What does it mean to be a tongue tie doula?
Let’s break it down. Tongue tie is a medical condition where the lingual frenulum (tissue connecting the tongue to the floor of the mouth) restricts full oral function. A doula is a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support. That means that a tongue tie doula is a trained and experienced professional who works to meet all needs of families struggling with tongue tie.
There are many professionals working with tongue tied people in various capacities. What makes a tongue tie doula stand out? A tongue tie doula is going to work to understand the bigger picture and all the needs involved. S/he is going to have a functional medicine mindset about solutions and empower others to work toward that.
The current term doula may have started with birth, but the role, the intention, is really about continuous support. There are now postpartum doulas and bereavement doulas. There are even end of life doulas. To doula is to be someone well-informed about an experience another person is having surrounding a medical condition. It’s about meeting that other person where they are and offering to be fully present with them as they experience intense feelings, sensations, and processes. It means to be open and supportive of the patient’s loved ones as they work to balance their own needs as well as that of the primary person in this particular journey.
- When a young girl in middle school struggled with nosebleeds that were uncomfortable and embarrassing and her friend would go with her quietly to a rarely used bathroom, hide in a stall with her and figure out what she needed to get back to feeling normal, that was doula-ing.
- If a friend in high school tells only one friend that she is having a miscarriage from an unplanned pregnancy that she had shared with no one, and that friend goes home with her to sit with that process, that is doula-ing.
- If a friend’s dog is dying and being put to sleep and you sit with them at the veterinarian’s office and hold space for that experience, that would be doula-ing.
These are intense experiences through which continuous support is provided to the people involved — the doula meets them where they are and includes as much information as possible in how the process might be eased. They are offered educated guidance in what choices they have to make. In each experience there was struggle and joy and pain; humor and grief. Things that might be minor to others were looming, and things that might overwhelm another were handled with resilience.
Let’s come back around to a Tongue Tie Doula. What does that mean? It makes sense to start with the literal. Tongue Tie is the common term for the medical condition ankyloglossia. It’s where the lingual frenulum (band of tissue that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth) is restricted of function through being too far forward, too short, lacking elasticity, or some combination of these.
One might wonder how a person might be a doula for a medical condition? In the same way a birth doula supports a person or people experiencing birth, a tongue tie doula supports a person or people experiencing tongue tie.
Many professionals who are experts in tongue tie have a plethora of knowledge. They provide excellent recommendations, tools, and protocols for the process of gaining function from oral restrictions. The doula factor adds continuous support. For example, an IBCLC who is exceptionally educated about oral restriction might provide referrals, recommendations, tools, and protocols to families as they work to help their baby obtain full oral function. The doula role goes one step further, however. It includes emotional support before, often during, and after the release procedure. It means meeting families where they are when they struggle with choosing a direction in which to go, as far as medical procedures and various therapies, especially in the face of frequently contradicting recommendations. A Tongue Tie Doula holds space as parents grieve the newborn and breastfeeding experiences they had envisioned or vent about how hard the whole process is.
There are many Tongue Tie Doulas around the world. There’s a whole database to explore and that is constantly growing. There are amazing people and professionals in many fields who are tongue tie doulas. Some don’t even know it. Many don’t appreciate the nuances of the care they provide as they see the bigger picture of people’s lives and families as a unit. Many tongue tie doulas are creating bigger-picture care plans never knowing that this perspective is often neglected by others in the lives of the families they serve. Whatever title they may be using, these exceptional care providers are the ones holding mothers as they cry, and sitting with fathers as they rage, and empathizing with babies as they struggle to learn a skill they were meant to learn before ever breathing air. Always on the cutting edge of care, a Tongue Tie Doula works to support evolution toward improvement. They never settle for accepting an unmet need. And always, always know that at the end of the day, the parents and babies are the real heroes.
Because doula-ing is not about the medical condition. It’s about the human condition.