By Sophie Brigstocke
A couple of years ago I went to a party where I was asked by a stranger what I did for work. When I replied that I was a doula the man looked baffled – he clearly hadn’t heard of doulas before. When I attempted to explain my role to him he replied with the immortal comment,
“So, there are people out there who are willing to pay money for you to hold their hands while they give birth?”
Coincidentally, there was a midwife in on this conversation, someone he had known for a long time, who leapt to the defense of doulas. It was amazing to hear her extolling the virtues and explaining just what a difference doula support can make to families in pregnancy, birth and beyond. I’m not sure he was convinced, but it was incredibly rewarding to hear her words.
Despite the role having existed for millennia, the word doula is still relatively new. In the UK “doula” has only been used regularly since 2001, and the USA is only a decade or two ahead of us. It poses a challenge for us as it means that a lot of people outside medical, health and pregnancy fields still don’t know what a doula is or does. There is more awareness than when I started out, however it can feel like slow development at times.
Whilst we love focusing on the role of the doula and how we might support families in the perinatal period one of the things we want to spend time exploring during our courses is business set-up. One of the challenges facing doulas when it comes to creating a business is thinking not only about how to attract potential clients, but also how to communicate who doulas are and what role they fulfil. This week on our Virtual Cuppa (an online weekly support meeting for Nurturing Birth Graduates) we shared ideas around how to use social media to our advantage. It certainly helps that more high-profile people are choosing to use doula support and talk publicly about the benefits on social media. Most recently former Big Brother winner Kate Lawler has been sharing about her postnatal journey and how much her doula has changed her experience for the better. It certainly helps us as we try to communicate the amazing work that doulas do – using testimonials and other people’s words can be far more persuasive than us standing up and telling people what we think they need!
I love how Nurturing Birth doulas pull together to support each other – together we are stronger and it really shows. Knowing that you have a community to support you as you step into self-employment and navigate the challenges of communicating what you do is essential. Over the past couple of years so much more focus has gone into the support we offer doulas after they complete their course – from an active Facebook group, the weekly Virtual Cuppas, mentoring and additional courses and workshops. We really pull the expertise in from all the doulas in our community – we all have our strengths and can learn so much from each other. While some may be super confident networking, others have relevant experience to share about marketing – there is a richness in our conversations. No one person has all the answers. So many doulas share that the Virtual Cuppa is the highlight of their week, which is high praise indeed!
Are you coming to join us on a doula course? What questions do you have? We are always available for conversations about the journey into being a doula and love supporting people from the very start, so do send us a message if you would like to speak to someone – just give us a telephone number and suitable times to call you back.
By Sophie Brigstocke