Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Another First: Doula Experience at an MOU

My first MOU doula experience...

For the uninitiated, an MOU is a Midwife Obstetric Unit - run by midwives, sometimes attached to a hospital and designed to serve low-risk women with little or no doctor intervention. It sounds like an ideal situation, and this specific institution is quite unique in South Africa, but does have it's own set of challenges...

Image from here.

As part of our training we need to observe some births and, fortunately one of the ladies doing our course, Hayley, conducts workshops for lay doulas and those who are contemplating professional training. These workshops include an opportunity to serve underprivileged women through labour and birth, so it made sense to join her to get a chance to observe and support some births. So, myself and my friend, who was still not sure as to whether this doula thing was right for her, again made sure the littlies were taken care off, donned our aprons to identify us as childbirth companions, and made our way to meet Hayley and another trainee doula at the MOU.

I had already been at one home birth and one labour (a home birth transfer) other than my own two births before I started the doula course, but I had no experience as a doula in a hospital environment. Eeek!

The women there very seldom have partners with them, so we were welcome to help whoever needed us. One lady had already been booked for a caesarean so I was able to sit with her while we waited for the OT (operating theatre) to become available and was able to go with her into theatre. You can read more about that here.

When I got back to the ward, there was a lady who was quite close to giving birth who my other two trainee doula friends had been supporting, so I was able to join them. It seems that it is standard practise for the women to have catheters, and she also had a drip so she was on the bed for the birth. She kept wanting to reach up and grab a rail above her to pull on it. I have read that pulling on something does help to push, and lifting her weight off the bed would have helped her have more of a squat position, which would have been great, so I thought it was incredible that she knew just what her body needed, but unfortunately the rail was not designed to hold a labouring woman's weight so we let her pull on us instead...
I realized why we were advised to take rings off. The vice-like grip of a woman in the throes of transition is not to be underestimated!
She also gave birth to a boy, and you could just see how happy she was that her little one was finally in her arms! I did take a photograph but wasn't sure if I was keen to post it without asking her permission, so I will make sure I do that for future births!

After this, my friend who hadn't been sure was convinced that this was definitely something she wanted to do - and I thought she was doing a great job! It has been really lovely to have a friend to walk this journey with, I am so grateful!

The other trainee who was with us was so hyped up by the birth! I completely understood where she was coming from, and I expected to feel the same, but I felt more sobered than anything else. I think the fact that my hubby forgot to fetch my daughter from school had something to do with it, as I was awakened to the realities of dashing off to support women at unknown hours for undetermined lengths of time. Don't get me wrong, he is VERY supportive; it was an honest mistake, and my mom was nearby to help out, but mom is moving 3 hours away in the very near future to start a bed and breakfast in Hluhluwe, so it looks like childcare is a one of the bigger challenges to be overcome in this Durban Doula's journey...


  1. It must be so fascinating to assist another woman while she is giving birth. I love the idea of these MOUs - do you know if there is one in Cape Town area? I would definitely strongly consider it for future births.

  2. There are some in Cape Town. I'll find out for you! I think I'd still prefer a home birth or birthing center. This one was unique in South Africa as it is primarily privately funded, but open to the public, so I don't think it is representative of other MOUs...

  3. There is a list of birth centers in South Africa (two in CT)here: