Doulas are powerful!
For so long, we’ve heard these messages about doulas: Don’t speak for your clients. Don’t speak to providers. Don’t go out of scope. Don’t interfere with the medical team. When you advocate, you steal your client’s voice. Be a “good” doula–don’t be a “rogue” doula. When you ___, you’re ruining it for everyone!
While there may be some truth to each of those statements, the overarching message is one of disempowerment. The environment they describe is one where doulas are policing each other to a fault, and the doula they describe is one who acts as if they are inferior to the rest of the team.
It’s a doula who has accepted a place at the bottom of the hospital hierarchy.
And this causes even more problems. Because when you’re at the bottom of the pecking order, on the receiving end of the hierarchy, where does your trauma and frustration go?
It tends to go out at other people on your level… because “punching up” isn’t safe. So we punch out.
This is called “horizontal violence” and it’s characterized by infighting, nitpicking, lack of support, hostility, and passive aggressive behaviors and communication. (Learn more about horizontal violence here.)
Perhaps one of its most dangerous features is, as nursing professor Gerald Farrell puts it, the tendency by the oppressed to “look to the powerful for approval and demean their own” (link).
This is what is happening when a doula is accused of acting or speaking inappropriately, and the first instinct of other doulas is to pile on and rush to “Not me! Not me! I’m one of the good ones!” In reality, doulas should know better than anyone that they are 1) often blamed for the free choices of their client and 2) frequently in situations no professional should have to navigate, involving mistreatment and disrespect of their clients.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Imagine if doulas treated each other with as much respect and non-judgment as they do their clients.
Imagine if, instead of policing each other, they focused on the real culprit: a system that devalues both doulas and birthing people.
Doulas can be powerful advocates, valuable members of the birth team, and a unified profession.
On this page, you’ll learn more how to make that a reality. I trust you to put it into practice.
Cristen (a doula client and fan)
know your Rights!
Legal and Human Rights in Childbirth for Birth Professionals
A “must” course for all birth workers! Our signature course is worth 1.5 contact hours. Learn about your clients’ most important basic rights, plus the context for those rights and what shapes them. Arm yourself with information to give you and your client confidence and calm, plus resources you can use right in the hospital.
“I literally can’t thank you enough. When I finished [the course], I was already thinking differently about my role and getting very excited. I walked into my next birth feeling prepared and ready. I wish I had known all this sooner!” – A Graduate
confidently support your clients in their rights
Featured Episodes of Birth Allowed Radio
The Advocacy Conversation
Birth Advocacy's Sabia Wade
“Advocacy is Putting the Birth Person First”
Cornerstone's Nickie Tilsner
“We Are Changing the Conversation”
Doulas, Advocacy, and Oppressing Ourselves
$16M Plaintiff Talks About Doulas & Birth Assault
Doula Gena Kirby
On Getting Dads & Partners Involved in Birth
Doula Traci Weafer
How to Advocate Without Getting Kicked Out
Obstetric Violence on the Job & How to Make Change
Doula Kirsten Clark
“That Day as a Doula, I Felt Like a Witness to Rape”
Culture Shift in Alabama, Assault in Labor & Delivery
New York Doula
Wrestling With Trauma & Misogyny on the Job
Masterclass: OBSTETRIC VIOLENCE AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT
Experienced doulas Traci Weafer and Hannah Ellis
on preventing and responding to obstetric violence in the hospital
Interested in learning more? Traci Weafer takes her Advanced Doula Workshop, which includes communication and non-confrontational advocacy skills, to doula communities around the country. Hannah Ellis offers an in-person obstetric violence workshop for doulas in the Huntsville, Alabama, area.
Are You A Witness?
Obstetric violence is normalized mistreatment of women and birthing people in the childbirth setting. It is an attempt to control their bodies and decisions, violating their autonomy and dignity. It has also been termed “disrespect & abuse” by the World Health Organization.
Over 60% of doulas and L&D nurses in the U.S. and Canada report they “occasionally” or “often” see providers administering a procedure without giving the patient a choice or time to consider it (2014 Maternity Support Survey).
Free Handout – Know Your Rights!
Learn what rights your client actually has in the hospital
AND SUPPORT THEM WITH CONFIDENCE!!
Birth Rape and the Doula
(Video) A discussion with researcher and doula expert Amy Gilliland, PhD, author of Doulaing the Doula
BIRTH TRAUMA & MENTAL HEALTH
(Video) Doula and clinical psychologist Dr. Sayida Peprah on what everyone needs to know about birth trauma
When Your Lawyer is Your Doula
Human rights lawyer Hermine Hayes-Klein shares about her first experience serving a client as a lawyer-doula.
THE NITTY GRITTY ABOUT CONSENT
“implied consent” myths & facts
No, being admitted to the hospital or signing admission forms does NOT “imply consent” for all treatment.
Forced Procedures are Assault
A doula shares how she stepped up in her role to center her client’s needs and break a pattern of abuse.
Rethinking Consent & Power
With birth, just like sex, we can’t talk about consent without being honest about the power dynamics at play.