On the Seventh Day of Doula School my Trainer Gave to ME….
Thoughts on playing nice in the sandbox
I’ll admit when I first became a childbirth educator (and later a doula), I did so because of my own disempowering birth experience (and a subsequent great experience). As a DONA trainer now I see how challenging it can be when we come into this field with those types of histories. Either becoming a doula to help others have a great birth like you did, or becoming a doula to “save” others from a disempowering birth are DIFFICULT reasons to become a doula. Because no matter what happens, I can guarantee you will feel triggered and disappointed at some point as you support others. What also tends to unfold when we haven’t healed from our own “stuff” before we embark on this path, is that we inevitably start to see the world as US vs THEM. And folks, that’s a DANGEROUS way to join the sandbox.
Working with Others
There are a LOT of people we work with as doulas or birth workers. We work with care providers, colleagues, community partners, and others we refer our clients to. It’s critical to establish and maintain these relationships over time. Nothing is as valuable as your reputation.
When we’re new we’re not really thinking too much about what the industry might look like in 5/10/15 years, but as someone who’s been a doula for longer than that, let me tell you that MATTERS. I am SO grateful for the effort that I and the other doulas in my area have put into fostering good relationships with others. We are now benefitting from that in my community. Don’t for a second think that what you do now won’t matter in 5 years. It sure will!
What you do now doesn’t just impact you and your client, but it impacts everyone around you. Imagine if a nurse has a bad experience with a doula….She will share her experience with those around her and I can assure it will take TEN GOOD EXPERIENCES with other doulas to make up for one bad one. So please understand that your behaviour affects EVERYONE in your industry. If you’re feeling burnt out, check out my article on Vicarious Trauma for help on what to do.
One of the things that has really helped me work with other professionals in the birth room, especially in the early years when my role was met with much scepticism, was to take my ego out of the mix and allow myself to be at the bottom of the hierarchy system. Some of the ways you can foster good relationships with people who are sceptical of your role is to begin with bringing cookies, muffins, coffee/tea as you arrive at the hospital/birth. Then introduce yourself appropriately. As I begin to work with a new nurse (and every time a new nurse comes on), I do the whole thing all over again and I ask permission for EVERYTHING. How difficult is it to ask “hey nurse Susan, I was thinking of using a hot pack, what do you think? Is this temperature ok?”, “hey nurse Susan, I was going to get some more ice chips for X, can I grab you anything while I’m out?”, and on and on. I ask permission for things I don’t need to ask permission for because it shows my respect for their role and my submission to the hierarchy that is a part of the medical system we live within. Why not fit INTO the system where we can to work from WITHIN it? I can be an activist at boardroom tables and lawns, but in the birth room there is no room for activism.
Doulas should be masters at referrals. We need to know the lay of the land when it comes to helping our clients get the best support possible. So get out from behind your computer and go meet people! Go to networking events and business meetings. Or just plain ol’ go to their place of business and introduce yourself. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain!
Last but definitely not least is getting to know your colleagues. In this job we profess the importance of the ‘village’ that surrounds us. We need it as parents, but we definitely need it as doulas. I have been surrounded by the most wonderful doula colleagues a girl could ask for. I am humbled by the ways and times we work together and foster good relatioships with each other and the community around us for the good of everyone. I will continue to spend time and energy on this for the rest of my life. I absolutely LOVE how closely I work with and respect the people that society would deem my ‘competitors’. I say pftt to the word ‘competitor’ and encourage you to put your big girl panties on, stop taking things so seriously, accept to love and respect those around you (even when they have different opinions than you) and make nice in the sandbox.
Future of Doula
Next week as we close out the year I’m going to share some thoughts on the future of ‘doula’. I have seen so much growth over the past decade and a half of working in this field. Amazing growth. I am excited for what comes next, but I know without a shadow of a doubt it’s been possible (and will be possible) because of the relationships we all foster with each other and the professionals we work with. So please keep at it, even when it feels hard.
About the Author
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 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.