“New School” Doulas: A Paradigm Shift
I’ve been a doula for a long time.
During my 19 years in this work, I’ve taken trainings from a number of certification organizations. I’ve taken both in-person doula trainings and online doula trainings.
The vast majority have been centered around “making sure that our clients are making informed decisions” or “birth left undisturbed is best, and we advocate for natural birth, because it’s best for moms and babies.”
Thing is, that never really resonated deeply with me.
For many years, I bought into the party line and I “educated” my clients on all the dangers of interventions should they choose them, all because my trainings had taught me that “If women don’t know their options, they don’t have any.” I spent many years really unprepared, believing that if women knew their choices, that of course they’d make the best ones, by making an informed decision.
At times it was deeply frustrating not being able to truly understand why things weren’t playing out like I’d expected them to. Like I’d been trained to expect them to.
As time passed I became more and more disenchanted. I wanted more. I was an “old dog” and I was craving “new tricks.”
I spent a lot of time paying attention to this woman in my online doula forums. She had a fire, a true passion for this work and she didn’t seem to get caught up in all that “This is what the evidence says is best” kind of stuff. She’d been a doula for about a year longer than I and she had some drastically different ideas about what doulas do and the potential for doulas at large to support their families. She was also the CEO of a new certification organization and I’d been watching her trainers as well.
So I watched. I analyzed what she and the trainers had to say. I ran it through my own filters and I started to get uncomfortable.
Like really uncomfortable.
It was like I was in the wrong skin.
In the wrong headspace and I needed to break out.
I was being moved.
I was being called.
I was hungry to learn more.
I’d been evading this woman for months. She wanted to talk on the phone and I was like “Whoa there, IDK if I’m ready for that.” You see, phone calls from leaders of certification organizations weren’t a good experience for me. I’d learned to expect the worst…
So, one day I said yes. We had that first phone call and it was so refreshing. Someone saw me for who I really was, valued me for my opinions. She was coming to my town in a few months so I signed up for the Advanced Business Training and decided to see if she could deliver.
Boy did she deliver. The day of that training, Tucson Doulas was born.
In the months that followed we had many conversations. One of those conversations included a cross certification option so that already trained and certified doulas could become a doula with ProDoula through a pathway that already acknowledged the hard work they’d done. I told her that if she ever decided on this option, I was in. 100%
It wasn’t long after that ProDoula’s cross-certification program was launched and I was the first to sign up.
A few months later a call went out for letters of intent to become a ProDoula trainer. I answered that call with a letter of my own. Never before had I been inspired to want to train others.
But in those few months I had learned so much. I learned what non-judgmental support was and how to truly provide it. I learned why some clients didn’t want to make “informed decisions”, and more importantly I learned how to truly support them. I learned so much more than I’d ever learned in any other training with any other organization.
As the summer turned into fall I spoke at the first annual ProDoula conference. That same winter after completing my certification, I became a ProDoula trainer.
In 3 the years that have followed I’ve seen the landscape of doula work change.
Doulas are realizing that they are not responsible for outcomes.
Doulas are speaking out about providing support to clients free of judgment.
Doulas are realizing that they don’t empower their clients.
There’s no rush to “fix” a labor that isn’t broken. There’s attunement to the client and their needs. Doulas are learning how to support all clients, even the ones who don’t care about making “informed decisions.”
That wasn’t a part of the dialogue before. It’s an emerging part of the current dialogue today.
There’s a “new school” of doulas who love what they do. They have a deep understanding of how to provide clients with what the client needs. They understand that their personal beliefs have no place in their conversations or interactions with their clients.
They realize that doing what you love and getting paid fairly to do so means that this is (finally) a profession they can support their families while doing.
They are refreshed to not carry the burdens that other trainings have laid at the doula’s feet. We have a clearly defined role. One that puts the client’s needs first. As it should be. As it always should have been.
Welcome to the New School. Pull up a chair.