Mother's Helper

Doula Eileen Torres of Yorktown Heights helps nurture new moms.

So, just what is a doula?
A doula is a certified mother’s helper or assistant whose role is to educate, assist, and support the new mom during childbirth and/or when the baby comes home. It comes from the Greek word for a female helper.

In many Third World countries, women give birth in the fields—no doctors, no nurses, no doulas. Are we spoiled?
Actually, women in Third World countries do have doulas—they just may not call them that. But, yes, women there are used to giving birth in their homes or in fields or outside of hospitals, and, actually, I think we have a lot to learn from them. In the fields, women squat, and it’s actually a better way to use gravity. In the hospital, a lot of women lie down in their beds, and that’s not the best position to give birth. I think we can learn from one another.

What sparked your interest in this field?
I am also a licensed massage therapist and clients of childbearing age kept telling me that they wanted to be anesthetized or have drugs during childbirth. I wanted to get better educated as to the childbirth experience and understand why we had gotten so far away from the natural aspect of giving birth.

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Have you seen any people, particularly men, say or do strange things in the delivery room?
One man waited until after his wife gave birth to come to the hospital. Some men get weepy-eyed and woozy and a little light-headed, and they just can’t look because there’s too much blood. But I’ve never had anyone actually faint.

Must a mother give birth naturally or without drugs for you to work with her?
I have no agenda. I am there to support the mother, whether she wants a natural, drug-free birth or she decides she wants a medicated birth. This is not my experience—it is theirs.

Have you ever had any medical emergencies with your clients during childbirth?
Never, not even an emergency C-section.

Why is the post-partum use of doulas growing?
Back when we were closer to our families geographically, our mother or other female relative would take care of us. But now someone has to step in and fill the gap that’s been created. Also, the current cultural expectation is that a new mom should just bounce right back into her role. Back in my mother’s day in Puerto Rico, a new mother was supported for forty days and wasn’t allowed to do very much except to rest and take care of the baby. Everyone else made dinner and cleaned the house.

What do you do for your post-partum clients?
I assist the mother in light duties around the house. And, if the mom needs to rest or shower, I can take care of the baby. I don’t do heavy work, like scrubbing toilets. And I don’t do overnight care—that’s more of a baby nurse, which I can recommend.

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What’s the most unusual request a client has made of you?
One client asked if I could rake the yard. I said no.

How much do you charge for your services?
For a local birth, I charge eight hundred dollars; for post-partum services, I charge thirty dollars an hour, with a four-hour minimum visit.

So, bottom line, what do most new moms want?

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