A doula is a woman who is trained to assist another woman during childbirth and who may provide support to the family after the baby is born.
Cate Wiggins is a 29-year-old Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA) certified doula.
The primary difference in a doula and a midwife is that a doula is a non-medical support person who does not perform medical tasks, while midwives perform clinical tasks such as giving medical advice and catching babies during labor.
According to Wiggin’s official website, her role as a doula is to provide emotional, physical and non-biased informational support to laboring women and their families before, during and immediately following birth. As a CAPPA CLD, she cannot diagnose or give medical advice, or administer medication or perform any clinical task.
Wiggins’ journey to becoming a doula came after the births of both her children. After enduring a drawn-out labor with the birth of Wiggins’ first child she decided she wanted to take a new approach with her second birth and enlisted the help of a doula.
“I did not have a doula with my first kiddo and his labor I think was 16-and-a-half hours. In the grand scheme of how first labors could go, [16-and-a-half hours] was not that bad,” Wiggins said. “It is long enough that you run out of ideas if you don’t have [a doula] that’s trained in it, who can think outside of the emotions of everything, to say, ‘Okay listen, you’re not dying let’s try this and see if this helps.’ ”
Her next labor with a doula with drastically different, which gave her an appreciation for the profession and the skills a doula has.
“[My second] labor was a lot shorter, it was seven hours and really not as intense. Having her there, having that extra person to give me ideas, give my husband ideas. Just equip us with more tools and positions and encouragement was life-altering to say the least,” Wiggins said.
Following the births of her two children and being a stay at home mom and then a nanny, which she describes as being a “professional mom, Wiggins decided she wanted to have something of her own again. However, she decided she wanted to work and do work that allowed her to spend time with her children, thus she began training to be a doula.
“After my daughter turned 1, I started getting that itch again to do something that was mine, but I could still be flexible with them and not have to put them in full-time daycare,” Wiggins said.
“I started thinking about being a doula and thinking through how much that helped me. Bottom-line the job is encouragement. They say, all a doula needs is her heart and her hands. I kind of had this moment of — I could actually get paid for doing what I love to do which is encouraging people,” Wiggins said. “Really I was always passionate about birth, but [my daughter’s birth] kind of upped it to where it was an extreme passion and so I had the thought that I could marry these two passions of encouraging women and birth.”
After talking about wanting to begin her career as a doula with a friend who had recently found out she was pregnant, as well as voicing her concerns about being on call to attend births as the mother of two children herself, Wiggins received a text the same evening that would launch her into the profession.
It read: “If you want to go to training, I would love to have you as my doula.”
“I thought, ‘I can’t really turn that down,’ ” Wiggins said.
Fortunately for Wiggins, things continued falling into place as there was a training coming to town about a month after receiving the text message. Without hesitation, Wiggins signed up for the course that would take place at the end of April 2016.
Her specific CAPPA course consisted of a two-day in person training followed by an online portion with five books to read, two booklets and various written tests. Doulas have two years to complete their course and Wiggins completed hers in a year and six months.
Additionally, a doula in training has to attend and be evaluated at three separate births. At each birth a doula in training will receive three evaluations, one from an obstetrician or midwife, one from a nurse or midwife assistant, and finally the parents.
These evaluations are something Wiggins said further encouraged her to pursue her goal of becoming a doula.
“It’s nice to hear feedback about really supporting your client and not overstepping any boundaries,” Wiggins said.
The third birth she attended was what Wiggins describes as the birth that gave her the final “yep, I’m going to do this” thought.
“Of course, these women are the ones who give birth to their babies, but I think [my third attended birth] was my first really intensely hands-on birth where I felt like it maybe would’ve been a little different had I not been there,” Wiggins said. “It was the experience of actually doing things and massaging and counter pressure that I was able to do.”
Wiggins received her CAPPA certification on January 10, 2018 after training and assisting in births.
Wiggins attended her first doula birth in June 2016, and as of March 2018 she has attended 20 births including home births, births at the Fort Worth Birthing Center as well as three of Fort Worth’s major hospitals.
According to Wiggins, a common misconception is that doulas can only attend out of hospital births, however, doulas can can attend a birth anywhere there is a qualified care provider present such as a home, hospital or birth center. While Wiggins is happy to join women in the case of a cesarean birth, she is limited by a laboring woman’s specific care provider, anesthesiologist and hospital policy.
In addition to her doula services, she offers birth photography as well as a 1.5-2 hour Comfort Measures Refresher course, and Bodywork and Labor Prep class.
“This isn’t about me. It’s not about my cup being filled up or me getting this high of oxytocin because they had this beautiful amazing birth. It’s about me being there for them and supporting them in their story,” Wiggins said.
Phone (205) 317-4911