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.
- “I would like to experience a natural birth” vs. “The idea of taking an Epidural scares me more than childbirth itself”.
- “I feel safe and confident at home, and that’s why I would like to have a home birth.” vs. “I’m afraid of going into the hospital because of the outbreak of Coronavirus”.
- “Being intimate with my partner is what’s most important to me in terms of my ideal birth experience” vs. “I’m afraid a doula in the room is one more opinion to deal with”.
The statements above show that more and more expectant individuals are aware of their choices and options, and this is great! For many decades, birth support professionals have worked hard to promote the notion of birth givers’ right of choice and to spread the idea of advocacy throughout the journey of pregnancy and childbirth. Our goal was to empower birth givers so they don’t feel they have to obey experts who confuse being knowledgeable with being an authority. At the same time, we might have overlooked the motivations behind expectant individuals’ choices or goals. You may wonder why is this important? You may think that as long as you understand clients’ desired birth experiences or their visions for their birth, the “why” doesn’t matter. Well, just keep reading.
In light of the current social distancing imposed on us due to COVID-19, Birth Coach Method is giving away free access to lesson #4 of the Birth Support Coaching Course-‘Prenatal Coaching’! We hope that it will help you as you keep providing valuable and necessary support for expectant individuals using online communication platforms (Facetime, Zoom, etc.)
Birth workers are mastering strategies that relieve fear and doubt!
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 am called to support my colleague and friend. How do I step up for her and make a difference?
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.
Twenty years ago, when I was nearing the end of the yearlong doula training program in Jerusalem, my trainer advised us all not to quit our jobs in favor of establishing a doula practice. Regardless of the fact that we enrolled in a yearlong program with a commitment to give 100 hours in hospital shifts, Shoshannah guided us to view the doula role in terms of community service rather than a career path.
A doula for every woman is not just right; it’s a valuable asset
This perspective is reflected in the well-known saying “A doula for every woman”, a motto I trust was carved with noble intentions but prioritizes the welfare and empowerment of only one woman – the birthing woman, at the cost of disempowering another woman – the doula. It should be noted that the topic of doulas’ monetary compensation, just like the other two dilemmas I addressed before it, has also caused some turbulences within the doula community. This can be read in Penny Simkins’ Real Talk from Penny Simkin, in which she responded to the disagreement with this motto as expressed by a ProDoula member.
Doulas’ Dilemma #2: The Doula Scope of Practice
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.
- It puts our relationships with medical caregivers at risk.
- It will lead more cities to follow New York in attempts to license doulas.
- It will lead our best friends – hospital-based midwives – to ban doulas or have blacklists of unwanted doulas that they don’t trust.
- It might also make it harder for us to find paying clients because they hear more and more stories about doulas who break the trust and rapport that couples have established with their medical providers.
In 2005, while I was trained as a transformational life coach (see final subsection below), it became clear to me that prenatal coaching has got to be the foundation of successful leadership in the field of birth support. I am certain that the coaching principles and strategies elevate birth givers’ ability to cope and conduct themselves throughout the journey of pregnancy and birth, and elicit birth givers’ accountability to their desired experience, and as a result of those will increase their satisfaction levels with the whole journey. And so, immediately after graduating, I began integrating coaching strategies into the field of birth support. About a decade after implementing coaching into my birth support practice, I felt ready to publish this method in my book The Art of Coaching for Childbirth.
I wanted to quit, but I discovered coaching and got excited again about being a doula.
After a decade of practicing as a doula and childbirth educator, I was about to quit. I was burnt-out. The rising rate of medical interventions led me to doubt my ability to fulfill my role and facilitate healthy and positive birth experiences. Additionally, the growing gap between doulas’ approach to childbirth and the approach held by the medical caregivers that our clients trust for their journey, triggered a lot of tension in me. These circumstances, in addition to the given hardship of the doula practice, made me reconsider my career path.
Ten years have passed since I felt under-resourced and I still enjoy practicing as a doula and training doulas. How did this happen? I discovered coaching!
In the last couple of years, I have come to learn that I am not the only one to have gone through this professional struggle. In spite of ACOG’s recognition of doulas’ benefits and some big headlines reporting the many celebrities who hire doulas for their birth, doulas experience a few major dilemmas that cause great hardship.
This uneasiness reflects in social media and doulas’ blog posts, and I can sense the confusion, frustration, and disputes that percolate within the doula community. Being passionate about doulas and our valuable stewardship position, I’d like to share my personal path that helped me resolve the three major dilemmas doulas face:
Prenatal yoga instructors, you are first in line
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.