It’s an innocent question people ask me frequently when they find out I am a doula. “Don’t you want to deliver the babies?”
No, actually I do not. I understand there are plenty of doulas who are on the path to midwifery or who will decide they want to become a labor and delivery nurse, OB/GYN, etc, but I am not one of them. While I can’t speak for everyone I can tell you the reasons why I am firmly committed to being a doula.
- I have the unique role of supporting the laboring mother for weeks. Weeks, you say? How is that possible? Well, when a woman is close to her estimated due date there will be those signals and signs that labor is impending. As a doula, I get the texts and phone calls about a mucous plug coming out, or a night of contractions. Sometimes there aren’t any noticeable signs and instead I offer words of encouragement and reminding her to trust her body as to when it will be time for baby to be born. Of course a midwife will be seeing the mother during these weeks as well but usually in a prenatal appointment office setting. When it is time for baby to come I often come to the home and help decide when it is time to go to the hospital or birth center, or call the home birth midwife.
- The odds of me having two women in labor are incredibly slim. I am able to focus fully on the mother, partner, and their particular birth experience. When on call midwifery schedules and nurse shift changes, I am still there and this birth is my only concern at the moment.
- Speaking of only concerns — my only concern is supporting a mother and her partner. I don’t have to chart. I don’t have to worry about other patients in another room laboring or waiting for me back at the office. I don’t watch the fetal heart rate monitor — ok, well, I do, but it’s not my concern and liability to do so. I don’t have to code certain procedures or happenings for insurance and liability purposes. If something is happening that is veering from your ideal birth experience, I can suggest alternative methods that follow your birth plan as closely as possible.
- After the baby is here I am the one to snap photos, help you breastfeed, make you a peanut butter and graham cracker snack (with postpartum punch to wash it down!), get your cozy socks on your feet, find your chapstick, congratulate your partner, and tell you how awesome you are. Of course there are midwives and nurses who do the same amidst their other tasks (stitches, anyone?) but your comfort is my primary concern, not if you need repairs or assessing blood loss.
- I have spent many years, almost two decades, learning how to be the best doula I can be. I’ve done workshop after workshop, read hundreds of books and professional articles, attended hundreds of births, learned and learned through study and experience. I’ve invested in education and tangible tools that maybe your hospital doesn’t have (peanut balls, rebozo, heating pads). I am a very experienced and qualified doula. I am not more than a midwife. I am not equal to a midwife. I am not less than a midwife. Any comparison is silly. We do not share the same role even if a few things overlap during your pregnancy and birth. And I firmly believe that doulas are crucial components for the way our society births.
Yesterday I was chatting with someone I had just met. She asked me why I didn’t become a midwife. I simply said, “Because I love being a doula.” Later in the day I met with a potential client who told me she definitely wants a doula for her current pregnancy, because last time she had a midwife and as much as she loved her she regretted that she had mistakenly thought she didn’t need a doula. That doesn’t mean the midwife wasn’t amazing, caring, thorough, professional — as a midwife. Midwives and doulas aren’t the same even though we are both working for your birth experience to be a positive one.
Obviously I am only speaking for myself. I have doula colleagues who have gone on to become a midwife because they do want to deliver babies and do well woman visits and provide a far larger range of care. I applaud them and congratulate them on their serving women and families in that capacity. I, however, will remain a doula and know that it is a vital role.
All Rights Reserved, 2015, Knoxville Doula, Kimberly Sebeck