This reflective piece was written from the heart by Natalie Fay after her completion of the BirthBliss Aspiring Doula Foundation course. Wanted to share it with you all!
Taking the doula course was the best decision I made. Tainted by a view presented by the midwifery world, I felt like I was shown a world I thought I knew about but really knew nothing. After having taking the course I felt that I was better able to see why doulas sometimes have a falsely presented image and I truly feel it's one of mere jealousy.
When I started out on my journey to be a midwife, it was a roller coaster, the first year was bliss, exactly what I envisioned the job to be; caring relentlessly for the woman, learning all about the anatomy and physiology of birth and assisting women in bringing little miracles into the world.
On reflection, this was all made possible because of having a midwife-mentor who made sure we had all the correct equipment, documenting every move, paying attention for all deviations, insuring everything was ok. I was able to focus on the discovery of the profession by mostly observing, allowing most of my time to be spent supporting incredible and brave women.
By my second year, the truth of midwifery set upon me and I soon realised my first year was a taster of a fantasy I had once called midwifery. I was juggling care with documentation with chasing equipment and doctors, waiting for results, rushing samples. My attention quickly went from the woman, to her clinical situation - my focus was reading CTG machines and ensuring I had documented every time, tracking toilet visits and monitoring pain or planning the care plan.
The joy and exhilaration from such a wonderful job slowly diminished. To say there was no joy is utterly incorrect as I still view it as one of the most amazing professions I have had the chance to be part of, however in countries where covering our footsteps seems to take presidency, the care midwives wish to give, the care and support they long to be able to provide (like in their first year of training) is no longer possible.
This leads me to my original point about jealousy. Having taken this course I realise that a midwife is essentially a doula when she first decides to become a midwife. What she imagines in her mind is being a doula who is also clinically trained. That's the dream, to offer the support, comfort and encouragement every woman deserves in labour and childbirth. This however quickly becomes impossible. When someone is able to do exactly what you long to do yet are not always able to and they are only having to focus on the one element, not only does that allow for jealousy to grow but I think it only leaves room to multiply when the one aspect of the job you love the most is then given to someone else.
Having taken this course I absolutely understand that a doula is in no way trying to take away the position of the midwife, yet work together. I found it so insightful to realise what I believe to be a prominent reason for the friction between some midwives (mostly delivery suite) and doulas. Natural, justified jealousy, which can easily be overcome.
Having addressed the negativity I have felt around the profession of being a doula in my head, I found it so great to feel free to enjoy the course and take away so much value in the caring element of the birth journey. I feel like at times doulas are undermined. The course was an eye opener on the change that can be brought about merely through support and the impact a doula’s support can have on a woman’s birth experience and birth story.
I think my history as a student midwife will both help and hinder me. I feel like my two years in midwifery allows me to feel confident in stepping out to doula as I feel secure in the knowledge I can offer women to make informed decisions and the priceless experience of caring for women in all walks of life with a diverse spectrum of labours and outcomes. Midwifery pushed my boundaries and helped me learn how I deal with difficult scenarios and how I can best offer support. I learnt to adapt to the woman and learnt to pick up on different signals women show depending on the kind of support they would like or need.
I feel through midwifery I have learnt to reflect on a situation and on myself and my care which I find is such a vital necessary tool to progress and learn from a situation but not everyone finds it easy, midwifery taught me to allow reflection to become second nature and that a situation that didn't go exactly right can always be used to learn and improve next time, which is priceless in preparation.
Midwifery has also allowed me to be extremely grateful for being a doula and not only enjoy the job of being a doula, but to respect it. When I was a student midwife really what I yearned for was what doulas get to do and midwives want to but don't always have the time. So I feel very blessed and lucky and I think the midwifery background allows me to feel the gratitude to a deeper level than I would have before.
My midwifery training will hinder me because I feel like I may know too much. I will have to learn to let go of analysing situations clinically. I will have to retrain myself to not be in the medical moment but in the magic of the moment, to lose the control of the situation and direct my energy to only the woman. I have to learn that it's not my job to follow guidelines or steer women to make certain decisions but to support the woman through the informed choices she makes. I will need to learn to let go of responsibility and to focus my mind and energy on the needs of the woman.
I think being a midwife or a doula is a continuous journey of self-study and learning. I don't think you should ever stop so as far as any specific areas .. Everything! I really feel like I want to first develop my knowledge around fear in childbirth and pain management. I have seen how fear and pain can turn a beautiful birth into horrendous one and that having deep knowledge to help different kinds of women through that would be paramount in my journey becoming a better doula. I also feel like as I previously mentioned, letting go of parts of my midwifery past will also be a journey of learning I need to venture down.
I just wanted to add the biggest thank you! Kicki not only are you Swedish (plus points) but you are honestly such an amazing instructor. The balance within your course felt as though it had been carefully crafted but really it was you. I honestly think anyone who goes to this course will feel inspired to be the best doula they can be and any woman who has you as a birth partner is a very lucky lady! Thank you for everything! Tack ;)
Kicki Hansard is a member of Doula UK, however any opinions expressed on this blog are personal views and not necessarily the view of Doula UK.