"Birth is not only about making babies. It's about making mothers—strong, competent and capable." (Barbara Katz-Rothman) This is the role of the doula.
Childbirth is a physical, emotional and spiritual experience. The rush of adrenaline brought on by contractions and the unfamiliarity of a hospital environment can be daunting for expectant parents. Trained doulas offer continual and objective physical and emotional support and provide clarity and information that help moms—and dads—navigate this potentially high-stress time. Recognizing that birth is a transformative experience, doulas apply comfort and pain relief measures, such as massage, position change, guided imagery and rhythmic movements, as well as emotional support and referrals to complementary and traditional professionals. As a result, doula-assisted births are reported to result in 25 percent shorter labors, significant reduction in incidence of C-sections, Pitocin, or other medical interventions, a lowered chance of the new mother developing postpartum depression and a better nursing experience for mom and baby.
The doula advantage is clear—and Sarah Goldstein, DONA certified doula and doula trainer, is working to bring this advantage to new or seasoned families. Sarah entered the field of childbirth thirty-four years ago, with the birth of the first of her six children, and professionally, twenty years ago, becoming a doula and childbirth advocate. Her inspirational and educational books, Special Delivery, More Special Deliveries and A Doula’s Journey; Into the World of Birth, provide women with strength as they enter motherhood, in a gentle, modest way that suits the subtleties of the ultra-orthodox community.
With a background in social work, Sarah always felt driven to help others. Upon discovering an advertisement calling women to train and become doulas, she instantly knew this was the exciting path she was born to take.
“Here’s one of the most potentially life-changing events in a woman’s life, not only the birth of her baby, but her beginning as a Jewish mother, and a doula is there to help make that transition as positive as possible,” she says. “With every new birth, the adrenaline in the room is so high, the excitement is palpable. Every birth is different somehow—and I Iove it. Home births are my favorite,” she adds. “In a homebirth the woman has taken charge even more so of her pregnancy to make it healthy and safe. She has one-on-one care of an experienced midwife who is there to ensure the best outcome possible, bringing all the equipment she can while giving her space, time and flexibility of choices.”
Not just a doula, but a birth worker she seeks to remove fear from the birthing experience, empowering mothers to feel strong, supported and prepared.
Beyond the three books she authored, she has also opened 13 pregnancy and birth libraries in orthodox communities, such as Jerusalem, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Kiryat Sefer and Beitar. Together with Rebbetzin Yitty Neustadt, she recorded two wonderful CDs on labor and childbirth, interwoven with ideas from the Torah. These recordings enhance women’s feelings of self-efficacy during labor, allowing them to recall that the shechina is with them throughout the process. And of course, the piece de resistance, is her doula training program, empowering the next generation of doulas to bring positivity, support and a little bit of geula into every delivery room.
“If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any.” This is an important mantra espoused by Sarah Goldstein during her annual 14-week doula training program, during which she integrates approaches from six different international training courses. “Women often don’t know what choices are available to them. They may bring their mothers along for support, and when contractions increase in severity, these mothers may encourage epidurals, simply because they can’t stand watching their daughters in pain. I teach my doulas-in-training to prepare and empower women to birth healthier, in tune with themselves, for better outcomes.”
Sarah’s program is under the auspices of DONA (Doulas of North America) International. Student doulas proven to be people-persons and as part of the rigorous training sessions must attend a minimum of three births from before the onset of active labor, to receive certification. To do so, they can offer their services for a minimal fee, ideal for families seeking extra support, despite budgetary concerns, as well as for women who have already been through the birthing process, but would still appreciate another support person on site.
Trainee doulas know they will constantly be on call not just for the birth but for prenatal and postpartum visits as well. To become a doula, a great support system is of the essence, as doulas need to be available 24/7.
“Watching a couple become parents is extremely rewarding, especially when you’ve helped the women tap into her inner strengths,” Sarah explains. “But the road leading up to this ‘Wow Moment’ is not without its challenges. Childbirth is not just about bringing a baby into the world; it’s also about birthing a mother, even if it's the 10th baby!”
Sarah Goldstein is a veteran doula with 20 years of experience professionally ushering in new life. She has attended nearly 1900 births, runs training courses for doulas internationally, and has published three books on the joyous subject. Sarah’s next course will begin after the chagim. For further information contact Sarah at 052-384-7439.