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Doulas Are (Not)

January 28, 2019

 

Recently, there has been an article circling the internet about a doula who has recently been charged in connection with the death of an newborn. Upon reading the article, the details painted a picture of an unassisted home birth and a doula who was way outside of her scope. I wasn’t there and fully understand that there are two (sometimes multiple) sides to every story. There are only three people who will ever know the events that unfolded over a long and hard labor- a broken set of parents and a doula. My heart breaks for them and I in no way judge them or their choices, they’ve been through more than most of us have ever experienced. But as a fellow doula, I feel compelled to set the record straight. This story, as heartbreaking as it is, adds more fear and confusion towards things like doulas, midwives, and home births. As far as doulas go, this is not who we are and this is not what we do. We serve mommas. We serve families. We offer informational, physical, and emotional support. We are trained professionals with our own scope of practice. We are not in any way, shape, or form, medical professionals. I can study and work to inform my clients all day long on medical procedures and interventions, but at the end of the day being “well-versed” in these things does not make me qualified to perform them. Personally, I have great respect for those who are- be it a nurse, an OB, or a Midwife- I am grateful for them and their skills. I love mommas, and I love supporting the births they choose. But at the end of the day, I’m not a midwife. I’m not a doctor. Having me or any other doula at your unassisted home birth, doesn’t make it assisted. It’s just a cold, hard, truth. While in most cases, birth is normal and many women are perfect candidates for home birth- if a problem arises, a doula is not capable of saving you or your sweet babe.  

So maybe I’ve set your mind at ease about doulas, but what about home birth? Isn’t that recklessly dangerous? No, it’s not. While many may not be in favor of it, it’s perfectly fine for most women- under one condition- being in the care of a skilled midwife. Midwives are highly trained to handle a variety or situations, emergent or not. They are also trained to know when something falls outside of their scope and transfer is needed. I’ve birthed three babies of my own, two with OBs (both phenomenal) and one with a CNM. I love all three birth experiences and felt enormously safe and cared for in all three. I assure you that in comparison, the knowledge my CNM exhibited throughout my pregnancy, birth, and postpartum was no different than the times I have been with an OB. I think as a culture who is so far removed from the normalcy of birth (hospital or home) we have this idea that doulas and midwives are one in the same. We picture either of them showing up to a home donning a long dress, and carrying nothing but some warm wash cloths. This picture couldn’t be more wrong. When I first began my path to birth work, I once met a midwife. Having been someone who has been a known bleeder in my births, I was always curious to know what would this look like in a home birth? How would a midwife stop this bleed? So I did what we should all do, rather than just assume she’d let me bleed out, I asked. Her answer was incredibly interesting to me. She first explained about some natural remedies that can be attempted first, but ultimately explained two drugs that she has on hand for those scenarios. You know what? They were the same two drugs I have received when bleeding after my own hospital births. This was a turning point moment for me. Natural birth isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. Doulas aren’t for everyone, and that’s okay. Home births aren’t for everyone, and that’s okay. But if you do want these things- great! Just know the value of a doula aware of her scope and a skilled midwife. Don’t settle for less!
As far as the aforementioned headline story, it breaks my momma heart. It infuriates my doula heart. We may never know the full truth behind the story. But the story that is there does lead me to believe that had appropriate measures been taken, outcomes may have been different. So when you see this headline floating around your local mommy groups, please know that this is not an accurate representation of all birth workers.  

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