"We have a secret in our culture, and it's not that birth is painful. It's that women are strong." - Laura Stavoe Harm

Monday, July 25, 2011

How (and Why) I Became a Doula

Those of you who know me, will probably have realised that I'm really passionate about birth. I can remember the beginnings of that when I was seven. My Mum was pregnant with my little brother, and I loved learning about how the baby would be born. I was also fascinated with the job of the midwife, back then my Mum was lucky enough to have a midwife that worked on caseload - so she saw the same midwife for every appointment, the birth, and postnatally. I remember deciding I was going to be a midwife. I wasn't at my little brother's birth, but I came to the bedroom to see him shortly after he was born, and I remember how it felt to see and hold him for the first time.

Somewhere along the line, that initial interest was sidelined and by the time I was 16 I had decided to be a lawyer. I wanted to be a just lawyer, always on the side of integrity. I studied pre-Law at college in the States. I ended up having to leave college and move back to Scotland due to lack of money, and a year later I was back in the States and married.

I became pregnant with Cora at age 20, and I devoured all the information I could find. The internet was a source of info, but connections were so slow back then, it was more difficult than now! I read lots of books, like Henci Goer's "The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth", and Ina May Gaskin's "Spiritual Midwifery". I decided early on to hire a doula, because home birth wasn't an option for us due to the legal status of midwifery where we lived. I found and hired one, and went through my hospital birth with her. Thank goodness she was there, because it was a bit of an uphill struggle, and I ended up conceding to things I didn't want to like an IV.

After Cora was born, I decided I wanted to become a doula. There were no training courses anywhere near me, so that wasn't something I could do. However my doula was gracious enough (and her clients) to allow me to shadow her. So I watched her work, and learned, and read her coursework from her training. I continued to read, and read, and read. I began attending births when I was pregnant with Calvin and continued after he was born.

In 2006 we moved to Scotland, and I got in touch with some local doulas. I didn't really pursue working but as time went on people began to find me. When I was pregnant with Maia I set up the Grampian Homebirth Support Group (now "Choices for Birth in Grampian") with my wonderful friend Charlie, who is a Natal Hypnotherapy teacher. The group is still running, and seems to have times when several women come, and times when none do. But clients have found me through there, as well.

Until very recently I still thought I wanted to be a midwife "when I grow up", but I'm not so sure anymore. I like being a doula; in fact, I love it. I love that all I need to focus on is supporting the Mum and Dad (or other partner), I don't have to spend hours writing notes, or checking blood pressure, or listening to the fetal heartrate, or balance following protocol and guidelines with respecting the woman's wishes. I just be there.

I think the key to a good birth experience is to feel in control, able to make informed decisions, and that those decisions are respected by your caregivers. Disappointment is different to regret, and I think regret often is where trauma comes in. I want no woman to ever have to regret decisions she made or did not make in labour. I want every woman to feel like her caregivers understood her, and how important this day was to her - not just another day at work like it may be for them. I hope and pray that I never lose the joy at being asked to be at a birth, how I feel that it's a blessing to me and not a job. I always want to feel lucky that a woman thinks enough of me to ask me to be at such an intimate event, that she will never forget.

I love my job.


  1. I would have LOVED to have a home birth, but by the time I found out it was EVEN LEGAL here, I was already done having babies! :( I did look into having a doula for my hospital birth about.....a week before my son's birth? It was a little late by that point! lol

  2. Ina Mays book is still one of my favourites - I have an old battered copy given to me when I did my midwifery traning (did two years, had a bereavement, never finished, a huge regret of mine). Did you do your doula training up here? I have seen Adela Stockton courses that I'm considering for after we start our family xxx

  3. Oh wow, what a shame that you didn't get to finish. Still, there's time yet!

    I did my training in the States by shadowing another doula. Adela is a lovely woman, I bet her course would be good. :) Why wait until after you start your family though? Just curious! Now is the time when you can be most flexible..

    Thanks for commenting :) x

  4. Steph, what a shame you didn't even know it was an option! You're done having kids now aren't you? If not, I'll be your doula... haha.

  5. This is true Amber, but don't they prefer doulas to have experienced childbirth themselves? x