Why I Am a Doula (and How!)
A question I am often asked by pregnant people who are looking into doula support is, "What made you want to become a doula?". There are a few different answers to this question, so my response hinges on my mood that day. If I'm feeling confident and bold, I might say, "Because I kicked ass at giving birth, it made me see myself in a brand new light, and I want to support others as they do the same." Or, if I'm a bit more fired up about the patriarchy and the sometimes frustrating state of birth culture these days, I might say, "Because I want to be a part of the wave that is bringing the power of birth back to the people giving birth." Now that I've written it out, I can see that those two answers are really the same response in essence, the only difference is that the first one is based on making a difference for individuals, and the second is my hope for making a change in the bigger picture.
Why am I doula? Because there is so much out there telling pregnant people that they're not trained enough to know how to give birth, they're not birth professionals, they need someone else to manage their bodies, their choices, their health for them. Many people grow up hearing that birth is scary, it's painful, it's unpredictable. Think for a moment about how many traumatic birth stories you've heard, compared to positive ones. For most of us, the negative ones stand out. A doula is someone who can approach birth from a different perspective. We can help our clients tap into the ancient and internal wisdom, guidance, and love that says, "You are incredible. You are worth it. You can do this. You know your body best. You can be powerful while giving birth."
(photo by Kendal Blacker Photography)
Pregnancy and birth are a time of transformation. If a pregnant person seeks out some knowledge to make informed choices, trusts themselves, and has a loving team who trusts them and in whom they can trust, giving birth can transform them into a stronger, more confident, more connected self. It will still be hard. There will still be moments of doubt, of fear, of overwhelm. But they will be held and supported by people who will reflect their own inner strength back to them when they need it.
If someone has no information, they don't know their options. They put their trust outside of themselves, and they are put through the "birth mill". This can work out alright for some, but many come out of it with a loss of power, a sense of having missed out on something or having had something taken from them, and, all too often, the experience of trauma. Perhaps they don't recognize or name it as such, but it is there, named or not.
When it comes to birth, you already know a lot. Maybe not consciously, but your body knows how to grow and birth a baby. Think about this: you didn't wake up today and say, "Oh, I'd better send my baby the oxygen and nutrients it needs to grow! And I think it's time to form my baby's little ears." It just happens, your body takes care of your baby without your conscious input. So, why do we suddenly lose trust in our bodies when it comes time for the baby to be born? Our bodies know how to birth our babies, just like they know how to grow them. One major part of preparing for birth is simply learning to trust in yourself, in your intuition, in your body, and in the birthing process. As a doula, this is something I love to support people through.
My mission as a doula is to join those who see the transformative potential in giving birth, and to walk alongside them as they prepare for and embrace this experience. As well as helping the pregnant person to trust in themselves, I can also nurture their trust in their chosen birth partner(s), in their care provider, and in me. If someone feels uneasy about the medical care they are receiving, I might help them to find a new care provider, or to get clarification from their current provider about whatever makes them feel 'off'. If someone isn't sure how their supporting partner will handle seeing them in pain, I can work with the partner to give them tools, ideas, and confidence in the birth process and in their capabilities. I am available to the pregnant person throughout their pregnancy, and we build a relationship of trust.
(photo by Genesis Darwin Castillo)
Another part of how I doula is through the sharing of information and knowledge. After affirming that they know their body best, we talk about what it's like to give birth in the system as it is today, especially if they plan to give birth in a hospital. We talk about the tests and interventions that will be presented to them and the benefits and risks of each of these, so that they can make informed decisions about their care. Above all, I love to explain and describe the wonder of physiologic birth: how our bodies have an intricate dance of hormones that keep us going through it all, and how best to set themselves up for an undisturbed birth, if that's their aim. During this learning, I can help them to make a list of their preferences and wishes, so that they go in knowing what they want and don't want. Of course, things can change along the way, but always with as much information as they need in order to decide what's best for them.
So, that's a bit about why I do this work, and how it can unfold. In between the establishing of trust and the sharing of information, there is often lots of laughter, sometimes tears, and a strong feeling of connection. I am connected to my purpose here on Earth, and that helps me to connect with people who are stepping into themselves in a new way.