Doulas are wise women.

Think of them like birth coaches who support women through the labor and delivery process. Though not medical experts, they have helped hundreds (sometimes thousands!) of women through their births. Doulas provide many benefits, including helping women avoid unnecessary C-sections. Through their work, doulas have learned more than almost anyone about what it takes to help you have a beautiful birth.

Here’s what your doula wants you to know about birth.

1. Pleasure is possible.

Of course labor is hard work. But it is possible to blend the pain of childbirth with the pleasure of the experience, explains doula Angela Gallo. By bonding with your partner, and enjoying what you can of the experience, birth can be a beautiful event. Angela explains:

“Don’t underestimate the powers of pleasure in pregnancy and labor. In times of stress, anxiety or when you may be filled with uncertainty, self-doubt and fear of the unknown, remember this. Pleasure is your best friend and secret weapon. Happiness that may be inspired by a kiss, your favorite smell or a big belly chuckle from your favorite joke. Whatever it is, smile and smile BIG. Melt away in that pleasure. Let it consume you. Let it break down your walls. Let the ethereal, organic sensuality of birth wash over you. Bring your partner in close. Touch him. Touch yourself. Eat some chocolate. Get a hug. Give a hug. Let the oxytocin flow and let the endorphins catapult you to that moment you meet your baby.”

2. Your birth belongs to you.

Even when you work with a doula, you remain in charge of your birth, explains Nina Spears of The Baby Chick:

“Doulas can help tremendously by educating you about your options, but you are the decision maker. You need to make choices that will ultimately support the kind of experience you want. My clients who have had the best experiences during birth and in the postpartum period are the women who took good classes, prepared themselves physically and mentally, and set up a great support team. Your doula can help you with this, but it’s your responsibility to make choices about your care provider, birth place and support team that will surround you before and after baby.”

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That’s a theme that Tara Brooke of Doula Trainings International echoes as well:

“Doulas are advocates for birthing rights, for informed consent and for families as the ultimate decision makers. Doulas do not need to save people from birth! Doulas help navigate evidence-based information, ask questions to help better understand all options and hold space for birthing families to make their own decisions without judgment. The doula’s role is one without an agenda but instead a vested interest in advocating for a family’s own choices.”

3. Remember: You were made for this.

Even if you’ve never given birth before, it’s important for women to focus on the fact that your body knows what to do. Our culture is full of scary stories and images about birth (does your idea of what happens during the birth process come from an over-dramatized Hollywood movie?), but the truth is, your body knows how to birth.

This quote from birth advocate Ina May Gaskin inspires many mamas and doulas:

“Remember this, for it is as true as true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo. Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.”

4. It’s all about the breath.

Birth doula Tiff Delancy wants mamas to know that getting through labor is all about paying attention to the breath:

“I just always remind my mamas, during labor and birth, it’s important to focus on something other than the physical sensations. Always come back to your breath. Breathing is the most powerful tool you’ve got. Use this mantra: My mind quiets, my body opens, my baby descends. And remember, all of this is temporary. Stay present and only worry about getting through this moment, this minute, this breath. Relax and ride the wave, so that you may allow your body to do the work it was divinely made to do.”

5. All birth is beautiful.

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Whether you have a C-section, a planned epidural or an unmedicated childbirth, birth photographer Monet Moutrie wants you to know that there is beauty in every birth.

“Birth can be one moment in your life where you’re able to fully sink into yourself and find that at the core of your being is an overwhelming beauty,” she says. “A beauty that is bigger than wrinkles or a dress size. A beauty that doesn’t rely on superficial standards that none of us can meet.”

6. Prep for postpartum, too.

Mothers understandably get quite caught up in the birth process, so they sometimes don’t take the time to prepare for the much longer transition: the postpartum period.

Postpartum doula Maryann Kamitian says the most important thing you should do for the long haul is to prepare for postpartum.

“The most important piece of advice I can offer a soon-to-be-mom is to have a support system for after having a baby. I think some moms have a hard time asking for help, but during the postpartum period it’s essential,” she says. “New moms will have lots of adjustments after bringing baby home, and it’s a lot to get used to. Having help in many directions can make things much smoother and happy for mom.”

You’ve got this.

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