A Wonderful GUEST post by Charlie at The Good Birth Practice…
If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.
John H. Kennell, American Professor of Pediatrics
It’s been a good couple of weeks for doulas. Last week; the whole did-she-
didnt-she around Meghan Markle’s birth of Baby Thing. This week Amy
Schumer acknowledging that women are the shit, and recommending that
women get a doula (if they can... recommendations on how to find *your*
doula at the bottom, even if you think you can’t afford one). Doulas seem to
be the next trend for women seeking to make the whole birth experience a
bit more, well, bearable.
So why didn’t I hire a doula? After all, I’m a tub-thumping advocate for
positive birth. I’ve known about doulas since I was first pregnant in 2010. I
know some absolutely incredible, inspiring, preconception-challenging
doulas who’ve changed my world (Steph Grainger, Lauren Derrett,
Louise Daniels, I’m talking about YOU, Ladies). I know exactly what doulas
do, and why they’re important - and yet I STILL didn’t have one at any of
my 3 births.
The answer? Well, there are two; Susie and Tina.
Womens strongest feelings, positive and negative,
focus on the way they were treated by their caregivers
Annie Kennedy & Penny Simkin,
Doulas support women. Our purpose is to quietly gently lean in. To
bolster women. To nurture them, focus on them. Practically, we inspire
confidence by sign-posting to resources, groups, information. We hear
concerns, reassuring where we recognise common experiences, and gently
prompting, referring to the appropriate support. We listen to women,
giving the space, time that is no longer afforded pregnancy, so that
thoughts, feelings, expectations, assumptions can be processed. We
NEVER make clinical assumptions, recommendations or opinions. Perhaps
most importantly of all, we provide continuity of care. That continuity is
important because we learn about the whole woman, and the context she
comes from. It means we can see her fully, and facilitate the environment
she needs to have her baby in. It’s not just hippy dippy doulas that believe
this. Last weekend, to coincide with International Day of the Midwife, NHS
England announced the doubling of funding to maternity services to £40
million, with a focus on the provision of a named midwife for pregnant
women to see throughout their pregnancy.
Safety for childbearing women and their partners and
families...means emotional, psychological, and social
safety. This holistic sense of safety is what (women)
receive through continuity models of care.
All these reasons above are why I trained to be a doula AND why I didn’t
need to hire one for my own births. Because from the moment I attended
my first ‘booking in’ appointment in 2010 I have been lucky enough to be
cared for by the same two women. These women - Susie, Tina - kept
skilled eyes on me, my babies for nearly 120 weeks over 5 years. They
listened in, they dipped sticks in wee, they palpated, and they measured.
More than that though, more than the numbers & the graphs, they listened
to me. They visited me at home. They gave me options. They didn’t
ridicule, patronise or deride me - quite the opposite. They gave me the
information, the protocols and explained why things were as they were -
and then they listened to what I wanted and why, and they helped me get
it. They were practical and rational, and empathetic. They trusted me, and
so I trusted them. They lit candles around my bath. They held my hand and
eye contact. They smiled at each other and my husband as I disappeared
further into myself, my labour. They whispered love into my ear. They
became part of my family, and I became part of theirs.
So you see, I didn’t have any need for a doula at all. My midwives doula’ed
me beyond anything I could ever have imagined I might want or need.
And not just me. I live in a community of women who have deep love for
Susie and Tina. Women who well up on the street corners when they realise I
know them, and who recall quiet words, small moments and powerful
memories months and years old. Because birth marks us in ways beyond
So I know how lucky I am not to have needed a doula - and I will always
pay that forward in any way I can.
You can find a doula at the Doula UK website. If your budget is limited, talk
to mentored doulas who may be pleased to support you as they work
towards their recognised status. They may also be able to refer to you to
the Doula UK access fund.