Honesty time: sometimes doulas go around so often saying how wonderful we are that we forget we are human and have areas to work on. I have an area to work on and I want to make it public because continued learning and improvement is important to me to be the best doula I can be. I also want to explain why it’s important for my client and myself and maybe help some other doulas think about this area.
Recently, I had quite a few clients bunched together. Some I knew socially or on Facebook and a few others were new to me. I find myself thinking about my client quite often and wondering how the mama to be is and how her last prenatal appointment went and is she staying hydrated and other doula thoughts. It occurred to me that I couldn’t remember her spouse’s name. Oh well, no big deal, I thought. I will just look it up later. I’ve had a lot of clients recently and it’s bound to happen, just like that provider who told me she always just calls the partner “dad” because names escape her.
It bothered me at the time but now that I have had some time to think about the scenario the reason it has been bothering me has become clear. We all sometimes forget names, that is just human nature and some of us are better at remembering than others. For me names can slip in and out and sometimes I will only speak to someone once or twice via a phone or email inquiry and the name doesn’t stick with me. Stories stick with me. I’ll remember your story or your inquiry but maybe not a name until I have met someone in person. Attend a birth with a family and you get to know that family really well. So what’s the big deal?
I can only speak for myself as a doula in this regard but I work for the family I am hired by. My main client is and will always be the pregnant woman but her partner and sometimes even other family members are peripheral clients. Their experience is important, too. How they are treated is important, too. Daddy’s name is important. If I have taken the time to have a consultation, a prenatal, a class together then knowing everyone’s name and their role is very important to this symbiotic relationship we have. Doula’s don’t replace dads–we say this on every website and marketing campaign. Therefore, we should know Dad’s name. Dad has a vital role in this birth coming up. How busy I am should not have any bearing on how importantly I treat each individual.
I never want to be so busy that I can’t remember a parent to be’s name. I don’t want to be the stranger in the room. I want to be the doula who has gotten to know the family that is to be born. To me the whole point of being a doula is to give you that one on one personalized care that is lacking when a nurse, no matter how amazing, walks into a room of patients to care for them. To offer something different than shift changes and providers on call. To have gotten to know a family ahead of time if at all possible. Modern obstetrics has done enough to relegate fathers/partners to diminished participants in an experience of their lifetime.
Once at a seminar for continuing education a doula-turned-doula trainer asked how many births I had been to. I don’t remember the exact number but it was maybe thirty. She smiled condescendingly and said, “I thought so. You’re still fresh and new. When you hit a certain number you won’t have that glow about you for going to births.” I asked her what the number was. She just said, “You’ll know when you get to it.” Later I found out how many births she had attended. Well, here we are a decade or so later and I am far beyond the number of births she had attended and I still have the same glow and commitment I had then. The difference is that when you have attended many births it becomes comfortable. Comfortable is a great place for me in my career for confidence, being a calm and supportive influence, experience, responsibility, accountability, etc. Too comfortable means not knowing a partner’s name. I’m going to redirect my comfortableness into spending a little more time and effort getting to know Dad before the birth, too. You’re important to me, too.
Dads, partners, spouses: Have you felt like your role has been treated importantly?
Note: I use the term Dad, partner, and spouse knowing there are many blended and different types of families. No offense is meant by any of the terms.
All Rights Reserved, Knoxville Doula
Kimberly Sebeck 2014