I'm going to address a few common doula stereotypes on the blog today. I feel like a lot of times, when women hear about doulas and the spiel on what they do (support women emotionally, physically, and mentally through childbirth), they generate this image in their mind of what a doula looks like, and what they stand for. When I began to seriously entertain the idea of becoming a professional doula, I started scouring the web for search terms like "How to be a doula" and "What are doulas like?"
What I came across made me question whether or not I, personally, could be a doula at all. I didn't question whether or not I could support a woman and her family, but I did question whether or not I was the "type" of woman that could actually BE a doula. I'm not a bohemian woman in style, I don't wear patchouli, and most importantly, I don't feel like pushing a baby out of your vagina without medication is the only way to get a good birth experience or to feel empowered about your birth.
(Just so we're clear - there's absolutely nothing wrong with anything bohemian, or with wearing patchouli! I think it smells great, and the bohemian style is beautiful - it's just not for me.)
There seems to be a great misconception when the topic of doulas come up. The flowy sundress and patchouli jokes about doulas aside, the biggest one that sticks out to me is that we only advocate for one type of birth, and that women actually FEAR deciding to do anything differently when they've hired a doula. Say what?!
I was standing in this beautiful local yoga studio, discussing my amazing job with another doula when a customer was checking in for her session. Wistfully, she said, "Oh, I wish I could have a doula. But I've had two c-sections and I don't think I'll get the type of a birth a doula would attend." I asked her what she meant, and she said that it seemed likely she'd be having another cesarean, and doulas only attend natural vaginal births.
Do you see where I'm going with this?
So let's set the record straight here.
DOULAS SUPPORT ALL BIRTHS.
A doula is for unmedicated vaginal births.
A doula is for a birth with an epidural.
A doula is for a planned cesarean, or an unplanned one.
A doula is for a surrogate mom, a teen mom, two moms, two dads, water births, home births, hospital births....
A DOULA IS FOR ALL BIRTHS!
Our job is to support women and their families. Support them however they need, whether that be educational, physical, or emotional. If you plan to have an unmedicated birth, but it turns out you need an epidural, I won't judge you. I'll help you until you get that epidural placed, and then we'll reassess how you want me to support you. If you plan a vaginal birth, but end up with a cesarean, I'm not going to leave you or your partner without support, I'll be there waiting for you after the surgery. If the only support you need is for me to watch your baby's heart monitor so you can get some rest... consider it done.
Support is the name of our game. I have no agenda when it comes to your birth, no opinion on your choices, and absolutely no judgment. This is your experience, and I don't get to have a philosophy in your space. As your doula, I care that you're happy with your choices, and that you feel supported, and that's it. You won't have to fear me judging you if your choices change, or they're different from mine. You don't have to worry about disappointing me. You're hiring me to be your support person, and I would be happy to do just that.
To read more World Doula Week challenge posts, head over to Louisville Area Doulas.