As a doula, there will be times you may have a client experience a crisis around the time of birth. This may look like health complications, a NICU stay, loss of a loved one (baby or others), etc. Knowing how to help doula clients in need is an important part of your role.
This may look slightly different to how you support a non-client, such as your own friends and family. However, it is not completely different.
Here are ways to help a doula client in crisis:
#1: Offer True Empathy and Compassion
It can be hard to remove yourself from the situation to protect your own feelings. It is easy in some ways to offer sympathy or pity. However, those in crisis do not need sympathy, they often need empathy.
Empathy is an important skill for doulas. However, for doulas supporting clients in need, empathy is vital.
During your training with the International Doula Institute, you will learn about emotional intelligence. Beyond just training, emotional intelligence is an ongoing practice of awareness and empathy.
If you are unsure how to truly offer empathy to doula clients, this short clip from Brene Brown is helpful:
#2: To Help Doula Clients in Need, Make Sure They Eat
If you have a doula client healing from birth while navigating a NICU stay, a loss, etc., there is a good chance they will struggle with eating.
Stress, grief, and the practical weight of navigating a crisis often means not making eating a priority. As a doula, if you are hired in the home, make meal support a priority. If you are not actively in the home, help them with a meal plan whether that be a meal service, a meal train, etc.
#3: Help Clients Build and Rely on Their Support System
Everyone’s support system varies. However, as a doula, you can help clients sort through their available support. Encourage them to reach out to friends, family members, helpful coworkers, neighbors, community, or religious organizations, etc.
It can be difficult to ask for help, but it is vital they use the support they need. You can also take charge of this, with their blessing, and ask for help on their behalf. Be sure to have their consent before requesting help or sharing anything about their circumstances.
#4: During Scheduled Visits, Offer Practical Help
As doulas, our role can vary significantly. However, when a client is in crisis, if they hire us for support, think outside the box a bit in terms of how you can help. Their biggest need one day is help reorganizing the nursery for unexpected medical items following NICU discharge.
One shift looks like helping an older sibling get the attention they need as a parent is grieving. It is important to stay within your scope of practice, but there are many ways to help clients outside of how a typical visit might look like.
#5: Hold Space to Help Doula Clients in Need
When you are hired support, you can feel like you need to always be doing something. Even when sitting with a client, it is tempting to share information, ask questions, teach, etc. However, for clients facing a crisis, sometimes they simply need another human nearby.
What can be most helpful for some is simply having your presence. They may want to sit in silence. They want to debrief and share but do not want any responses to what they share. Use your emotional intelligence to try and read the scenario and provide the space they need.
At times, clients may need to share with the hope you can provide solutions. Other times, clients just need an empathetic ear.
Whatever the situation your client is going through, do your best to provide care and support in an empathetic way.
Have not started your doula training yet? Be sure to register now and get started with the International Doula Institute where your training equips you to provide true support in a variety of circumstances.