In response to my article “Three Things Your Doula Can’t Tell You,” Doula Trainings International offered the statement at bottom. I believe this is an important discussion to have, as I share this feeling of urgency in how women are supported (and not supported) while giving birth in a dysfunctional system. It seems to me that the binary of the “wallflower” doula vs. the “rogue” doula mirrors stereotypes about women in general–that we are either doormats or troublemakers; that any woman who asks questions or sets healthy boundaries is out of line and “out of her place.” Needless to say, I think that’s…well, hogwash. It’s part of the reason our maternity care system is as dysfunctional as it is!
So, what do you think about the role of doulas and their “place” in our system? Is it changing? Does it need to change? Please keep the discussion here respectful and productive.
At Doula Trainings International, we are challenging these models and stereotypes, which for too long have perpetuated various forms of oppression within our field.
A safe and peaceful birth should not be considered “lucky.” It shouldn’t be seen as a privilege. A safe and healthy birth is a human right. With every passing year, as the medical model continues to ascend and dominate within the birth culture, it becomes ever clearer that doulas can no longer be passive and complacent. Given the current culture of birth, we are convinced that a failure to speak the truth, a failure to inform women and families in ways that challenge power, is to be complicit in the very system we seek to transform. And too many times, it harms the families we support.
DTI is re-imagining the role of doulas today and we have solutions. We are committed to breaking the silence. We are committed to helping our doulas overcome the fears that keep us silent – the fear of being seen as troublemakers, as bad girls, as nuisances, as invisible, as members at a birth who can “only do so much.” We must be willing to acknowledge how these identities impact our profession and as a result, the families we serve.
What we know, based on our collective experience in the field, is that to be a doula in 2015 is to accept one’s role as an activist, and as a change maker. We know that we have the ability to make change through our wisdom, through our strength. Through our love.
Owners, Doula Trainings International
A former communications strategist at a top public affairs firm in Baltimore, Maryland, Cristen Pascucci is the founder of Birth Monopoly, co-creator of the Exposing the Silence Project, and, since 2012, vice president of the national consumer advocacy organization Improving Birth. In that time, she has run an emergency hotline for women facing threats to their legal rights in childbirth, created a viral consumer campaign to “Break the Silence” on trauma and abuse in childbirth, and helped put the maternity care crisis in national media. Today, she is a leading voice for women giving birth, speaking around the country and consulting privately for consumers and professionals on issues related to birth rights and options.
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Absolutley!!…..How can change EVER take place if we are not able to be truthfull with our clients?? Also the OB’s who are advocating “medical birhts” need a “wake up call”……..WOMEN ARE DESIGNED TO BIRTH BABIES 🙂
Honestly, that statement is a bit frightening to me. The problem with this mindset is that it pits healthcare providers as adversaries. I don’t think that allowing women the space to speak for themselves and reserving that right for THEM and them alone in the birthing room is complicit. Being complicit in the very system we seek to transform is perpetuating a culture of adversaries, creating more distance between providers and doulas. Complicit is burning bridges instead of building them. The hierarchy is there and it needs to be addressed from the top down, building relationships and working towards policy changing- not using the birthing room as a battleground. Also, what do you do with the women who WILLINGLY choose not to be informed? Who are we as doulas to MAKE them see? Is that not taking power away? I disagree with this wholeheartedly.
I think this is the reason some hospitals are now banning doulas. That’s right, if we start pitting ourselves against medical staff, they can choose to shut us out altogether. That leaves women who birth in those places (and some don’t have the option to birth elsewhere) without a choice whether or not to have a doula at all. For single moms, that may mean being completely alone in a hospital birth setting. There is a very good reason we need to get along with medical staff. Intentionally pitting ourselves against them can be very detrimental to not only our clients, but every birthing woman in that community.
I think it’s interesting, and I’d like to point out, that the assumption in a couple of these comments here is that anything other than keeping one’s mouth shut = pitting clients/doulas against medical staff. That is absolutely not a fair logical leap. There is a lot that can be done in the middle of that spectrum and that’s exactly what we need to be discussing.
Thank you, DTI. You rock. I loved your training.
Here’s a proactive action I’ve not heard anyone promoting, so I will. Instead of hoping their doula will tell them, find out what others think. Clients and patients can check with Angie’s list when choosing a doctor, and submit their comments and reviews after their birth experience. That way the collective wisdom can be known. If women chose to trust the “doctor gods” rather than their own instincts there is no way a doula can in good faith intervene.
Change makers through love. Yes. And I believe firmly that this can happen when we listen with love to the goals and visions that individual women have for their births. Then we work with women and support them in making wise choices to most effectively and powerfully actualize their vision. Whether we work with organizations like DTI or DONA, whether we work with OBs or midwives, whether we work at home or in hospitals — it is this listening, this wisdom, and love that must guide us. That is what will change the culture of birth. It’s not an us vs. them mentality that will lead the way. It is love.
This response worries me a bit, but I am happy it is opening up conversation. I agree that doulas can promote change in the system, however the birth room is not the appropriate place to do so. Doulas should never bring their baggage into a client’s birth. Our job is to support the client, not to use the birth as a platform for change.
Furthermore, using the birth room as a forum will have the unintended effect of creating more animosity between doulas, nurses and care providers, and potentially have the consequence of doulas being banned from hospitals.
The more appropriate course of action would be to open conversation outside of the birth room. Invite medical professionals to community conversations with doulas. Allow them to share what they like and dislike about doulas, and share our roles and frustrations with them. Allow the oppotunity to share and grow in our understandings of each other first and foremost. Will this solve the problem of the rogue doula or the rogue OB? Not entirely. They will always exist. But the more our professions can communicate and understand each other, the more likely we are to work together cohesively and with respect.