Why we became doulas
Every doula has her own unique story of motivated her to become a doula. We are usually motivated by our passion for and deeply held beliefs about pregnancy, birth and babies. This passion may have been there for as long as we can remember or it might have been created by circumstances in our lives, like the birth of our child. Regardless of where or how we became interested in this field, there are a few things that have probably not been part of our motivation.
We are not doulas because...
It is a glamorous job. Generally, our line of work involves bodily substances of a variety of forms, colors, and consistencies. We often have to find creative places to sleep or shove something to eat into our mouths as quickly as possible between contractions, trying not to let anyone notice. Sometimes we go a night or more with no sleep, only to catch a few hours and get called out again. After a long, challenging birth, we can find ourselves feeling grimy and smelly, with greasy hair and fuzzy teeth. Our clothes and shoes get stained and stripped off the minute we get home. We get into all sorts of positions to try to put pressure on the right spot while letting the laboring mother do what she needs to. We drive home at 3 a.m. after a slightly scary journey through a dark, abandoned parking garage, shivering until our car warms up. It is a wonderful, miraculous, rewarding job, but it’s not glamorous.
It's quick and easy money. On the contrary, being a doula is hard. A doula is “on call” day and night, holds a tremendous devotion to her clients’ birthing experience, and sometimes has to miss out on family events or cancel plans that she was really looking forward to. It is true that a labor and birth is sometimes quick, but other times, it can take many long hours or days. And we don’t just show up in labor. Rather, we spend a lot of time meeting with clients ahead of time, checking in, taking phone calls, answering texts and emails, keeping notes and of course we always follow up after a birth, with both calls and an in-person visit. Sometimes the hourly rate is pretty good and other times, it is a fraction of a dollar.
So why do we do it?
Because it matters, and we want to make a difference. We are a group of people who recognize that the birth of a child is one of just a few events in life that will be forever engraved in the hearts and minds of parents. We want to do whatever we can to make it a day of joy and love, one that parents look back on with happiness and without regret. We can’t always make things perfect, and we definitely can’t control all the circumstances, but we will do whatever we can to make sure parents have the information, support and encouragement they need. One of the things that can drive a doula crazy is the phrase “The only thing that matters is a healthy baby.” A healthy baby and mother is at the top of the list of priorities, but there is more to birth than getting everyone through it alive and breathing. We want new mothers to be strong and healthy physically, mentally and emotionally, and this is difficult if she was mistreated or felt afraid or lonely during labor and birth. We want to make sure that her needs are central at every step of the journey. Anna Verwaal said it well: “A woman, as long as she lives, will remember how she was made to feel at her birth.” It matters, and we want to help make it an experience that is the best it can possibly be.
Because no one else can bring quite what we can. Our job is unique in that our one and only responsibility is to encourage, comfort and support the family and laboring mother. A partner, spouse, friend or family member can do this, but usually don’t have the training, experience and objectivity of a professional doula. Nurses can provide support, but they are also responsible for procedures, monitoring baby, and other tasks. A medical care provider can be as giving, supportive and well-intentioned as possible but they too have other responsibilities that may take them away from the labor support role. Many of us have seen situations where something scary is happening. At these moments, the care providers will be doing their job, the family will be scared too, and the doula’s job is to offer reassurance and explain what is happening. In many ways it is a blessing to be in such a clearly defined role. For more reasons a doula is helpful see I’m not sure… Do I need a doula?
We asked a few doulas what they love most about doula work and this is what they said:
- What I love most about being a doula is serving, supporting and loving parents through the journey of meeting their child. -KF
- I love helping parents achieve the birth they dreamed of. -MW
- I love being with a couple when they welcome their first baby and being able to literally watch a family be born! -EP
- I love being invited into some of the most intimate moments of a family’s life. This invitation requires a deep level of trust and I love being honored with that trust. -KI
- Birth is a sacred environment, and being invited to be there as part of the birth team is both an honor and a privilege. -DK
Leave a comment below with your answer to what motivated you to become a doula/birth professional and what do YOU love about what you do?
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