Who is NOT a doula

What would you think if someone said to you “I’ve been going to the dentist all my life. You’re scheduled for oral surgery? I’ll do it.” I tried to hide my cringe when a friend told me how enthusiastically her sister in law volunteered to be her dentist. I know that offer was sincere, heartfelt, and from a place of love. I know that woman learned a lot in her dental exams and has wonderful gifts to share. But the truth is, she’s not a dentist. OH WAIT. I mean a doula. She’s not a doula.

I often hear people laying claim to the role of doula. Your friend might offer to be your doula. But she can’t (unless she, in fact IS a doula.) Doulas have special training. Hospitals claim their nurses can be your doula(s).  But they can’t. They’re busy being nurses. Midwives may claim they or their assistants can be your doulas. But they can’t either. They’re busy being the midwives or assistants to the midwives. I know many midwives and nurses have doula training. They certainly have a lot of birth experience. In fact, some started out as doulas before finding passion for another birthing role. The experiences of nurses, midwives, and doulas overlap. For example, a non-doula team member might make an awesome positioning suggestion and I love it when I’m on a team that is cohesive enough to allow for that. But if they are there as your nurses/midwives/midwife assistants, then their first priorities are to those roles. If there is a moment when they have to choose between staying with you during a contraction and doing something related to their other role, they will have to choose that other role. Because that’s what they are there for.

Being a doula is a role in its own right. It is NOT the light version of being a midwife or something midwives have to do before they become midwives (although that happens.) Some of us have specialties such as music therapy, but those specialties enhance rather than conflict with the support role a doula plays. It is not something that can be done while doing something else. It is a full time and intense role. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some awesome nurses and midwives. Having them there to make sure baby is doing well, presenting options for the situation, and fulfilling their very important medical role is essential. I feel so comfortable knowing that stuff, stuff that I know very little about is taken care of by someone who is qualified in that area. I cannot do those things. An experienced doula friend of mine who is going through her midwifery training summed it up by saying “It’s a very different head space to be in.”

So the next time someone offers to be your doula, consider the following 2 questions:

Does she have doula training?

Is this person going to be fulfilling a different role at your birth?

The offer is likely coming from a place of love and an attempt to honor your birth wishes, but she may not be a dentist. I mean doula.