A doula for every birthing person. This is something I believe in. I believe that everyone who is pregnant deserves support tailored to them as an individual and focused on holding space for them to be in control of their own journey.
So it seems a little counter-intuitive that until relatively recently I felt the role of a doula was quite set in stone. I thought we were all taught the same things during our training and truly hadn’t accepted that how fluid our role is and that information gets processed differently be different doulas. As well as how different our accredited courses are.
If every person is different then it must be so that every doula is different. To take it a step further the doula I was during the first few births I served at is different to the doula I am now. After my training I was trying to fit into the mould of what I thought a doula was and what a doula should do and be part of.
What comes to mind first when you think of a doula? The stereotypical view that I and many other people had includes things like; Home birth, birth pools, herbs, hypnobirthing, aromatherapy, patchouli oil, flowing skirts, flowers in their hair, lotus births and natural term breastfeeding.
For anyone who knows me personally they may say well yes that sounds about right, I birthed my daughter at home, in a pool, I breastfed her until she weaned herself, I use herbal balms and love patchouli!! However the more I have become secure in my role as a doula the more I found this didn’t do justice to how I worked as a doula.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love supporting home births and I am a huge supporter of undisturbed birth with optimal cord clamping and natural term breastfeeding and using whatever complementary therapies you find soothing. I work hard to improve choice and personalisation for women and I have clients who tick all these boxes and we work wonderfully together. That is almost my bread and butter, as a doula that is “my place in the world” but I have never really been one who is happy and content to stay “in my place”. I have always felt the need to expand and explore and learn. I have found maybe I am more mainstream than I thought (shock horror!!) I like to be organised and informed, I like research and evidence, I like lists and plans and since I have begun working with our Local Maternity system and local trust with our Maternity voices partnership I have found I actually enjoy getting involved with a little bit of local governance and policy making!
So what about all the women birthing in hospital? Who need induction or medical assistance? I started to realise how much they needed doulas and it has never been that doulas don’t support those women or a doula wouldn’t take a client like that, more that many people just don’t think that’s what doulas do or are for. But that is exactly what a doula is for! A doula will ride those waves with you, a doula will stand there a hold your hand, mop your brow, dry your tears. A doula will help you get to the toilet when you have a IV’s and monitors everywhere, a doula will crouch down and hold the wires out the way so you can still bounce on the ball. A doula will ensure your partner gets to eat and pee 20 hours into an induction.
We are not all the same and we do not all agree. I do not accept every client that gets in contact because I am not the right doula for them all. It is not fair to them or to me to try to pretend otherwise. Some people are looking for practical and emotional support during their pregnancy and birth, some are looking for someone to support them spiritually, some are looking for someone to chant or drum as they birth their baby, some are looking for someone with all the answers. As doulas we must take the responsibility to be honest with our clients about what we do and who we are. It is not a failure to say I do not think I am the right doula for you. It is totally ok to pass on details of a doula that may be a better fit.
This is why what a doula offers can vary so much, some doulas offer 2 AN sessions and some offer 6, some offer 1 PN session and some offer 6, on calls vary, services they offer vary. There is no right way. So here are a couple universal things that I think are important to think about when looking for a doula
1, A connection and trust is key, do you feel comfortable?
2, Is the doula offering what you need at this time? Do you feel this doula offers the right level of support for you? Too much? Too little? Do ask if they are flexible.
3, Is the doula able to leave her ego at the door and truly hear you? It is not about the doula, it is about the family and the person birthing new life into the world.
4, Boundaries are key. For both the client and the doula. Saying NO is ok.
A doulas place is wherever she is needed be that at a cabin in the woods with a birth pool, in a hospital room alongside an obstetrician and midwife or in a boardroom facilitating discussions and coproducing policy alongside families and staff.
I have found during this journey of doulaing and activism that I can be just as at home in a hospital room or a boardroom as I can in a dimly lit living room watching a women roar her baby earthside. My role has continued to evolve and change and will likely continue to do so. Supporting women and families as they birth their babies will always be my first love and it will continue to be a privilege to be chosen to accompany them on their journey.
Find out more on my About me and services pages or check out my facebook page here
More information on Doulas and doula training can be found at Doula UK