Why I’m an “Old School Doula”

There has been quite the stir in the doula world over the last few years. Most pregnant families remained unaffected by the internal strife and culture clash the doulas were clearly dealing with in the professional forums. Sure, families noticed the hike in rates, but did they understand the reason why? Did the culture and climate of a hospital birth suddenly make a doula an indispensable necessity? Were we a luxury they just desired? Those questions are still left unanswered for many.

In walks BuzzFeed. Well, in an article which I don’t feel accurately portrayed it’s subjects nor doulas as a whole, suddenly we all look like salesmen trying to raise wages to the elite or to volunteer and help the low income survive their lack of complete support.

I am brave enough to admit it, “I’m an old school doula.”. After ten years of doulahood and seeing the profession, wages and clientele change, I feel confident explaining my own position on being a birthworker.

I use that term intentionally too, “birthworker”. I know birth. After over 100+ births, I know all types of birth although I admit learning something new with each birth. Do I consider myself more experienced and worthy of a higher wage than a doula out of a weekend course on how to sell the concept of a doula – and it’s necessity – to an expecting family? I confidently say, “Yes.” Not just, “Yes.” But for the sake of the expectant family, “Definitely, yes.”.

I believe in continuous support is a fundamental tenant of doula support and reason why doulas are complimentary at a birth.  Your nurses change, your midwives or Doctors may change, but your doula will know you and be there.

I charge the same whether you are in labor 2 hours or 20. As a first time parent, as most of our clients are, why would I assume I can explain and educate you enough to know which 10-12 hours that you need me bedside. Continuous support means sometimes old school doulas have 20 hour births that we decompress to our fellow birthworkers about.   We celebrate with an amazing 6 hour shift to anyone who wil listen. The kicker is, we are birthworkers. We know birth. Expecting a family to know the hours we are needed is tough…almost as tough as I would assume the hourly invoice handed to them at the postpartum visit when they go over their 12 hours.

I will admit, the newer doulas seem happy and satisfied with their salaries. I’m happy my wages have increased as well. It allows me to fully serve my clients without needed sources of external income. My concern is what clients are paying for with these higher fees.

I still wholeheartedly believe in old fashioned hard working birth worker support. Not validating my client’s every decision as a, “yes man”  and I definitely do not need an oxytocin rush of the actual birth. I am not there to heal my own birth trauma which I didn’t have with any of my births.

I hope and wish and work for my families to have positive, low intervention births where I’m paid to be the continuous support and knowledge in the room. Yes, smart incredible nurses would love to provide this too but are unable because of workload. I hope to serve my families well from the first contact we make by phone to the time I meet their newborn and check in postpartum.

Birthwork and the doula professions are not a pyramid scheme.  We are professionals with experience and passion for what we do. If we choose to be pro bono for a struggling unsupported mom and can afford it, it doesn’t hurt another doula. Most doulas who claim it does rarely need pro bono work to add to their resume.

For my first official blog which doesn’t focus on why mom’s need doulas, I find the explanation about the divide in the doula world is important to share too.

When you are looking for a doula, we don’t need to be luxury items with large price tags. You need experience, dedication and as one of my first doula clients told me, “a calming voice you could see yourself relaxing to during a tough contraction.”

Im not at a birth to watch the clock for 12 hours and leave. I know triaging early labor by text is tough and sometimes I need to call or visit. It’s part of the old school style. Will I run a multi-million dollar doula agency one day? No. Will I retire knowing I served my clients well and was aiming for personalized care with the positive outcomes that the studies with continuous care were based on: Yes.

Shop wisely my friends. “You deserve a doula” is more than a catchy phrase. Everyone deserves support during this amazing experience. You don’t deserve to be treated like a customer who is lucky to have the luxury of support. Birthworkers and doulas bring a tool bag of experience and tricks to help you labor more comfortably. We aren’t the paid friend in the room.

Old school doulas know a client really didn’t ask for a 30 hour labor where she needed constant support. She also doesn’t need a postpartum invoice for the extra hours. Even if understood beforehand, we all believe are babies will come early and smoothly. Rarely does anyone anticipate a 30 hour labor. As a birthworker, we know this isn’t that far from the norm.

Know  our differences: good and bad. Everyone deserves a doula and there is a doula who fits for every family. A new style doula may fit your needs as a family or your birthplace.

As for veterans like me, I’ll be there for you regardless. Part of the joy of supporting  birth but not being medical staff is knowing my clients, watching this amazing transition into parenthood and knowing I did my best to help labor progress smoothly. I help my clients understand and be informed so their experience is positive…..and I leave all of the oxytocin for them to enjoy. I have my own bambinos to snuggle when I get home.

Happy Birthing!