By Sophie Brigstocke
I had a conversation the other day with someone who really wants to be a doula, but she was doubting her ability because she ended up having a caesarean when her baby was born – not the birth she had planned. She felt that somehow she wouldn’t qualify as a doula because she hadn’t had the perfect experience. She had been sitting alone with this worry for a long while, which really saddens me because I know so many people who identify with this woman, including the me of many years ago.
Despite best-laid plans, birth can deviate from the course we hope for. It isn’t something we can predict or foresee. We can make the best plans and write our wishes/preferences, but on the day things can change, situations can arise and we may find ourselves with an experience different from what we envisaged.
Are doulas just there for ‘natural’ births?
People often spread the myth that doulas “only support natural birth”. However, I would like to challenge whether a doula would step away from a client in a situation that deviates from the natural plan? I would hope not. A doula is going to support a client to make informed decisions during the course of their pregnancy and birth experience. Most importantly, if a client feels like an elective caesarean birth, or a highly medicalised route is the right course to take then the best-prepared doula is going to find the most effective ways to support the family through that experience, and most importantly do that without judgement.
It’s no hidden secret that I love talking about the physiology of birth. I witnessed another conversation on social media this week of people who were surprised at how little knowledge there is amongst medical professionals about the way that our hormones affect our labour. I want everyone to know about how oxytocin works and how we can optimise our labouring hormones because the human body is an extraordinary thing and it can make people feel super powerful. However, I never pressure people to ‘do birth’ in a particular way. Research tells us that the ’best’ birth, the one where the mother or birth parent feels satisfied with their experience, is one where they are involved in the decision-making. They are owning their choices, whatever they may be and however far they may deviate from the original plan. I’ve certainly seen some very empowered, strong women choosing caesarean births and feeling utterly positive about their experience.
How our own birth experiences affect – or don’t – our ability to doula
As doulas, our own experiences, if we have had children, may well colour our thoughts and opinions. However, at the end of the day, our personal story has nothing to do with the person we are supporting. Theirs is a unique body growing a unique baby. Their particular dynamic will be different to any other pregnancy. Reflecting and debriefing on our own experiences is an essential part of our doula courses so that we can go out and be clear and clean in our support. This means coming to terms with what happened for us and reaching a place of acceptance.
So, if your own experiences have stopped you from stepping into doulaing until now then I invite you to pick up the phone (07305 044482) or ping us an email and chat to us about it. You may find, as I did, that your pregnancy and birth experience, while hugely personal to you and your family, has very little relevance when it comes to being with other families. All your life experiences combined may give you immeasurable qualities that will serve you brilliantly as a doula, but your individual story of birthing children can be put to one side. Perhaps now is the time to reframe your experience and look at it in a different way?