I recently had a consultation with a potential doula client, a patient of yours. During our conversation, she said something that really struck me. She mentioned that she had asked you about doulas at her last appointment and you had replied with this:
“A doula is something you get when you don’t trust your doctor.”
Oh, Doctor. That was so very disappointing to hear, especially as I’ve always had such positive experiences with you. I respect your education, your title, your experience and your surgical skills. I like your bedside manner, your humor, the way you interact with both your nurses and your patients. You always shake my hand and thank me with a kind word after a birth. In my experience, nurses speak highly of you, always.
Rest assured, I am not here to undermine your patient’s trust in you in any way.
As a birth doula, I offer a different level of labor and birth support, one that is meant to complement your clinical practice. I meet with my clients – your patients – in their homes. We talk about their hopes and fears surrounding birth. We discuss their past experiences, their priorities, their options. We plan for the postpartum period. It is my role – and my honor – to help prepare these women for the transition to motherhood, to support the fathers as they watch their beloved experience labor and birth, to attend to the emotional needs of the growing family. I am here to support their journey.
I answer calls at all hours of the day and night and go the homes of your patients in labor. I make sure they stay hydrated, I massage their backs and hips, I reassure them. I let them know when I think it’s time to go to your hospital, I follow them there and help carry their bags. I provide the cool washcloth, offer ideas for different labor positions and comfort measures. I keep massaging those backs and hips for as long as it takes. I make sure that dad can go grab a bite to eat or give their families an update on their progress and know his wife is not alone. I’ve usually been with your patient for a couple of hours before we get to the hospital and I will stay with her until she is holding her baby, even as the nurses change their shifts, I am the one constant presence for your patient.
I support her individual desires, whether that means having her favorite essential oils on hand, listening to Hypnobirthing CDs, laboring in the tub, or getting an epidural as soon as she can, whatever reasonable thing she wants that can bring her comfort and make her feel safe and confident. I support her desires even when those do not match what I personally would choose for myself, because this is not about me. Or us. It is about her.
I receive calls from overwhelmed newly postpartum mothers in tears, drop what I’m doing and rush to their homes to lend a compassionate ear, help with breastfeeding, and do whatever needs to be done. I refer them to other professionals in our area, whether it’s lactation counselors, pediatricians, or postpartum support. I often develop a relationship with my clients and happily answer texts, emails and phone calls months after the birth.
I don’t want to catch babies. I happily leave that to you. I trust you and so does my client.
The fact that she hired me to support her does not take away from the fact that she hired you to support her as well.
I know that in every profession out there, there are a few bad apples. That goes for your profession as well as mine. I am acutely aware that there are women serving as doulas who perform beyond their scope of practice, give misleading information to their clients and generally do not conduct themselves in a very professional manner. But most of the women I know who serve as doulas are good people who genuinely want to help others make the transition to motherhood in a loving and supportive and responsible way.
Doctor, this patient of yours contacted me a day after our consultation to hire me as her doula. You and I are now, once again, a team… her team. I am confident we will work together to make her experience a positive one, as we always have done in the past. Because my client trusts you, and I trust you. I hope you can have more trust in me too.
Your patient’s birth doula