Sharon Muza, BS, CD(DONA), BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, CLE
2018 will be the 15th year of defining myself as a professional doula and childbirth educator. Much has changed in that decade and a half, and yet much has remained the same. I am feeling reflective as I round the corner toward 500 births and welcoming thousands of families in my childbirth classes. I am proud to include in my experiences the more than 1200+ doulas I have trained in my role as an instructor at the Simkin Center at Bastyr Unversity. Overall, I consider myself lucky that I have been so rich in opportunity and experiences in the past 15 years. I am truly grateful.
Some years ago, I had the chance to view a presentation prepared by Anni Grauer, AdvCD/AdvPCD(DONA), BDT/PDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, IBCLC, RLC, where she shared some thoughts as an older, wiser doula to her younger self. She was, as usual, spot on. I share her reflections as I close my doula workshops, as her ruminations are fantastic. Her thoughts have been on my mind and as the year draws to a close, I wanted to share some of my own reflections that I wish I had known when I started this journey to support families as they welcomed babies.
- I am not the doula for everyone. That is just fine. I know there is a doula for everyone who wants one.
- Listen more than I talk.
- Always ask “do you want more information about that?” and listen for the “yes” before sharing any information.
- Your birth is NEVER about me.
- Say what I do and do what I say. Always. My word is my reputation.
- Sometimes (often) I do not have the answer. Sometimes I cannot find the answer. That is okay. Some things may be meant to remain unfound.
- The person who is doing the most talking is doing the most learning. (thanks, BFF Teri Shilling.)
- My time and my knowledge are valuable and it is okay to be compensated well for them.
- My time and my knowledge are valuable and it is okay to not be compensated for them if I so choose.
- Just when I think I have birth all figured out, it pops me on the side of the head and laughs at my cockiness.
I could probably add several more, but instead, I am more curious about what you wish you had known when you started on this journey working with families during the childbearing year. Please share in the comments so that we can all learn and share our experiences. I am also richer for having magnificent colleagues to learn from as well. Will you share your year-end reflections with me and the blog readers?
It’s ok to take a week long break.
When you’ve given 100% and the client still isn’t completely satisfied learn from it and grow-on.
It takes awhile to find your niche in the community. So trust the process and keeping doula-ing one family at a time.
True, but I often need a more than a week. You have shared some wise advice.
I’ve always thought that the one who is listening more is learning more. Can one learn while talking?
Hi Julie – this references active learning and adult learning principles. People will generally learn more and recall more of what they are learning if they are participatory, engaged and active during the learning process. An example: I can listen to a powerpoint presentation of someone else talking and presenting or I can research the subject and present to my peers. I will generally retain more info if I do the research and teach backs. A great series of books and website to follow is Sharon Bowman’s Brain-Based Learning.
Sharon I can relate to all of the above! When I first started out as a birth doula 20 years ago, you know back in the day when you had to wear a pager, I would rush rush rush to the momma thinking I had to get right there and FAST! If I were out and about I would stop at any house along the way that was closest if the beeper went off and call the family from someone’s home I didn’t even know, to let them know I was on my way there! Then once I got right there (because my birth bag was in the car at all times ….just incase) I would find her smiling and chatting and just in early early labor! I do it differently now! The momma calls me in early labor and we talk and discuss and I have her call back in an hour or so to keep me updated and then I go at the right time for her, sometimes right away and sometimes a bit later. It is fun though thinking back at those early days, and it is just as exciting today as it was then!
Thank you for sharing! The “not the doula for everybody” is a hard lesson sometimes. I haven’t turned down very many people, but it is sometimes necessary. And, not everyone is going to pick me.
Some of mine:
– Sometimes Doulas interact with the partner the most. You are still supporting the laboring woman even if you don’t interact with her.
– Every birth is different. I know this may seem like a “duh” but it is true and important to remember. Support from one birth can look completly different at another birth.
– Find a Doula village. Find women who are passionate about the same things you are. Women who know what you are going though. Women you can bounce ideas off of. Find your tribe! Never take them for granted.