World Doula Week: Gratitude For Those Who Came Before Us
The beginnings of doula work as we know it in the United States are closely tied to a movement started years ago to secure more options for women in labor. Unfortunately this came with a fair amount of power struggle in the birth room and outside of it on behalf of the birthing individual. There have been rallies for women’s rights to be active and consenting participants in the births of their children, documentaries about elevating standards of care for mothers, and fast spreading information about different birth philosophies that are readily available by the Internet. All of these things have influenced policy makers. They have also influenced women to shop for providers that best fit their preferences, which has gotten the attention of birthing facilities perhaps the most effectively.
As a woman, I am grateful for those who came before me and worked for more options for families to choose from during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period. I think most would agree that there is still plenty of room for more progress to be made on this front. As we have been sending loud messages with our feet, that is in where we choose to give birth, doulas have learned a few things along the way.
One key discovery made by doulas who came before me that I am grateful for is the knowledge that empowerment isn’t a uniform process for every individual. I may personally want one kind of experience, and someone else may want something else entirely. I may have my own way of going about making important decisions, and someone else may have a different method that works for them. I am grateful for the distinction made before me that as a doula it is not my job to convince my clients to take a certain path, even if it is different than the one I would choose, and even if they didn’t consult evidence-based studies. It’s my job to support them every step of the way.
As we support the families we work with, we’ve learned that they speak most effectively for themselves. I am grateful to the doulas who came before me that realized our role is not that of a shield. We are most efficient when we build bridges, encouraging our clients to keep a strong line of communication open with their chosen care providers. These doulas also realized that unless our job was held to professional standards, we wouldn’t be sustainable. They encouraged doulas just starting out to value themselves as they valued their clients, and didn’t expect them to ask permission to propel themselves forward with confidence.
This year on World Doula Week, I would like to honor and express my gratitude for the doulas who discovered the power of support that comes without judgment or conditions, and the humility required to take their personal convictions out of the picture while supporting families. Thank you!