During this long-lasting period of social distancing, I find myself struggling when I can’t physically support my birth clients. I began searching for new meaning or a pathway to the concept of providing ‘continuous labor support’ and was reminded of two very different states that I already explored while becoming a transformational life coach: Being and Doing. I am so used to thinking about providing continuous support as an action-oriented practice, filled with hands-on engagement. But the need to practice social distancing doesn’t allow this type of support. There may be many birth support figures who feel the same, and I hope that this blog post will serve all those who serve.
Doulas face a challenge: after many years of service and hard work, our value is finally recognized, but now with COVID-19, we find ourselves cast out of hospitals.
It took us a very long time to get public recognition. Until not long ago, only a minority of expectant individuals knew what a doula is. I believe that it took too long for two main reasons:
Doulas finally received recognition and then came COVID-19. Our challenge is to convince prospective clients to hire us during this time
Some of the most heartbreaking news that doulas received along with the outbreak of COVID-19 was that we are banned from hospitals. Many of us were already committed to couples and families that we have come to love and care for, and with the increased level of uncertainty and fear, we knew that our clients needed us even more. As the numbers of COVID-19 cases continue to increase, it becomes clear that this crisis might last as long as a year or even more, raising a growing concern about doulas’ source of income. As upsetting and tormenting as this ban might be, the current crisis bears an opportunity; an opportunity to achieve work-life balance.
Our lives have been changing rapidly lately. In the past few weeks, the whole world has been reacting to COVID-19 with our fight-or-flight (FOF) response. Being alert and living every day on our survival mechanism might be as dangerous as the virus itself, if not more dangerous. We, birth workers, are experts in preventing or reversing the FOF response that leads to labor arrest. We are experts in managing the fear of pain and of what’s unpredictable or unknown. Psychotherapists might help their patients cope with anxiety and fear in a process that lasts weeks, months or years. However, we, birth workers, are first responders specializing in saving people from fear and doubt.
I have been practicing as a doula for almost three years. I’ve also certified in the Birth Coach Method as a birth support coach and am extremely grateful for the training I received under Neri Choma. I love this role of supporting families. My main goal is for them to feel supported and loved as they welcome their baby to the world. I was a teacher for over ten years prior to launching my doula career, so planning and organizing was a big part of what I did. I like structure. As a doula, I try to structure my prenatal sessions. It helps me get to know the needs and goals of my clients in a systematic way and to understand how to support them and meet them where they are at. As part of my service, I also fill in any educational gaps as needed. I want to help them understand their options.
But what happens when I have a client who is a doula? How do I inform her? Do I just offer labor support and skip all my sessions with her? I usually offer each client three to four sessions. This client didn’t need to practice the tools of labor support with me since she is a trained doula and prenatal yoga instructor. She also had taken a childbirth class with her partner. So I felt like the bulk of what I usually offer my clients was off the table.
I needed to go beyond informing and all the way to coaching.
This is the second blog in a series of three that I began writing in November. I am very passionate about the doula profession. That’s why I feel called to write this series before it is too late. And by “too late” I mean that I think our profession is in danger. Being a doula trainer and at the same time an approved continuing education provider for obstetric nurses, allows me to be connected and empathetic to both sides of the conflict – doula and medical caregivers. On top of listening to nurses’ pain points in their relationships with doulas, I recently have been invited to speak at a few OBGYN and midwives’ practices and heard that they are on the verge of banning doulas
Additionally, recent events confirm what I have been fearing – the current practice of doulas’ who share evidence-based information that supports better obstetric practice (while not being medically trained and bearing no liability for their clients’ health) is going to hurt us.
Since the seventies, those who provide education and support to birthing individuals have all been called ‘Labor Coaches’. In that group are childbirth educators who teach about childbirth and deliver a body of knowledge, usually in a group setting. Also in that group are doulas who are trained to provide emotional, physical and informational continuous support throughout the birth. We all got used to thinking about childbirth as an event in which our role is to help the birth giver cope with labor strains while providing information, reassurance, and applying comfort measures.
On the other hand, coaching, a growing industry generating $11 billion in the USA, is an entirely different practice that stands by itself. It is the practice of leading competent and healthy individuals to optimally perform in order to achieve their goals.
Transformational Birth support coaches that are trained here at the Birth Coach Method, likewise, are also trained to coach expectant individuals towards achieving their desired birth experience.
Out of all the birth support professionals, prenatal yoga instructors probably are the ones to begin supporting expectant individuals the earliest along their journey of pregnancy and childbirth. From a coaching perspective, I see it as a huge advantage, so if you’re a prenatal yoga instructor, you can make miracles leading and empowering expectant mothers to strongly hold not only yoga poses but important convictions about their childbirth experience. Just like the practice of yoga helps individuals to connect with their breath and their body, coaching strategies help them connect with their beliefs, inner truth, values, and needs.
It’s exciting to lead the first group of birth professionals who joined the Birth Coach Method’s first coaching course. We have participants from all around the globe: The Netherlands, Israel, and the US (East and West Coast). We all come together on consecutive Tuesdays for eight weeks using the Zoom platform. It is a group mentoring session in which I get to expand on the topic of the current lesson studied prior to the meeting. In addition to highlighting important concepts, we all brainstorm scenarios and engage in powerful coaching exercises.