Why I Became a Doula

My journey to becoming a birth worker started with my own pregnancy and birth much like most birth professionals.  During my first pregnancy I switched from an OB to a nurse-midwife staffed birth center.  While preparing for the birth of my first child I became enthralled with everything about childbirth. I read Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth. Despite my birth not going at all the way I had planned, I had a “good birth” by most people’s standards. Yet I still felt like I missed out and was cheated on the race I had been training for. Can you imagine telling an athlete the marathon they have been training months for they can suddenly no longer participate in? It is devastating.

Let’s fast forward to about 8 months later. During my pregnancy I took a childbirth and breastfeeding classes at my local hospital because it wasn’t feasible for us to commute an hour to the birth center in addition to prenatal appointments. The Childbirth Educator and IBCLC who taught the classes I took contacted me about a new position on mother-baby she thought I would be perfect for. It was a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor, I would be trained by WIC but work for the lactation department. I immediately jumped at the opportunity to do something I was passionate about; I had overcome many breastfeeding hurdles already and I wanted to encourage new moms to breastfeed in-spite of possible obstacles.

A long drawn out and tedious hiring process, MONTHS later I finally started as a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor. I worked 2-3 days  a week. I was eager to get started and support these women in their breastfeeding relationship. I would typically come into a clients room and introduce myself; I would then ask about how nursing was currently going and how their birth went. If a woman has a natural birth, a medicalized birth or a cesarean section it can greatly impact the breastfeeding process. It was crucial information for me to know so I could be sensitive to their recent experience and the challenges they might be facing.

 

K & J

It didn’t take but a few months for the excitement I felt about my new job to wear off.  I heard endless stories from women who were induced because the day of the week had the letter “Y” in it, they had an “emergency” cesarean, planned a natural birth but labor was “too long” so labor had to be augmented with pitocin, aggressive use of interventions leading to a postpartum hemorrhage that resulted in partial hysterectomy, cytotec being administered to a first-time 19yr old without discussing evidenced based research, vbac attempts often ending in repeat cesareans, etc. I often left work feeling depressed and deeply saddened for these women.  My heart broke for them.

 

I tried to gently speak up and telling them about the wonderful documentary The Business of Being Born so they could learn more about their options and choices for any future births. I recommended books I have on my reading list. At times I’m sure I overstepped my bounds as a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor by giving “too much information”; but the risk of losing my job was a chance I was willing to take if it meant I could prevent another intervention-filled medicalized birth or an unnecesarean. I ended up staying at this job for about 2.5 years.  A few months after the amazing empowering birth of my 2nd son I decided it was time to resign. If I had the opportunity to share with women about my recent birth I would tell them to give them hope and let them know about the benefits of midwives.
One of my doula clients. We weren't playing "peek-a-boo", we were actually doing relaxation techniques.

I knew when I left my job I needed to be apart of the solution to the problem.  I needed to find a way to prevent this from happening. I felt God was calling me to become  a midwife (more on that in the near future).  Before I was to become a midwife I decided becoming a doula was a good place to start.

I attended an amazing birth doula workshop with Birth Arts International in 2009 and this year in May I’m hosting my first doula workshop with Birth Arts! I can’t wait to grow the doula community!

 

If you are a doula, why did you become a doula? If you are planning to become a doula, I would love to hear why you have chosen to.