The Real Reason I Became a Doula
Everyone has a story to tell about how they landed where they are today. Sometimes, this story is deep and profound. But other times this story is very ordinary and based in simple life experiences. Typically, the reasons for becoming a doula involve personal experiences and connections.
I completed my doula training a few years ago. Firstly, I was convinced that I was going to save women from the evil interventions of a hospital birth. Also, I was convinced that my “why” was because I thought all birthing people should have a support person. After all, I had a doula and it was great!
Let’s fast forward to a few years later. I’ve done some life changing personal exploration. I have grown leaps and bounds beyond the doula I once was.
Discovering My Why – Becoming a Doula
Firstly, I realized that I was experiencing a major disconnect with my families. They would prepare detailed birth plans with all the right language, feel confident and informed in their choices, and we would talk about comfort measures and procedures at length. However, for many families, as soon as we entered the threshold of a hospital I saw the confidence fade.
There is a disconnect between how we are preparing families during pregnancy and the power structure that exists in many birthing environments. Note, I say many: all providers and hospitals are not the same. I want to be careful how I talk about this.
You Can’t Order Spaghetti at McDonald’s
Choosing the care provider and birth location whose policies and procedures reflect your birth plan is the number one thing you can do to support your birth experience. Think about it like this. You can’t go to McDonald’s and order spaghetti. They just don’t do that. If you’re telling your provider that you want a pain med free birth with no pitocin or episiotomy, but they have a cesarean rate of nearly 50%… that ain’t happenin’! They’re not serving your spaghetti. They just don’t do that.
There is a giant elephant in the room. Often times, we see birth as black and white. The good birth is the “natural” birth. Or, you have a hospital birth, in which you subject yourself to whatever standard care or protocol your on-call provider deems appropriate that day. This dichotomy is dangerous and fails families.
Birth As a Rite of Passage
Pregnancy and birth is a cultural right of passage in America. It’s an initiation. It follows you for your entire adult life and you will never forget the way you felt and the way you were treated. It sets you up for your entire parenting journey. Birth opens the door to parenthood. Parenting is the start of a new generation.
In 2014, I lost a baby. It was extremely traumatic, I was alone, and I was terrified. It was a painful surgery. I distinctly remember being so fearful I was trembling and sobbing as they were putting in a hep lock for my IV. I held myself together. My partner was present with me, but the magnitude of the experience was difficult. I remember being shifted, half conscious, to the surgery bed. I stared at the OR lights as they removed my baby from my womb. It was terrifying. It makes me sick to think about those sensations. In my darkest hour, this was my initiation into parenthood. I was intensely grieving, vulnerable, and following the motions of this power structure that didn’t give a shit about my humanity. I birthed alone.
Every birthing person deserves to birth with dignity, autonomy, and power. Informed consent must be reflected in all aspects of care for families. You have the right to autonomy over your body, and you are the pilot of your experience. It’s beyond birth choices. Beyond the birth plan. Beyond birth itself.
In birth, you are at the most vulnerable point in your life. You’re more tired than you have ever felt before, and you’re dealing with intense pain and enormous feelings. Then at the same time, we’re telling women that they need to suddenly – for probably the first time in their lives – advocate for their wishes in the medical system. If you’re not used to this language, how to talk about it, or how to challenge this power, then this is an enormous task. Also, many women are uncomfortable advocating for power if they are inexperienced in breaking the cycle. Yet some women have been fighting all their lives. But at your darkest and most vulnerable moment, how do you do that?
This is my WHY.