People often ask me, “What made you decide to become a doula?” My answer rolls off my tongue pretty easily, rehearsed and oft-repeated. It’s a quick summary of my first birth experience sans doula compared to my second birth experience and all the ways a doula’s presence enhanced and improved it. While this is definitely part of the reason I “chose” this field of work, it isn’t really the reason I keep doing it. Let me start by ruling out a few things which are NOT on my list of reasons…
- I don’t do it for the convenient hours. You could go into labor at 3:00 am during a week when my baby is teething and I haven’t slept in days. You could go into labor when I’m in the middle of a birthday party for my child or when it’s time to open the Christmas presents. You could go into labor on the one day when none of my friends or family members are able to drop everything and come to my house to babysit. Being a doula doesn’t fit neatly into my “free time”.
- I don’t do it for the money. In this area, the average doula fee is around $600. Considering I’ll be spending 12-50 hours actively with you, not counting driving time, time responding to phone calls or emails, and time I spend researching special circumstances or conditions applicable to your situation, this doesn’t end up being as much as it might sound.
- I don’t do it for the power and influence. Honestly, I don’t want any! My job is never to make you feel like I have the “right” answer about what you should do in any situation. My job is to present you with evidence-based information about your options and then to support you as you make your choices. And my joy is in helping to build your confidence in your own decision-making.
- I don’t do it for the insurance, sick days, vacation time, or any other benefits packages. Many doulas are creatively brainstorming on ways to cooperatively pool our talents and time towards mutually beneficial arrangements for this sort of thing, but for now, in this town at least, it hasn’t happened yet.
And now for why I DO do it. The answer may sound trite but it is true. I do it for LOVE. I do it because I love you. I love pregnant people. I love mothers. I love babies. I love life. I love choice. I love empowerment. I love raised consciousness. I love families. I love community. I love love.
Since I started the process of trying to put this answer into writing, I’ve had the lyrics to an Ani Difranco song stuck in my head almost constantly. The song goes:
“I do it for the joy it brings, because I am a joyful girl.
Because the world owes me nothing, and we owe each other the world.
I do it cause it’s the least I can do. I do it because I learned it from you.”
Now, it’s true that there is a HUGE amount of joy in this line of work. I mean, come on, I get to see people welcoming babies into their lives on a regular basis! What’s more joyful than that? But, it isn’t all joy. There is doubt and fear and sorrow and grief. There is anxiety and pain and suffering and depression and a lot of mess and inconvenience and letting go. For me, and for my clients, and for their families. But, at the end of the day, all of that is part of the beautiful package. I am honored when folks allow me to join them in the valleys of their experience as well as on the brightly lit hilltops. I take very seriously my role as advocate and listener and support-person and bridge to the community of resources at those times, and I carry it out with as much love as I do during the joy-filled times.
This job often feels like the embodiment of the Prayer of Saint Francis:
“Where there is despair (let me sow) hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
Where there is sorrow, joy…
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
To be loved as to love…
For it is in giving that we receive.”
And therein lies the truth. I do it for love, but it’s not selfless. Because I receive SO MUCH from the job of serving women (and, you’ll recall the word “doula” is actually Greek for “servant”). I am honored at the opportunity to be part of a family’s most sacred moment. I am inspired by the strength and courage of parents birthing and becoming. I am overcome with joy at each new baby’s entrance into the world.
When you become my client, I take you into my mind and my heart. I think about you and your birth and your baby from the time you hire me until months and years afterwards. Outside of this form of connection we have, we might never have met and might not even have liked each other! We may totally differ in appearance, background, philosophy, politics, manner, and a million other things. But, because you choose to allow me this honored place on your birth team, you are in my circle of love. And that continues to be true even if we never meet again after our postpartum visits.
Time and time again, clients say to me after their births, “Thank you so much! I couldn’t have done it without you!” To all of you, my answer is, “Thank YOU! You could have done it without me. But I am so glad I was here. It was an honor and a blessing.”
Thank you, to all of the folks who make me a doula. You are beautiful, glowing, brave, and inspiring. Thank you for being the reason I do what I do.