New beginnings

A former clinical therapist has combined herinterests in physical and mental healing to become a doula.

Doula_521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Among the many births that Rutie Davis has overseen in her nine years as a doula – a non-medical birthing supporter – one of the longest was a recent 33-hour labor experience of a woman who had passed her due date. During the long process, Davis helped the woman contend with the physical pain by singing and dancing around the hospital room with her.
“We used everything,” says Davis – “dancing, singing, visualizations, breathing, showers – whatever would help. If you say to yourself, ‘Birth is pain and I will have to suffer and go through it,’ then that is what you will allow yourself to have. But if you can say, ‘It does not have to be suffering’ or ‘I might find ways to enjoy it,’ then this opens up a range of possibilities for you.”
Originally a clinical therapist, Davis – who has two children of her own – earned her BA in psychology and trained to work as a professional masseur. Eventually she decided she wanted to combine her interests in physical and mental healing into one.
After helping a friend through the birth of her fourth child, she realized that becoming a doula would be the perfect way to create that balance.
“I offered to be with her during the birth and to give her a massage. She agreed, and it was an amazing birth. We moved together through the contractions, and she gave birth within an hour.”
While not all births since have gone this smoothly, the experience motivated Davis to add doula services to her therapy work.
“After I had this first experience, I felt that I could help women to give birth using all the tools I have,” she says. “It’s not enough to work with a person’s mind and not enough to work with the body. You need to combine things together to get results.”
Along with Rahel Kima, the friend whose birth she first assisted in, another doula Danit Tzur-Almog and lactation consultant Yael Wolf, Davis helped establish Parparim Babeten (Butterflies in the Belly), located in the German Colony. The center offers a range of prenatal services, such as preparation for giving birth, prenatal yoga and massages, and post-natal facilities, including mothers and babies circles, baby massage classes, lactation advice and processing the birth experience in different ways. There is also a prenatal course to help women prepare for the unique physical and emotional journey they are about to go through. It provides them with the tools they need to cope with the birth and the skills to use thereafter in their daily life.
“One woman, who was about to give birth for a sixth time, participated in the course and said it helped her a lot with the birth and changed the whole experience of giving birth,” says Davis.
As part of her services, Davis meets the women and their partners twice before to the due date. “I see myself as the doula of the couple,” Davis says. “It’s very important because both of them should feel comfortable with me. I am part of a very intimate experience that they go through.”
They meet once again during the third trimester to discuss specific details and their expectations about the upcoming birth.
“Part of being a doula means that they can call me at anytime,” Davis says. “If I see that the woman is very stressed and apprehensive, I suggest doing something more personal, and I work with her so that when she comes to the birth, the tension is more released. If it’s not the first birth, sometimes there is trauma from the first one. Or even if there isn’t trauma, some women still have fears even if the first birth was wonderful.”
Sometimes those fears can become quite complicated, and the delivery process can be emotionally taxing on certain women, Davis observes, noting that traumatic events from the past are often rekindled while experiencing labor pains. “When you activate the pelvic region, if you have any experiences in this part of the body from the past, they will get activated too. I have become increasingly aware that the birth experience can reawaken past traumas for women who were abused when they were young.”
Davis attempts to prepare the women for this possibility during their meetings before the birth, but sometimes the atmosphere at the hospital itself can trigger negative reactions, she explains.
“Though many women feel secure in the hospital, it’s not a familiar environment,” Davis says. “It is very easy to lose your identity there – you wear the same clothes as everyone else, and you have a tag with your number on your wrist. It’s hard to see what you really want and to see if what they offer you is right for you. Instead of being in a position in which you don’t have a choice, even if you are going through a painful experience, it’s easier to endure if you make your own choices.”
While Davis used to favor entirely natural births, she now supports the woman’s right to choose, be it a natural, epidural-assisted or Caesarean delivery.
On the day of the birth, after speaking with the couple on the phone, Davis joins them at their home before they leave for the hospital. She tries to prolong the amount of time spent at home rather than in the hospital, if that is what the couple chooses to do.
“When we get to the hospital, I accompany the couple through the various stages there – from the reception until the woman starts active labor, and then in the labor room itself,” she explains. “Then I stay with them until the woman gives birth, and for a while after the birth,” she says.
“People ask me how long a birth will take, but you never know. It’s not about how long the birth takes but about trying to ensure that the woman comes out of the experience feeling she did her best and has had an empowering experience.”