There’s a lot of buzz around birth doulas these days. Please don’t get me wrong. Once upon a time, I was a birth doula. I served a lot of couples in the hospital setting and I did so precisely as a birth doula should. The issue today is that far too many – including birth doulas – don’t understand their role.
Birth doulas SUPPORT the birthing woman in HER choices. Birth doulas are not childbirth educators. Some are, however, teaching childbirth isn’t the role of birth doulas. Advocating for the rights of the birthing woman also is not a birth doulas role. LOTS of birthing women think is and there are even birth doulas who have been doing just that but birth doulas are not advocates.
In 2010, I entered a hospital to serve a couple and was told that I could only be in the waiting room or my client’s room. I was not to go anywhere else in the hospital. As a birth doula this meant I would need to depend upon the nurses to do the things I normally did for my clients, like fill the water pitcher and get warm blankets. I just went with it because I already knew that some birth doulas were doing and saying things that were not part of their role in the birthing process. I knew something happened in that hospital….
Shortly after arriving, a nurse came in with a piece of paper for me to sign. She explained that if I refused to sign it I would have to leave. The form basically stated that I understood my role as a birth doula and that I was there only to serve my client. I was not there to fight with the hospital staff. I wasn’t there to tell the doctors and nurses how to do their jobs. I was there in a SUPPORT role for my client. I happily signed because I WAS there solely to support my client in what SHE wanted and this particular client was choosing a medicated delivery. I served my client to the best of my ability. I did express my frustration to a nurse about the fact that I see my role as also being a support to her because there are some things I can do for my clients that would free her up for other clients. She just said, “that’s okay….it’s part of my job anyway.”
The birth progressed well. I supported and served my client precisely as I had done countless times before. I also did what I could to support and serve the hospital staff in an effort to help them know that some birth doulas DO know what their role is and how to do it. After the baby was born, I did as I had done so many times before….I prepared Thank You notes. I always like to leave a Thank You note behind for the doctor and nurses who supported my client as well as for my client and her sweetheart. I have always been grateful to be given the opportunity to serve someone during such an important event in their life.
On this occasion, I surprised the doctor with my note. Before I left the hospital that day, I dropped a box of chocolates off at the nurses station, apologized that they have had “problem” doulas in the past and told them that I hoped to return to their hospital again with another client. The nurses shared that they had been talking about me during the entire birth. They were so happy to be working with a birth doula who understood her role. They also told me that I was welcome back at any time.
We moved before I had a chance to support another couple in that hospital. I sometimes wonder if I would have had to sign the form again if I had returned. I’ll never know. What I do know is that the situation doesn’t seem to be getting better. I read a comment on Facebook a few weeks ago written by a woman saying that she will hire a birth doula for her next birth so she has someone other than her husband advocating for her and what she wants. Here’s the truth ladies….
YOU are responsible for advocating for what you want. Not your husband, mother, mother-in-law, sister, friend, OR birth doula. If at any point during your pregnancy, you feel as though what you want isn’t going to happen, then it’s YOUR responsibility to make changes. This may mean changing providers and even birthing location. As long as women are willing to walk through the hospital doors, women will need to be very vigilant about what they want out of their birthing experience. Why?
Because birth in the hospital isn’t about you, the mother. They aren’t even about your sweet little one. They are about business. They are about business decisions that make money. They are about moving you through the process as fast as possible so they can put someone else in the bed. They are not about what’s best for you emotionally, psychologically, biologically, hormonally, etc. I really do hate to be the bearer of bad news but someone has to do it. I know I’m not the only one saying it. I’m happy to my voice to the voices of many others saying the same thing.
Here’s the bottomline: If you believe you need a birth plan to have a glimmer of hope of getting the type of birth you want, then you, my dear, have chosen the wrong provider (aka birth team) and the wrong location for your birth experience. The same is true when it comes to hiring a birth doula. If you believe you need a birth doula to help advocate for you and want YOU want, you have chosen the wrong provider and the wrong location for your birth experience.
YES, it really is that simple. Hospital are GREAT places when there’s a true emergency. The problem is that their own policies and procedures that are in place to protect THEM, in most cases, CAUSE emergencies (aka complications) to occur that wouldn’t normally occur. Remember, hospitals are FOR PROFIT businesses. They have lots of expenses and a very high overhead of operation. They have to pay the bills to stay in business. AND as long as they do “everything possible” so a “healthy mother and baby” leave the hospital, they don’t care about how you feel when you leave the hospital nor how you feel weeks, months or even years later. They did their job.
I, on the other hand, CARE what state you’re in when you go home with your new bundle of joy. Why? Because I’m the one who you might call for breastfeeding support, or life coaching, or emotional healing. I’m the one who understands that when we have women becoming mothers in “less than” circumstances, we are creating ill equipped mothers. Mothers who won’t be able to fully fill their role as mothers. ALL mothers are awesome and doing the best they can. Exactly how many mothers would be doing better if they had experienced birth as it was designed to be experienced?
YES birth doulas CAN help with that they just aren’t an advocate for you. YOU are your best advocate. Take responsibility and learn what you need to know so you can advocate for yourself and have the experience that rightfully belongs to you…