When I explain what I do to people, one of the first things they assume is that I protect people from interventions. “Those doctors just want to cut people open – good thing you’re there to prevent that” is something I hear a lot. And I can understand why they say that. The research around doulas shows a strong correlation between doula support and fewer cesarean births and better outcomes in general for families. And that’s a good thing! But I can’t protect people against decisions they have made based in fear.
Woah. What do I mean by that? Well, the dominant paradigm in our society around birth is that it’s scary and awful. And of course we are afraid of things we have no experience of. Fear is a normal, healthy part of life. The question is, though, what decisions are you making about your birth that you’ve decided upon because you’re afraid of the alternative?
So it all really comes down to having a fearful mindset versus a loving mindset. When we go into a situation with our hackles up, believing we will have to fight for what we want, it’s not going to be a good time. It isn’t appropriate for a doula to speak for a family. It is my role to talk with families about their fears about birth beforehand and help them open up a dialogue with their care provider about what may happen during birth and how they will deal with those issues. When we believe that everyone we encounter is doing their best, it’s a lot easier to live with a little bit of fear, without letting it reign supreme, and start to invite trust in. And that’s when magic happens.
Empowering my clients to make their own decisions in their own way on their own terms will benefit them, me, and the rest of the birth team far more than stridently voicing my own opinions (that may or may not even be applicable medically to the situation at hand)! How do I do that? With information, discussion, and attentive listening before the birth happens. By the same token, it is my strong belief that a doula should always strive to ensure their client is being provided respectful care. And as supporters of women and families, doulas (and nurses, doctors, and midwives) should absolutely be involved in speaking up about the gaps we see in our maternity care system and demanding better. But that kind of advocacy is for another time and place. Like blogs!