What does a doula do? Meet Camille Nadeau

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Photo: Danielle Burns

The QCT recently met doula Camille Nadeau in a cosy cafe for a chat and a cup of tea.

Camille Nadeau might have a Masters in Fine Arts from Université Laval and a successful art business, with her reproductions being sold in the summer on Rue du Trésor, but art is just a way to pay the bills. The birth of her own son a few years ago took place without a doula, “because I didn’t even know they existed!”

The young mother found inspiration in her unusual birth story that was successful due to a small but happy miscommunication with hospital staff. She found herself alone with her boyfriend and a good friend (who had recently had a baby) in a quiet, empty waiting room. “I was reassured by the presence of my friend since she knew what I was going through, and she just stayed there, calm, smiling and nodding her head.... After three or four hours in this room, my boyfriend went to get a nurse because it was starting to get a little more intense ... and they were all surprised that I was even there unsupervised and even more surprised that I was about to give birth! They quickly prepared a room and called a doctor and 45 minutes later I had my son in my arms.”

The experience inspired her to read studies and other birth stories and she reflected that her quick and easy labour was probably mostly due to the fact that she felt confident, calm and at ease with the people she was with. “Every woman deserves to be properly attended during her labour, not just by medical staff but by people she knows and feels at ease with, and I learned that there are people who are trained to do exactly that – they’re called doulas.”

(Doula: from the Greek word doúla meaning “servant woman.”)

Nadeau knew right away that this was her calling and took her training last spring with the Collectif des accompagnantes de Québec – a 40-hour course offered at the YMCA – and has assisted a couple of births to date, including the recent birth of her own godson, an intense experience.

The upcoming launch of her new doula business, Hera & Juno, will incorporate photos of births and of the various services that are part of Nadeau’s mission: making the parents’ transition towards parenthood go as smoothly and positively as possible.

Emploi-Québec recently awarded Nadeau a bursary, so she’ll receive a small salary while she develops the business, including the creation of a website, www.herajuno.ca. This businesswoman has some doula contracts lined up for the winter but also wants to continue her education, taking some online courses from the U.S., where doulas are better known and used. American-born duchess Meghan Markle was recently attended by a doula, giving more visibility to the profession.

Nadeau is also taking an ergonomic baby-wrapping course and wants to learn more about breast-feeding consulting and to start a blog. In the short term, she is looking for a partner doula with whom she could share the workload of being on call for weeks at a time prior to the due date of a baby.

Nadeau admits the certification course is short and anyone in the province could call herself a doula since it is currently an unregulated profession here. That is why she recommends checking any potential doula’s qualifications. Pre-birth meetings (usually two) are also essential to see whether the expectant mother and the doula connect, and to determine the client’s needs and wants. It’s also not a service covered by medical insurance, usually ranging between $500 to $1,500 dollars.

So what does a doula do? A doula is a non-medical professional who gives mental and physical support to parents (dads need coaching too) during pregnancy, delivery and the postpartum period. She provides continued support during the whole delivery. “This is a critical characteristic of our job,” said Nadeau. “We will be there for the entire labour (in contrast to nurses, doctors and even midwives, who sometimes go on breaks or finish shifts).” Nadeau confirmed that doulas don’t perform medical procedures (it is illegal), which is a plus, since they can then focus on emotional aspects and other elements not handled by medical staff – e.g. dim the lights, fill a diffuser with essential oils, put on calming music, massage, etc.

Nadeau wants women to feel “empowered” rather than vulnerable, and to have a positive experience. What is the most important quality for a doula to have? “Be an excellent listener,” asserted Nadeau, who explained that the birth story should be the mother’s and the father’s (not the doula’s) – the doula is a team member who is present to ensure the best possible outcome.