How do I know I was helpful at a birth?

Sometimes a doula will call me to discuss a birth. There’s a feeling that something feels “off” but they can’t pinpoint it. This is usually the time when you need to process a birth. “Processing” can mean different things to different people. What I’m discussing in this blog post is fairly straightforward births and how to know if you were helpful. For more info about more overarching feelings of helplessness or even feelings that resemble PTSD or Vicarious Trauma, please read my other post entitled the Three Year Itch.

What does ‘helpful’ mean?

I think when we’re sitting in our doula training and hearing all the statistics about how helpful doulas are, how they reduce intervention and increase birth satisfaction, we picture every client just gushing about how awesome we were. But the reality is stats are just stats, and the client who had a wonderful birth that met her expectations may be thinking “well of course I did, that’s why I hired you”. Now I promise you will have your fair share of clients who say “I couldn’t have done this without you!” and your inner ego goddess will roar in delight. But what about when a client doesn’t seem super fussed about our help?

Talk to another doula

Anytime I have felt unsure about my role at a birth, I’ve always found it helpful to discuss it (process it) with another doula (in keeping with confidentiality). Sometimes we need to hear another doula say “yeah, that’s exactly what I would have done in that situation”. Our inner egos need validation. That’s the plain truth. Many of us doulas are also highly emotional and right brain people who ‘feel’ so much from/in the work we do. That can be a tricky combination when we don’t feel validated for our work.


person with confidenceAt the beginning of every training I ask doula students to complete the sentence “This workshop will be a success for me if…” and about 50% of responses have the word ‘confidence’ in their answer. “…if I leave feeling confident about my role as a doula”, “…if I feel confident knowing how to support parents”. I always spend time discussing how confidence comes from inside. I can provide information, support, training, but I can’t provide confidence. Just like we can’t ‘make’ our clients feel more confident.

I encourage you to grab a piece of paper right now and list things you’re good at that relate to being a doula. Are you a good listener? Are you great at finding resources online? Do rock the Rebozo? Are you a comfort measures master? What would your closest friends say about your best qualities? Not sure? Ask them!!! (yes this is hard to do)

Check your ego

Just like we need to ‘check’ our own personal worries at the door when we enter a birth space, so must we regularly check our egos in this line of work. Go forward always assuming you’re doing the very best you can in the moment, with what you know and have available to you. And leave the other shitty feelings behind, because they add very little value to the love you bring forth in your doula work.

But HOW do I know?

It’s a great idea to review/process the birth with a doula colleague or mentor to see if there’s anything you could have done differently. Just be sure to let people know if you just need to talk about it, or if you actually want suggestions and feedback. Telling the person we’re chatting with will help us to get the help we need in the moment.

I also ask my clients in our postpartum visit “is there anything else I could have done that you may have found helpful, so that I can use that next time?”

Take in the doula mentor and client feedback without the chatter of our ego, putting its nose where it doesn’t belong. The more we can ‘check our egos’ in our work, the better we’ll become as doulas over time.

What else can I do?

If you’re struggling with ‘checking your ego’ or with confidence in general, I’d like to suggest you listen to positive and empowering podcasts. The more you surround yourself with the right messages, the better you’ll feel. I adore Marie Forleo. Check out her video blog here.

I could speak about this for hours, but this will have to do for now. Please share YOUR ideas on this topic in the comments below! I’d love to hear your ideas and anything else that works for you.

Good luck my lovely doulas.

#WorldDoulaDomination #DoulasRock #DoulaConfidence

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About the Author

Stefanie Antunes has been a Lamaze® Educator and doula since 2002, after the birth of her second son showed her just how valuable it is to be prepared for birth and to have good support around you.Stefanie Antunes and family

Stefanie is a visionary in the childbirth field. She leads the Discover Birth organization providing a variety of services to expectant parents and training for those wishing to pursue work in the childbirth field. Stefanie is a board member with the Association of Ontario Doulas, former Public Relations Director for DONA International, and sits on many local boards and coalitions to improve our communities. She is a DONA-approved Birth Doula Trainer, runs an Approved Program for Lamaze International and runs two doula agencies Discover Birth and The Nesting Place.

Stefanie is the founder of The Birth Doula Program at the Scarborough Hospital.

Stefanie is a contributing author in the best selling Power of Women United and the book Bearing Witness: Childbirth Stories Told by Doulas. She is a regular contributing writer and blogger, and has done many interviews online and for TV/radio.

Before becoming a doula, Stefanie worked in corporate intelligence, helping large companies keep abreast of their markets and competitors. She now works to bring some of those same skills to the doula profession, helping it grow and prosper, along with its many doula members.