5 things I have learnt in 5 years as a doula!
5 years ago today, I attended my first birth as a doula. It was an amazing, fast & perfect VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). Baby A was really the best first birth a doula could do! I was almost done all the requirements for my doula certification and walked out of there on cloud 9 because I knew this was exactly what I wanted to be doing. Every birth since then has been a learning experience and I know that will never stop but these are the 5 biggest things that I’ve learnt in my first 5 years as a doula:
1- A “natural birth” really isn’t what every person is aiming for. During my training and in the doula groups at the time, it was always about helping people to have a medication and intervention free birth. Doulas talked about having a low cesarean rate or having a low percentage of clients who had epidurals. I remember walking out of the second birth I attended wondering if I had failed because she had an epidural. 5 years later I know that each client is completely different! What they consider to be a positive birth experience is as different as they are!
2- The doctors, nurses and midwives and I are all on the same team! When I first started I often heard things about how you had to protect your clients from their doctors. Well it turns out that working with your care team instead of against them is definitely the way to go. In the end we have the same goal, to support you as you birth your baby!
3- I don’t need that giant doula bag! When I first started I carried around this giant bag full of gadgets and tools thinking that they are what made a good doula. Turns out that I rarely pulled things out! In my first 5 births I think the only thing I pulled out was a bendy straw because the hospital had ran out! I still have my backpack with me at every birth with a few small things but most of what is in there is for me! Like a book, water, tea, lip balm, snacks and some extra hair ties. I do keep a change of clothes in my car just in case!
4- Doulas do not control the outcomes! You see them all the time, the stats of how doulas can help but really, we don’t have super powers to control how your birth goes. While it may be true that having a doula there lowers the chances of intervention and cesareans while upping the family’s satisfaction with their birth, I believe that comes from feeling supported and more in control not because we waved a magic wand.
5- Being a doula is HARD but also the best job in the world! Last night I woke up 3 times to check my phone for missed calls. That has basically been my life for the last 5 years. Being on call means that all plans have an asterix saying *if I’m not at a birth. It also means missing important dates and being willing to drop everything I am doing to go be with a client whenever needed. I still wouldn’t change it for anything! Seeing the look on parents' faces when they welcome their new baby makes all the being on call and sleepless nights worth it.