When I asked Doulas to share some of their favourite experiences of working alongside Midwives I received lots of lovely quotes, a few of which I share below:
“The Midwife arrived at my client’s homebirth and before she came into the birth space, she texted me (The Doula) to ask if my client was ready for her to come and join them in her birth space”. My client felt so moved by this small but hugely respectful action.”
“My clients birthed on the Birth Centre. My client was feeling the contractions really low down in her back. The Midwife and I took it in turns to rub my clients back for each contraction, whilst exchanging knowing looks as we both knew birth was close. We hugged after the birth and told one another we hoped we would attend another birth together in the future”
“After my clients birthed their baby, the Midwife had to sit and write up notes at her computer. She looked so tired at the end of a long shift (the 3rd nightshift in a row!) I did a tea run for the family who were busy falling in love with their new-born. The Midwife looked so grateful when I bought her a cuppa too”
“There was an emergency at the end of the labour at home, I watched the Midwives skilfully support the baby, whilst honouring mums wishes to keep the cord intact. This was one of many times that I have recognised just how much responsibility was on the Midwives shoulders. Afterwards, I made cups of tea, tidied, and told them how awesome and calm they had been, we talked over the experience and shared our knowledge about optimum cord clamping and Dr David Hutchons research. It felt really valuable to debrief the birth experience together”
I am a Doula. A Birth, Postnatal and family support person. My job is to support birthing woman, people and their families emotionally and practically in the antenatal period, during labour and the postnatal period. It is a frequent occurrence when I tell people what I do to hear the response ‘What on earth is a Doula?’ In fact at a recent social event that both a former client and I both happened to be at, my client introduced me to some friends who later told me they’d thought my client had said I was her ‘Dealer’!! Not the type of rumour you really want circulating at a party!!
Many moons ago I considered training to become a Midwife. I researched the opportunity wholeheartedly, including talking to my Godmother who had recently retired as a Midwife. She had given many years to her job and told me the good, the bad and the ugly! What she told me helped me to recognise that what I was wanting to achieve in my career may not be possible as a Midwife.
When I learned about the role of Doula I was incredibly excited. After I attended my training to become a Doula in 2012 I felt ever more passionate. I absolutely love my job. I never stop learning. What I also noticed during my decision making time is that the reasons that many Midwives become Midwives are very similar to the reasons that many Doulas become Doulas. We share a lot of passion and desire to support families to successfully birth their babies. The role of Midwife and Doula are so different yet we have a lot of common goals.
Sometimes people ask me if my role as Doula is a stepping stone to becoming a Midwife. I do know Doulas that have become Midwives and Midwives that have become Doulas – however I believe we choose our role for a reason. There are so many skills that a Midwife possesses that a Doula may not wish to learn. There are many aspects of being a Doula that a Midwife perhaps wouldn’t welcome. Talking with both Midwife and Doula colleagues it is clear that we all follow the career path that better suits our goals, that calls to us and that feels the most rewarding to us individually.
A Doulas job is to listen, to listen again, to understand, to support, to research, to guide and signpost, to nurture, to mother the mother and to hold the families space as they make the transition to a family. We go on call for periods of up to 5 weeks. We are proud to work to a code of conduct. We commit to hours of Continued Professional Development every year. Our role is immensely disruptive to our own family life in that when we leave, we do not know when we will return. When we make or accept plans, we have to add a cautionary “But I am on call so I might have to cancel or leave half way through”.
Our job is not necessarily a financially lucrative job. You will never meet a Doula who says “I do it for the money!” Our significant on call period, dedicated to each family restricts and limits the amount of families we can support. To maximise the support we offer many of us do shared care and work closely alongside another Doula, which of course means splitting the fee! Many of us are part of networks that offer support to vulnerable families, refugees and those that otherwise could not pay for our service. Sometimes when we divide our fee amongst the hours we have given to a family our hourly rate would be much less than the minimum wage. Sometimes we support a family that is not so complex, has a speedy labour and a positive postnatal period. We count our blessings that the more straight forward support roles often balance out the more intense and challenging ones. It is true for many of us that we see rhythms and cluster repetitions in our work. We try to embrace it all, wondering what lesson we might be being taught. Once the lesson is learned we move onto the next one!
Common misconceptions about our role are that we offer advice, we make decisions on behalf of the families we support, we offer medical support, we charge a lot of money, and we only support certain types of birth – such as home birth or water birth with dolphins and whale music!! In my 5 years as a Doula I have supported every kind of birth. One of the hardest parts of our job is to support families to do something that we would definitely not choose for ourselves, without judgement. It is not our job to persuade or coerce a family to do what we think is right. Instead we empower the families we support with as much evidence and information to support them to make fully informed decisions. Sometimes that means recognising and understanding that an elective C-section is absolutely the right thing for a particular family, sometimes when we guide a family to research and information they hadn’t yet discovered they decide they do feel confident to choose a vaginal birth. Sometimes a homebirth may be absolutely the right thing for a family, however for some the hospital or birth centre environment feels the safest. None of this is about our own preferences. Every family we support is unique, their lived experiences are unique and the pathway they are on is unique.
When I asked Doulas what their favourite thing about working alongside Midwives is one Doula said: “One of my favourite things is to arrive at a birth and to recognise the Midwife from a previous positive birth experience that we have shared. There is something lovely about familiarity, the joy of working together collaboratively and contributing to a wonderful birth environment for the families we are serving”
One thing is for sure, most Doulas reflect deeply after each birth and work hard to reflect on how we might have both helped or hindered the process. We absolutely welcome feedback about things we could seek to improve. There is much to unite us in our work in service to those we serve.
If you would like to see our values, visions and guiding principles, please visit: http://www.cambsdoulas.co.uk/our-guiding-principles/
If you would like to contact a Doula you have worked alongside to offer feedback: Positive or negative, please contact: email@example.com
If you would like to be included on training and skills days that the Doula community arranges, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org