When I first heard the difference between doulas and midwives described this way, I was shocked. Like, “aw, come on, we’re more than just people who bring you drinks!” And then the friend I was visiting with implored me to hear her out while she explained the analogy a midwife used once to describe the difference between what doulas do and what health care providers do. Now I feel like it’s an even better analogy than the doulas as sherpas one I made a little while back. Allow me to explain, because I feel like no matter how many times I’m asked about what the difference is between a doula and a midwife, there are still people scratching their noggins in confusion.
In a best case scenario, a flight attendant will help you stay cool, calm, and collected during what can be a very uncomfortable experience.They’re helping passengers stay calm when there is the turbulence that is normal but just a little scary. They might translate the pilot jargon or tell someone facts about the destination if they’ve never been there before. If someone is cold, they bring a cup of tea. If someone’s tray table isn’t going up, they somehow magically Macgyver it into place.They come around with refreshments before you even realize you need them.
The same goes with a doula. We’re there to help parents understand what is normal, even when that normal can come up unexpectedly, and we help parents keep the lines of communication open. Serving clients is our main priority, as well as offering them the reassurance that this experience won’t last forever. Because we’ve been on this “flight” many times with other parents, we know all the detours it can sometimes take. While we don’t have the same level of training that a midwife or a doctor does, we are adept at anticipating the needs of a growing family. Our work is not done until everyone is comfortable and happy exploring the new destination they’ve come to.
In a worst case scenario, we know the drill. We can snap into emergency-mode at a moment’s notice, never leaving our clients’ sides. Calm is our middle name, and we are skilled in the art of helping clients get the communication they need to feel as though, even in a time-sensitive and stressful experience, they’re getting the best care possible and their wishes are being honoured. When situations get hairy, the pilot needs to focus on landing the plane safely. They can’t be doing that and looking after the emotional wellbeing of passengers simultaneously. So flight attendants (doulas) step in to fill that role.
There are, of course, flights where a flight attendant doesn’t fit. Again, this parallel exists with doulas. Sometimes people choose not to opt for doula support and they do just fine. But I would wager that if they’d had a flight attendant they would’ve had an even better time! The doula is there to fill in the gaps in the system, so that families have the best, most supported experience possible. And if that’s not worth more than its weight in salted peanuts, I don’t know what is!