This week is “World Doula Week”. In celebration, I have a client a week overdue and was honored to attend a wonderful, textbook labor for another client who was first time mother.
I love being a doula. Being a doula means supporting a woman who is just “d-o-n-e” with pregnancy and understanding from personal experience as well as professional experience the heartache of postdate pregnancy. It is also giving balanced advice regarding the current research about induction without mixing in personal or past client experiences in the conversation.
The role of a doula is many times seen as the woman in the birth pictures leaning behind a laboring mother. Maybe rubbing her back or doing the favorite, “double hip squeeze”, which is the go-to move for all doulas supporting a client. Being a doula is so much more.
We are birthworkers. Women with experience with local careproviders and birthplaces. We know so much more than the “double hip squeeze”. We know the risks and benefits of induction when you are postdate in a pregnancy. Maybe we even know the risks catered to your personal careprovider, if we have been a doula long enough in the area. We also have a pretty limited scope of practice that we agree to with our certifications. A doula isn’t a medical professional. We aren’t allowed to give medical advice or direction. We can support and guide a woman to make her own decisions, but we have balance our own inner voice. An inner voice which may be shouting, “Stay home!” when a client insists she must go to the hospital upon membrane rupture because her doctor told her that she must. It is almost as though she has seen an episode of ER and believes that once your water breaks, the baby is just two commercial breaks away.
In the doula world, a rift has been building as doulas strategize on ways to validate the role of the doula in the birthplace. As the role of the doula becomes more widely accepted or mainstream, the rift grows amongst doulas on how to represent ourselves and our role and how to run our businesses accordingly. No longer being hired by only rich or crunchy expecting families, doulas are being hired by average expecting couples who want a guide to help navigate the hospital experience. Doulas need to adjust their mindset and professional path to meet this demand and to define our role.
Although some define their value by hourly wage or by the goal of running a small business aimed at higher income clients, there are still doulas who see their role as invaluable support. The support of a mother and father through their birth experience cannot be quantified by an hourly wage. Doulas need to be fairly compensated. We deserve to support our families with a decent living wage for our professional services, just as any working professional. The rift is based on the philosophy that this value or living wage is the only reason why we are birthworkers and the only way to be compensated is by money or profit.
For “World Doula Week”, I am wishing for another perfect textbook labor for my postdate mama who is ready to meet her baby. I am hoping for the worth and value of the doula role to become as mainstream as the belief that when your water breaks, you must go to the hospital immediately. I am also hoping for the doula community to come together as one in order to solidify our role as valid members of the birth community.
I am hoping that the rift between doula sisters regarding fair wage and how to run our businesses fades and we realize that we are invaluable to the clients we represent. Our worth as professionals is not defined by our profit margin. Our worth as birthworkers is defined by the incredible work that we have chosen to do as a profession and the gratitude and respect of the families we support. Whether they pay us well to show their gratitude and respect with money or with karma, as small business owners, it is our choice to balance our budgets however we choose. I hope as we end the week, we can embrace our fellow doulas and their philosophies and decisions just as easily as we hope that hospitals, ob/gyns, nursing staff and the average expecting couple embraces our presence and support that we provide.