Almost a year ago I wrote a blog on “Why I used to be a doula”, as I was struggling with being bartered down, and the role devalued. The blog still stands, but being a Doula, I just can’t help myself when asked again if I’ll support a woman.
I said “I used to be a Birth Doula. It was a labour of love. I gave all I had to my clients… even at the expense of Christmas day with my children one year.
I have supported the most amazing women, with and without their husbands. I have seen the most beautiful babies born in a variety of ways to birth.
I have felt the most incredible pleasure and honour to have been present at such a personal, intimate and important moment in a human beings’ life.”…. heck. That got me again.
How can anyone not want to be present at that moment. Supporting and empowering a mother in the biggest role of her life.
“So, why did I say ‘used’ to be?
One of the reasons is because of the guilt of charging people to be there for them. And the “I can’t afford a Doula” words that I hear.
Your Doula is self employed
There is often a bittersweet business relationship for doulas. I bet if she was a wealthy woman, she’d still do this as a ‘job’.
But doulas are very rarely wealthy! By charging it means that she can be there for you, instead of having no doulas, because they all work in employment somewhere. She has the usual overheads – tax, NI, membership bodies, insurance, CPD ‘Continued Professional Development’ etc.
Doulas hours are incredibly unpredictable
With a bit of luck your Doula being there will result in a nice quick birth. Maybe she’ll spend most of her time clearing up the birthpool and making you tea, when your baby pops out at 39 weeks.
But maybe she will have been on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, since 38 weeks, and you are now approaching 42 weeks, and she’s been re-checking her doula bag, preparing a packed lunch before each bedtime, showering and washing her hair before bed in case you call her, as she wants to be fresh for you. She’s possibly been sleeping lightly every night as she is afraid of dreaming through your phone call. She’s possibly had to prepare her children every night that she may not be there in the morning if her lady has called. She has a bag that is either by the door ready to grab and run, or in the car when she’s visiting friends. She either becomes a hermit and doesn’t make plans to go out anywhere, OR she has lots of appointments to cancel or friends to drop last minute if you call her. She lives with her phone in her hand. Heaven forbid there is no signal where she is.
Being on call is hard – for the doula, and for her family.
After all is said and done, she returns home, ready to sleep for a week, after not just the hours put in, but all the energy and emotion she has invested. But her children haven’t seen her for a while, and need some mummy time. She just gets on with her day, as if nothing much has happened, no matter how the birth has been.
She then arranges to see her mentor/supervisor/best buddy/cake eating friend as she needs a little mothering after holding the space for the parents for so long.
She does ante-natal visits, postnatal visits, answers texts, calls, emails whenever you need her to
She rarely stops thinking about you.
She doesn’t travel outside of a zone around your area, so she can whiz there whenever needed. She can’t go fell walking as it would take too long to get back to the car of you called her, then the journey back to you, all hot and sweaty from rushing.
She invests in you
A Doula cannot ethically overlap clients, unless you are happy with that. So if she’s on call from say 38 weeks, and you may go over 42, and she needs to give herself some off call time too. (Personally I miss having a drink so flipping much when I’m on call. My glass of red wine wind down is out of the window) I also need to have a little time out where I am not on tenterhooks, ready to run at any minute. Just to let my nerves relax and just breathe…
So realistically she can only have clients on her books for times when they won’t overlap. That means limiting potential income, and remember that income is what she will no doubt be using to pay her bills, as most people do. We work to pay bills usually. If my doula work afforded me some ‘disposable income’ I would be over the moon.
Oh Em Gee… what I wouldn’t give for a holiday for me and my children this year.
She invests in her knowledge and toolkit
I don’t know a single Doula that doesn’t engulf herself into a world of self-development to be able to serve womankind. Study days, books, workshops, training, training, training. All from the desire to help women and babies (and their partners) to have the birth they deserve.
See if you can find a Doula that hasn’t been on a Rebozo workshop or invested in a ‘homeopathy/essential oils for birth’ kit, been on a study day with professionals they aspire to be like, and knowledge they want to soak up.
She puts her family on call/hold
Most Doulas are mothers, and last minute childcare is rarely easy to find. But she’s on it. It often comes at a cost, even if it’s a friend. No one calls a friend into action for unpredictable amounts of times without compensating for it (or at least I hope not!)
When a Doula says yes to working with you… she is usually saying no to other sources of income.
If only I was a wealthy lady – I would Doula again.” — yes, I said that!
Then this “Sadly, in my local area there is only a handful of Doula’s left… as most of us cannot afford to work for the amount of money most people are willing to invest in their births.
If you still think a Doula’s time isn’t worth it, then I urge you to look at how much people are willing to spend on holidays, or to pay for wedding day “essential”. Even the most expensive Doula probably costs less than it cost to hire chair covers, table accessories and the car hire for an hour or few… all because commercialism has deemed it to be the most “important day of your life”. I wish more couples put the emphasis on preparing for their birth-day than they do their wedding day. The birth is your baby’s most important day of his or her life.
That is why I USED to be a Doula.”
But you know what??? I still Doula!
I can’t help it. It’s a calling, a need. To know that a woman has her own chosen familiar face to walk this journey with, like the trusty Sherpa, to have someone present at her birth who taken time to really get to know her in advance. Taken on board all of her likes, dislikes, wants and desires.
What happens during the birth process can shape the mother and babies’ future, their feelings about themselves as a mother, their bonding with their new child. It deserves to be the most wonderful and magical time of your life.
Unfortunately, in today’s modern maternity and labour wards midwives are far stretched and have a very challenging role, going between many different mothers, who are all in need of that nurturing support. A doula can aide both mother and midwife when it comes to that support, as they have non-medical, non-complicated continuous support. Helping you with physical comfort (through whatever means – helping you with drinks, back rubbing, putting music on, turning it off helping you with anything you need basically, helping to create a safe environment for you to relax in as much as you can) and helping with your emotional support, having faith in your ability to birth your baby the way you’d like to, supporting your partner or husband in their role. Just being there, as much as you like, or as in the background as you need.
In a medical society where there is so little continuity of care, it’s a hugely important and invaluable role.
I am a Doula.