Danielle, a doula in Finland
Updated: Apr 15
Tell us about yourself.
I’m Danielle Bensky. I am a psychologist and postpartum doula.
I am originally from Israel. It's is my second time living in Finland. I lived here as a teenager and went to Helsinki's international school, where I graduated from. My father was working here as a relocation. I moved back for the second time with my Finnish husband and baby.
In Finland, I opened my own business, Mothers Transition, supporting the transformation that parents go through when having a baby, especially as foreigners without their immediate family. I have a baby who is now 11 months old. She was born in Amsterdam, which is where we lived before moving here. We moved here when she was four months old.
How did you reach Finland?
We moved to Finland because my husband is a Finn. He grew up here, and his family is here, so we decided to live here. We met in Israel and lived together in Israel and Amsterdam, so it's our first time living in Finland together.
Tell us about your language skills and your knowledge of the Finnish language?
I speak Hebrew and English fluently. I do not speak Finnish, although I did live here for quite some time as a teenager, going to the international school made it easy to manage English. My entire life here was in English, so I didn't feel the need. My work is now in English as well.
What is a doula?
Let’s differentiate between birth and postpartum doula. A birth doula is someone who is attending the birth after getting to know the couple during the pregnancy time. The doula will be beside the mother for the entire labor, and she is not medical staff. She knows birth, comfort measures, positions but focuses on emotional well-being, keeping the birthing person feeling safe, and respecting their wishes more than anything.
A postpartum doula is with the family in their home after the baby's birth. We get to know each other during pregnancy, and then the doula comes to the house. She is knowledgeable about the birthing person's recovery, the hormones, the emotions, care for the baby, what food is best to eat in postpartum. She focuses on helping the family/mother feel less alone, more supported, and heard in her new role.
What do you do as a doula?
I work as a postpartum doula, so my work is mainly in people's homes. As a postpartum doula, the focus is very much on the holistic side. The understanding that becoming a mother/parent is such a deep transition that invites with it many changes for the person. Becoming a parent is a chance to explore deep emotions that very often tend to come up. So I combine body and mind. I do massages, yoni steaming, traditional Mayan closing ceremony, talk therapy, and listening, holding space for the parent to experience everything they need.
When I am doing a postpartum home visit, we start by having a chat and a tea. I listen to what has been going on with the mother. Then I can offer her to shower, or eat, or sleep, or a massage, or that I do the laundry, or cook, or help her put on the baby carrier, or recommend to her any additional professional help from the resources that I have if she needs it.
How known or recognized is a birth doula in Finland?
I think the birth doula is becoming much more known now, but the postpartum doula much less! The focus is very much on the birth and pregnant people, and couples tend to forget to think or plan for those weeks after birth. Having a postpartum doula can change the experience of the transition to motherhood for entire families, especially when the parents (grandparents) are not here, which is the case for many foreign families.
I have joined a collective of international foreign doulas. There are 6 of us, and one of our missions is to provide top-of-the-line services and educate and advocate for the work that birth and postpartum doulas can do and bring.
It is called The Nest, and it is the first of its kind here in the Helsinki area, where we are giving a full range of services for parents who are foreigners. We have so many types of services that help the parents feel cared for and looked after!
Tell us about difficulties or challenges which you faced as a doula in Finland?
People don't know that they need this and don't know it exists. It is also a private service, and many people in Finland are used to receiving things from the country and for free or cheaper prices.
There is also the aspect of letting someone into your home, which is not typical in Finland, even though I am working with the foreign market, which is slightly more open and different.
Why should parents hire a birth or postpartum doula?
Having a birth and postpartum doula is incredible for everyone living in an industrialized, modern, patriarchal society like ours. For foreigners, this is especially the case. The birth doula can help navigate any language barriers that might help the family have their wishes respected in the birthing space.
A postpartum doula is perhaps even more important for the foreign family because of the lack of support network that many foreign families feel. They don't have their parents here to help raise the baby, which can be rough in the first couple of weeks. We want the birthing person/mother to rest after the birth to recover, which means other people need to be doing things for her. She should be in bed, resting, nursing, and bonding with her baby.
A postpartum doula helps the family achieve that through doing light housework and attending to the mother's soul and body.
What kinds of support do you give to women before, during, or after birth? Do you have good results? Are people happy to hire a doula?
Before the birth, I meet the family/couple, and we plan how the postpartum will be like. I have a postpartum planning guidebook that helps the parents stay on track.
I want to understand better what they are expecting and how I can give them the best support they want.
Before the birth, we can also talk about the delivery itself, their fears, their birth plan. I often recommend a birth doula as well. I am not with them during the birth but will come to the house the day after the mother is home.
After the birth, I am with the family for six weeks, supporting and helping with house chores, taking care of the mother physically and emotionally, and help in soothing the baby with any questions related to that.
First-time parents often don't think or even know that they will need a postpartum doula before they have the baby. It's hard for them to understand why they would need it. Second-time parents understand much better and know to get this service ahead of time. But families that have had a postpartum doula are usually extremely satisfied. Nobody has ever complained about having too much support! Some families I know say they wish they knew about my work before when they were in early postpartum
Tell us about the passion and motivation that drive you as a professional doula. How did you get to know about this job in the first place?
My motivation is the deep underlying understanding that parents/mothers are the foundation of our society. When the parent/mother is well, the family is well; society is well and better off! We need to care for the birthing person/the mother, who is going through this massive life-changing event!
I have always loved pregnancy and birth and babies, combining this with my psychology work and interest in well-being, it's the perfect match.
I learned about birth doulas because I became interested in birth, and then I
realized that there are also postpartum doulas.
How satisfied are you in Finland about this job?
I love my job! I am so lucky to find this path so soon in my career. Now I am learning how to build a business in a country where I don't speak the language. These are not easy challenges and since I work from people's houses, some are hesitant to have me over due to the Covid pandemic.
What is your message for foreigners who want to build a new life, career and business in Finland?
We must rely on ourselves and our abilities. The important thing is to look at the passion and ask ourselves, why am I doing this? The reasons and devotion can keep us motivated and carry on the work.
And I would like to share one success story of myself about one client who was not interested in the beginning, but later after the birth, she called me and asked me to come over and support her and her husband. It felt great to know that people give value to the human services compared to products, which are essential for the postpartum experience.
Here are more information about doulas:
Mothers Transition website: www.motherstransition.com
The Nest website: www.doulacollective.fi