While most expectant mothers worry about how they’re physically going to endure the labor process, many never think of their mental well-being. However, with the rise of doulas, more and more mothers are looking for mental support and guidance for themselves and their babies.
In The Doula’s Guide to Empowering Your Birth, Lindsey Bliss takes readers on a journey through all of the possible questions that may crop up when a mother experiences the childbearing process. Adding tips from a variety of doulas and birthing experts, Bliss also shares her own personal experiences carrying her seven children–including two sets of twins–in order to create a more inclusive approach.
“My book isn’t going to be everyone’s flavor. It’s definitely a different, more inclusive approach to the childbearing process,” Bliss says. “It’s based on empowerment, not on fear. It’s also more inclusive. It’s not just women, it’s birthing people. It’s touching on some of the social justice issues [and] reproductive justice issues that are going on currently. It’s not a fluffy birthing book.”
But what exactly is a doula? According to the Carriage House Birth website (which is where Bliss works as a doula and co-director), a doula is an individual who supports a family throughout the birth process. From prenatal care to birth to postpartum care, a doula is there for the family every step of the way.
“People hire doulas for numerous reasons,” Bliss explains. “My hope would be that they’re hiring a doula to become more informed of what choices there are during their childbearing journey. [However], some people hire a doula because their best friend did or somebody told them that they should. The hope is that people hire doulas so they can have an informed birthing experience.”
Looking through Bliss’s book, pastel colors, floral drawings and even a sketch of a tiger fill the pages. The creative aspect of the book, including the cover art (which depicts a fetus engulfed in flowers) encapsulates Bliss’s aesthetic and how she views the pregnancy journey–which is why she chose a doula to complete the illustrations seen throughout the book.
“I chose a doula I knew that created mechanical artwork and would create images of fetuses and make them into flowers,” Bliss says. “I’m very into herbs and love the organic components of pregnancy, so I wanted to combine my holistic approach and love of birth [in the design of my book].”
Throughout the book, Bliss provides knowledge on a variety of topics, from body changes to birthing methods and even how to transition into parenthood, all of which has been inspired by her own personal experience both as a mother and a doula.
“My first set of twins is what led me to doula work, because it was treated as a very high-risk pregnancy and I didn’t feel like I was given options,” says Bliss. “I was told what I had to do and if I didn’t do these things, it would harm my babies and myself, which wasn’t actually the truth.”
Once she began working as a doula, Bliss learned that the mother should choose how the labor process goes, which is why when her second set of twins came around, she was much calmer and had an overall more enjoyable experience, which has inspired the writings in her book.
“With my second set of twins, I was able to navigate [the process] with a sense of confidence and wisdom that I didn’t have previously,” Bliss says. “I was able to advocate for myself and have a birth experience that was, dare I say, without pain, because my anxiety was gone. I was really engaged in the process and in the decision-making for myself and my babies.”
After five births and seven children, Bliss knows a thing or two about worries one may have when going through the pregnancy journey, which is why she wants women to know that their voice matters and that however you choose to give birth, it is perfectly okay as long as you are confident and feel empowered doing so.
“I want [expectant mothers] to know that they have a choice and that if they want to have an empowered birth, they can,” Bliss says. “If they don’t want to have an empowered birth, they don’t have to. All of their journeys are valid. Whether it’s through the door or the window, it is all valid. Their experiences are valid–good or bad.”
With years of practice as a mother and doula, Bliss has experienced a variety of journeys. If there is one thing Bliss wants all mothers and families to know is to ultimately “embrace chaos [and] learn the art of surrender.”
For more information on Lindsey Bliss and her book, The Doula’s Guide to Empowering Your Birth, visit quartoknows.com!