This blog post was originally posted on Two Hands Birth Services' blog in the fall of 2018. It is being reposted here as it is information that bares repeating.
A doula's job is to provide education, guidance and support for families during throughout pregnancy, in childbirth and during the postpartum period. DONA International, my certifying organization states, "What is a Doula? A doula is a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible." Nowhere in that description does it state that a doula is a magician. I love what I do but I can not tell anyone their birth outcome before it happens. I do not have a crystal ball. Doulas can not promise a pain-free birth. Hiring a doula does not mean you won't have a Cesarean birth. A doula attended birth may still include pain medication. A doula is also not a bouncer and can not force people from your hospital room or protect you from the one doctor at the practice you don't like.
I am saying these things because these are myths about doulas that come up regularly enough that I feel the need to dispel them. Not that we are actual magicians but that we have some magical power over the birth. The birthing person is the only person who can make their birth almost anything they want. A doula will give you the tools and hold the space for you to advocate for yourself, maybe remind you of your preferences but we can not jump in front of the anesthesiologist as they are giving you an epidural and scream, "NO! That's not in the birth plan!" As a doula we want you to have all the information to make the best choices you can at the time. It might not go down like you imagined but you should feel respected, informed and empowered that you are making the best choices for you.
The birthing family needs to do some work too. Research your caregiver and choose a caregiver and birth place that you feel great about, one that is in line with your values. Just because you have been going to the same gynecologist since you were 16 doesn't mean that's the best practice for you as a pregnant person. The closest hospital might not be the best hospital. If your insurance doesn't cover home birth does that really mean its not possible? Would you take your car to the closest mechanic even though you knew they weren't that great and never worked on your model of car before? More thought is given to weddings and furniture purchases than pregnancy and birth sometimes. Doing research to make great choices is universal and especially includes major life events like childbirth.
A doula can only do so much if you choose a practice known for inductions, a hospital with a high Cesarean rate and you go to the hospital way too soon. I wish I had a magic wand and could give all families the birth of their dreams but I can't. Fortunately, families can do a lot for themselves by educating and researching before the birthday. Take a childbirth preparation class, learn about the hospitals and birth centers in your area, ask your doctor or midwife all the questions you need to to make sure they are in line with your birthing hopes and dreams. If they aren't, there are others who are. The average wedding takes 6-9 months to plan and costs $25,000, is this any more important than the birth of a child? You don't have to spend near that much on the birth of a child but make the investments to help ensure you a positive experience. Take the time, find the resources, educate yourself!