Wednesday, October 30, 2013

PBS asks "Can Doula's make a difference?"

Can Doula's make a difference, PBS (click for video)

There seems to be many definitions of what the word "Doula" means in practice.
There is an incredible range of experience and cost.
There is no requirement to be certified or have any specific training at all to call yourself a doula.

And yet, women/couples are hiring us more and more and more because they have heard stories about our contribution to the birth experience.  A modern interpretation of the role might be "birth consultants", but at the root of it all, I love that this blessed profession is still firmly planted in the ideology of women's history, like in "The Red Tent", where our stories are passed down and told to teach a lesson, or convey our shared strength, or pass on wisdom from past generations.  The term Doula, literally translated as "a woman who serves" has a ring of ancient wisdom to it that I adore, and aspire to deserve.

Most of the work is beautifully "simple".  Simple in the sense that it doesn't appear to require a great deal of knowledge or hard physical work.  It is a certain kind of emotional intelligence though, that I believe to be a rare gift.  The ability to just "be" with a person through a personal/emotional/physical/and mental trial of this magnitude is not something just anyone can (or would want to) do.  It requires very specific character traits.  Intuition, knowing (usually) where and how a woman needs to be supported probably looks simple from the outside looking in, but every birth looks and feels different.  For example, sometimes my positive/cheerful personality is welcome and sometimes it is left at the door when a woman requires a more reverent atmosphere. A doula has to possess personal strength, we can not be easily intimidated or manipulated by people who believe that they are the authority.  A doula needs to have common sense/obstetric street smarts.  We have to be able to interpret the energy in the room.  We have to be able to read people.

We do not practice medicine, and should always be very careful to stay far outside those lines.  I stay as far away from medicine as I can, truth be told, largely attending births at home and in free standing birth centers.  I don't want the medicalization of birth to become commonplace in my world.  When it becomes necessary, if a client plans a hospital birth or is transported to a hospital for safety, I will ask questions though.  I hear a lot of "guff" out there about doula's crossing some imaginary line because we guide out clients to ask necessary questions.  I'm sick of this argument.
Truth is, families (in their wisdom) hire a doula to help them ask the tough questions.  I don't pretend to know everything about medicine, AT ALL.  I'm so glad that I don't.  Questions may even come off as dumb sometimes, that's ok with me.  I will ask anyway, so my clients can make the most informed choices, so that they can feel confident that any intervention and all interventions that are caused by the first, and the second, are understood and chosen.  I want the risk to reward ratio to be clear. My clients anticipate a possible need to discern whether or not the circumstances of their labor/birth require some intervention for the well being of their baby.  They anticipate the information being delivered in "medicalese", and that they will not be able to ascertain the difference between routine and necessary intervention.  My experience and ability to translate helps families make decisions, sometimes it contradicts the agenda of routine/procedural intervention, and sometimes I find myself supporting my clients as they learn about the risks of not accepting the suggested treatment or drug.  It is not my job to have any agenda, outside of my clients birth wishes, and support them in creating a birth experience that incorporates as many elements of their birth plan as are possible under any circumstances.

When interviewing a doula, make sure that you share a definition of what "Doula" means, and
that you have a sense of connection with him/her (male doula's are rare, but they are out there).
You should also know that the charges should reflect the Doula's level of experience, with or without a specific certification.

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