Is COVID-19 Doulas’ Opportunity to Achieve Work-Life Balance?

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.

COVID-19 is an opportunity to drop the concept of ‘doulas’ continuous support in childbirth’ without reducing the impact of our support

What if this crisis is an opportunity to reshape our practice? Now, that we have had about three months period to practice birth support that doesn’t rely on our continuous presence, how do you feel about the opportunity to drop the long hours of continuous support in childbirth without lowering the impact and contribution of your support? 

Doulas fighting their way back claiming to be ‘essential workers’

As a practicing doula myself, I wholeheartedly understand doulas’ response to this profound crisis. Everyone is trying to gain control back over their life situation and get back on the horse as fast as possible. Indeed, many doula leaders and organizations have been leading doulas in this direction; claiming that doulas can provide online continuous support throughout childbirth. Some organizations got down to the smallest details in their guidelines, such as comparing the use of a laptop vs a cellphone. I invite you to take a different route. I invite you to use this crisis to consider a new and powerful approach to birth support that doesn’t rely on your continuous presence or the notion of continuous support throughout childbirth.

Why insist on hours of continuous support throughout labor?

You can ask any doula, and she will tell you that this is a crazy concept and that her passion is what keeps her going. In a previous blog post titled Becoming a Doula: A Good Career Choice or a Community Service?”, I suggested that the hardship of being a doula was never fully acknowledged as much as the hardship of her laboring clients. The hardship of being fully present for another woman:

“It’s crazy!” Doulas say about the long hours of support throughout childbirth. And our passion keeps us attending the next birth

  • Containing her fears, pains, and moments of crisis with no attempt to numb, avoid, dismiss, or block these moments.
  • Providing continuous support and care – physical and emotional support – to a woman in labor and her family members for as long as birth takes.
  • Continuing to support the client for 2-3 hours more after the delivery to facilitate the bonding and the initiation of lactation.
  • Supporting and advocating while being a ‘guest’ inside other agents’ territory, the medical agents,   who are trained differently. While doulas are trained to prioritize the personal needs and wishes of our clients and elevate the satisfaction level with the birth process, medical caregivers are trained to prioritize the clinical aspects.

And there are many more elements of our role that come together to create the hardship of the doula position. 

What can we do instead?

Conducting a meaningful series of prenatal coaching sessions will set the foundation for superb labor support that doesn’t require you to provide long hours of continuous support throughout childbirth. Professional coaches, in a vast variety of coaching fields, coach their clients to facilitate positive mindsets and confidence, resolve areas of challenge and internal resistances that are in their clients’ way, and instill a new set of skills and strategies that in turn allow their clients to perform at the peak of their abilities in the area in which they are coached. Why wouldn’t we do the same? I am not suggesting that doulas will stop joining their clients for birth. I’m suggesting that with personal coaching that is tailored around your clients, you can empower your clients to not need you there for all the long hours of childbirth. And I believe that this is a more empowering concept of doula service. 

You don’t argue with successful people; you learn their strategies!

Think about coaches in sports – coaching takes place before the performance or the game. NBA coaches take short time-outs to coach throughout the game, and the type of coaching that takes place during the game is more of a reminder or cheering. Do you know of a specific reason for this to be different in childbirth support? Do you know what was the motivation to assign doulas to continuously support throughout hours of childbirth or whether those who took this decision provided continuous support for many years in their career?

Coaching sessions are tailored for your clients and empower them to rely on you through intervals of the birth, rather than continuously

 Are you open to playing with the idea of conducting a meaningful series of prenatal coaching sessions as the foundation of your doula support; to practice in a way that doesn’t demand your continuous presence and actually might even be more empowering for your clients? Can you recall how empowered your kids felt when they did something on their own without you holding their hands all along? Imagine how profoundly empowering will be the experience of expectant couples you’ve coached prenatally when they actualize their desired experience without you being continuously present every moment of the birth!   

We already have a global doula community who practices like this!

A week ago, birth support coaches from all over the world came together on zoom for our monthly community gathering. They shared how successful this new approach to birth support is for them and their clients. The history of the doula profession does not have to be the future.

It is profoundly empowering when couples actualize their desired experience without you being continuously present

If you are open to exploring a new set of labor support skills and strategies that empower birth givers prenatally and make it possible for them to achieve their desired birth experience, without relying on or needing your continuous support throughout long hours of birthconsider training with us. Take a deep breath and assess the situation. You can embrace the current restrictions imposed on doulas’ presence in hospitals as an opportunity to create a long-sought change; a change that recognizes the exceeding hardship of doulas’ labor.

Neri Life-Choma

I am the founder of Birth Coach Method and am celebrating 20 years of leadership in the field of childbirth support. Throughout my career, I have been honored to provide doula support and teach childbirth ed. classes to hundreds of expectant couples, as well as to direct two birth resource centers. I am also a doula leader in my community in the South Bay area of Silicon Valley in California.
Neri Life-Choma

doula profession, prenatal

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

0