Being a Doula #1

Through a convergence of circumstances, I was enlisted to sign up for a Doulas Of North America (DONA) training class last fall.  I completed the course even though the circumstances around why I was enlisted to certify as a doula changed.  Seeing as how I usually like to finish the things I start, I am going to go ahead and complete the certification, and thanks the confidence and trust of our SPB students, I will get to complete at least three births as a doula this year.

I would like to chronicle some of the things that I am learning along the way.  Although there are certainly enough organizations willing to certify that you have taken their course, and definitely lots of people who will help you promote the business for a fee, there is surprisingly little information out on the web on “how” to be a doula – what do you do once you complete your course and you are seeking work as a doula?

THIS page is a reminder for me to review before I go to a birth, and also shared as a resource for other people who are thinking about or new to doula work.  Some lessons are things I learned in class, others I learned via student experiences with doulas, and sadly, some I learned the hard way – by making the mistake, and learning from it.

Fortunately, I have a built-in source of potential clients from our childbirth classes to attend my certifying births.  Should I choose that this is the right path for me, I would also have a captive audience for my services. To be fair, I would ask them to interview at least two other people to make sure that I am the right fit for the birth they are preparing for.

Although I love birth and attending births, I cannot say right now that I feel an undeniable calling to this work.  My first birth as “the doula” was a wake-up call for me.

I went to my chiropractor for my regular adjustment, and as in previous births I have attended as labor support for students, I asked if there were any positions I could offer, or words that the mother needed to say out loud.  Imagine my surprise when his answer was that I was a hindrance to the birth…I was devastated.  I then called the student to break the news that I should not come back…it was so hard to do because their original doula had backed out on them (via text!), which is why I had offered to stand in for her.  Looking back now, I should have let them reflect on that information and ask them to be the final arbiters of the decision.  My leaving left them high and dry, because their other labor support decided not to go back either and they were left alone, whether they wanted to be or not.

On the other hand, I attended a birth earlier this week where I was able to fulfill my role as the doula.  The birth was amazing and both the mother and her coach did amazing.  Both the mother and the grandmother who served as the main coach said they couldn’t have done it without me.  While that is a nice compliment, it also leaves me feeling like I robbed them of the experience of “I couldn’t have done it without you” for each other…this is emotional stuff and I believe that bond should stay within the family.

To add to this, I am a planner.  I like to know who, what, when, where – having two students with impending labor, worried that they might be in labor at the same time, planning but not planning our lives…I still don’t know if that is the right path for me in the future.  I know that in this season it is definitely not something I will do outside of the work I want to do to complete my certification because we still have a nursling at home. My breasts were definitely a little uncomfortable after a long time of not nursing, and I was worried about my/her milk supply dropping.  In the future, once there are no more nurslings…I just don’t know.

I love birth – I love supporting – I *love* seeing a new soul welcomed earthside – their is no denying the miracle and the beauty – it is such an honor and a privilege to be there on Birth-Days.  There is still a lot I have to learn so that I can be the kind of doula I want to be – background support without being on center stage.