’s role. However, the opposite was true. My husband said it helped him so much to have someone who is so comfortable in that situation. She suggested things that Gareth could do to help me – like soaking facecloths in cold water and putting them on the back of my neck. As involved as she was, she was also so much in the background – and let Gareth and I go through the incredible experience together.

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When Ava was born she was put straight onto my chest and she fed almost immediately. Jill helped us make sure her latch was correct right from the beginning – which I am sure set us up for a very successful breastfeeding journey. After Ava had fed and we had some time together as a family, Jill helped Gareth do skin on skin with Ava, while I had a bath and was moved to my room.

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Over the next few days Jill was instrumental. She came to the hospital to see how we were doing and addressed all breastfeeding questions I had! She also came to our house once we were discharged. The support she gave me after Ava’s birth was so valuable.

The nurses in the ward are great – but I often found that each one had different advice and ways of doing things. It helped so much to know we had Jill and were therefore able to avoid confusion and frustration of differing opinions.

All in all, our experience hiring a doula was great and I would highly recommend it.

If you’re living in Cape Town and expecting a baby, you might want to consider using a similar “dream team”. Here are details for Jill and Jacky.

Contact Details:

Doula – Jill Bergman   jill@ninobirth.org or visit their FB page www.facebook.com/ninobirth

Gynaecologist – Jacky Searle   021 531 9190

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