Birth attendants: worth more than burger-flippers at McD's, I hope.

I feel frustrated when birth work isn’t valued, particularly by the women who claim they want it. Most of the time, women who want doulas realize the value of having a doula. But there are some who just don’t get it. I think this is more with regards to doula work than midwifery. With midwifery, the care is more tangible. With doula work, it’s a little more difficult to see on the surface; we’re not always “doing” something.

(I could easily go off on a tangent right now how our entire society and our whole nation doesn’t seem to value birth work, versus other countries who subsidize doulas. See “Sicko” and note the part in France with the postpartum doula, who the government provides for free for all women. And I don’t want to debate France, since so many people in our country are anti-France; I’m just making the point that the French value birth work. And we don’t. Le sigh.)

I’m also thinking about trusting my instincts with regards to the doula clients I take. I’ve gotten burned over that one. It’s just so difficult for me to turn down doula clients. Here’s why:

1. I do this because I want to help women have positive birth experiences, and most of the women who hire me choose to birth in a hospital, and they need all the help they can get!

2. There are eleventy-million doulas here, far more doulas than women who want a doula. So getting hired makes me feel good — I feel validated. I realize that this is my ego talking, and I shouldn’t look at it like it’s about me, because it’s not. When I was pregnant with Allegra, I met several doulas and none of them were the right one. It wasn’t anything personal. And when someone I meet with chooses another doula, I feel okay about it because all of the local doulas I know are fantastic, and I usually feel confident that the woman will be in good hands. But it does feel good to get hired.

3. Money. Being a doula is a business, and I deserve compensation for my work.

I spend a lot of time and energy on my clients. Even if I’m not in constant communication with them, I’m thinking about them, I’m googling things and learning things that might help them with their birth, I’m emailing with them or talking on the phone. When I’m on call, my life is on hold. I’m usually sleeping with one ear open, as it were. Going through Helping Hands, my apprentice workbook, most midwives said the most difficult part of being a midwife is that your client owns you, and I’d agree. It can be sucky. Emily once had a client go into labor when we were at a party that was really far away. I’ve had a birth on Christmas eve and Christmas day. Tomorrow I’m going for an interview with a woman who lives an hour away.

I’ve attended a birth that started Sunday evening and she didn’t give birth til Wednesday evening. Leigh once said that midwives need their faculties about them after the baby is born; but that isn’t true for doulas! We work like mules. We can totally deplete ourselves, physically and emotionally, and we often do.


2 Responses

  1. Hey Erika – this is just a general blog comment, not just related to this post. I just realized you had this blog last night and read every entry – it’s really good! I’m so incredibly excited (and jealous) about all that you’re doing in the birth field right now and am *dying* to have you tell me all about how AAMI goes b/c that’s currently my #1 choice for school. But as you’ve found, they aren’t MEAC accredited and I’m not sure I’m up for the challenge surrounding challenging the NARM, etc. I’d love to hear more about the whole “path to education” thing you’re learning about. Maybe there’s still some hope… Oh, and does AAMI give you pressure about being (non)religious? That was a red flag for me since I’m totally not religious. I don’t want to be pressured, kwim?

  2. So I had this woman call me recently and wanted me to doula her for free. She was 36 weeks and already scheduled to be induced. I just couldn’t bring myself to take her and not get paid. I knew we were looking at at least 8-12 hours of prenatal education minimum (she knew next to nothing–I’d be surprised if she knew what her cervix was), a long tiring birth that would probably end in a c-section (it was and it did), and then probably a lot of post birth work with breastfeeding and processing the experience. And while I called every doula in town no one was willing to do it for FREE. We deserve fair compensation and appreciation for all that we do.

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