our doula is great. mom and big sister and cheer leader all roled into one. she is a freind with an education. she is emotional support. she is a resource.
there are a lot of stats on how female support in labor, no matter how great dh is, can cut interventions. i'll find them for you if you want.
Our doula is just there...she has BTDT and reminds you that YOU can too. she is encourageing, she is a great resource -- books and answeres questions, and tell stories about other women who have successed. she has training -- in childbirth education, in lactation. She knows us personally like even out MW can't (though our MW only does 4 births a month and spend an hour with us every other week). Doula knows what kind of juice i like, and will remind me to drink it in labor. she knows i like the smell of cocnut not jasmin. she knows my hopes and dreams.
she will stay with me ALL THE TIME from the time i call her till after the baby is born.
she knows a lot about all the intervention and drugs we might be offered. she make no decisions
; but 1. she can suppy information, 2. she can help us think and brainstorm pros and cons, and 3. she knows what we want and can help us focus on that ("I knw you don't want pain medication, lets trys a hot shower for the next two contractions and see how you feel then"). she is not so emotionally involved; and having BTDT she can offer suggestions we might miss in the moment. she is expereinced; i may not know that every woman feels X and i might worry there is something wrong with me; she can reassure me i am normal, and she felt that way too....
Birth used to be very woman centered -- one generation guideing the next in birth and breastfeeding and so on. the old midwife catching babies; family taking care of family. now we are all more isolated; I have never seen a live birth, 150 years ago i would have seen sibs born, and freind have kids, and older sisters have kids....... a doula is a connection.
she is there for DH -- to make sure he eats, to stay with me if he needs to take a break, to answer his questions and support him as he supports me. this is our first, we both need that "everything is fine, this is what is going on, here is what to expect..." type thing. If Dh has a question or concern; he can ask her and thus not let on to me he is worried.
She will be as hands on -- or off as we want. she will hold my hand, massage me, or sit back and offer suggestions. she will come to the house and labor with us so we can delay going to the hospital as long as possible.
She is certfied http://www.dona.org/
here is where we found her.
I am sure there are others who can offer an offical defination (doula is greek for "slave" or something) and the stats are amazing. i can find all that for you tomorrow if you want. above are my impressions of how our doula makes me feel.