How many people say every time they go to work they fall in love?
Doulas go in to birth work for a variety of reasons. Some go into it because they had less-than-satisfying birth experiences and want to support women in having what they didn’t get to have. Some go into it because they had kick-ass, beautiful births that showed them strength and power they never knew they had, and they want every other woman to experience that rush, too. Some of us go into it because of our broad passion for women’s rights, or because the love we have for our own mothers makes us want to give love to as many mothers as possible, or just because we love BIRTH, pure and simple.
I surveyed some of my sister doulas about why they love their work. I told them zero points for anyone who commented on how they like to “empower women”: it’s way too cliche in the birth world, and as Gena Kirby says, no one can “empower” anyone else. All we can do is support them as they reach down deep and use the power within themselves they already have. (At least I *think she said something along those lines! In anycase, it’s something I walked a way with after a training I took with her!)
I also told them I wasn’t giving anyone any credit for talking about how special it was to be part of the amazing experience of childbirth. Not because this isn’t true, but because it’s a given! In my years of doula work, I have cried at every single birth I’ve been invited to be a part of. Women face their fears and come out proud and thrilled on the other side, partners are amazed at her strength and courage, and new families are born and bonds created. I will never stop being shocked that new people suddenly appear in a room out of another person (and out of her VAGINA no less!), and how instantly in love new parents often are with their new babies, and with each other. It IS bloody special, that much is certain!
Here are a few of the less-commonly shared reasons doulas are in love with their jobs, why they itch to go to a new birth when it’s been a few weeks since the last one, why they can’t wait for their summer holidays to be over so they can get back to birth:
1. I feel useful. There is no better feeling than a client opening their door and enthusiastically saying “I’m so glad you’re here!” That’s why I do what I do. ~ Brittney Kirton, Postpartum Doula and Lactation Consultant
2. I love being a doula because it is still a somewhat unknown profession in the general public. When people ask what I do, it inevitably turns into a discussion about birth and the importance of informed decision making, gentle practices, and what ‘a standard hospital birth’ is actually like. It is an easy and comfortable way for people to learn a little bit more about this important topic that is mostly taboo. ~ Chloe Dierkes, Birth Doula and Hypnobabies Instructor
3. I love to be self employed and supported by a well connected network of other amazing women. There is a unique feeling of collaboration and non-competitiveness amongst doulas in Vancouver. I don’t think there are many other self employed professionals that can say that they experience this sense of community and abundance within their field. ~ Chloe Dierkes
4. I love helping make birth “normal” for women…instead of scary, dangerous, painful and other the other images we are fed from girlhood til now. Slowly healing birth we are. ~ Leanne Scorah, Birth Doula
5. All my life I have looked for a way to be an activist beyond marching around with a sign at a rally, to live it! I came out of university with a degree in Women’s Studies and nothing “fit” me or what I wanted to do with my degree. Then I attended my first birth, saw my first placenta, watched the mother come into her power and I had my AH HA moment. Then I became a mother myself….being a mother myself, and a mother to mothers via doula work is THE most feminist work I have ever done! ~Kami Newitt-Fasan, Birth Doula
6. Something I didn’t expect to be so moved by is the partners. I love knowing that I helped them feel more grounded and connected to their baby’s birth. ~ Natalie Lawry, Birth Doula
I often get asked by non-birth-junkie friends and acquaintances why the f*#! I would want to be part of childbirth. My answer is always the same: The look on a woman’s face as she wraps her hands around her baby for the first time, pulling him or her to her chest with a look of amazement and love as she integrates what she just DID, the look on her partner’s face as he or she stares at her with awe, and the feeling in the room of a Christmas morning… excitement and joy and celebration. Being invited into that space to witness birth is magical, learning over and over that childbirth is something women GET to do, that birth isn’t something we should be afraid of.
It’s not all second-hand oxytocin rushes and beautiful moments, though. As Yvette DuMouchel said, “I can’t think of any other life situations where nausea, puking & pooping your undies / on a bed / in a pool are “good” signs!”. If a little blood, sweat and amniotic fluid turns you off, this ain’t the career for you! If you hate the idea of staying awake for days on end, being on call and permanently attached to your cell phone, it might be better to stick to listening to birth stories as opposed to taking up birth work as a career. If you don’t like the sounds of the physical labour involved with lugging around birth pools for water births, hip squeezing for hours at a time, getting stuck in the most bizarre of positions as a woman clings to you for support, you better look at becoming a prenatal teacher instead of a doula. On top of that, there are the politics of childbirth and negotiating them with your client as she makes important choices about her birth in sometimes less-than-supportive birth establishments or with medical attendants who don’t understand the words “informed choice“.
But if you think, like the rest of my plentiful doula-sisters do, that all of this sounds like the most fun you can have in someone else’s bedroom and has nothing on the pay-off of witnessing childbirth, doula work might be right up your alley.
If you’re interested in exploring birth work, join my Birth Takes a Village facebook community to get a daily fix of educational birth articles and juicy birth images. If you’re really getting serious, get going on exploring all the options available for Doula Training, in person and online.
And if you’re local, I’d be honoured to have you in the course I teach on the Wise Woman Way of Birth in Vancouver, BC…. past students have found it deeply impactful and educational.
Doula-love to all of you who are in or are exploring birth work, and huge thank you to the beautiful doulas who contributed to this post, including Sam Talbot who always has clever ideas for how to talk about birth.