I think that there tends to be a “stereotypical” idea that a doula is a hippie, drum beating, chanting, essential oil using, only un-medicated vaginal birth supporting, feminist woman. The truth is like society, doulas come in all shapes, sizes, colors, religions, political beliefs, and genders. When I decided to become a doula I had some of my own assumptions shattered. As I have been involved in many conversations on different doula forums on Facebook I have been shocked and saddened by some viewpoints and educated and enlightened by others.
The hallmark description of a Doula is a woman (typically but may also be a man) who supports another woman through pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period with educational, physical, and emotional support. You notice this description says nothing about the method of birth or judging a mom for her decisions or beliefs? It doesn’t say support a woman with an un-medicated birth, or vaginal only birth, or only if she believes in gun control or abortion or “insert polarizing political opinion here”.
The other hallmark of a doula is that she is non-judgmental. So, while some may believe that a vaginal birth is the most desirable, she should not impose that opinion on her clients. She should offer any education on subject matter that her client requests and once the client has made a decision based on the resources she has requested, which sometimes is no resources at all, the doula should support her client in that decision. An example of why this is important is the woman who has survived sexual abuse in the past. A vaginal birth may be much too traumatic for that woman and if she had a doula who pushed the issue, it could cause her to feel like a cesarean birth is something to be ashamed of! That could not be further from the truth, as any method of birth is the right one, as long as the mother is happy with it!
These hallmark definitions are all great qualities that anyone interested in a doula should appreciate. The problem is, many doulas are not judgment free, especially when it comes to each other. As I stated above, doulas come in all backgrounds and sometimes those backgrounds, or cultures if you will, conflict.
You see, there are a large population of doulas who believe that if you don’t agree with their definition of non-judgment then you shouldn’t be a doula. Ideas like abortion can really emphasis this point. This is one of those assumptions that were shattered that shocked and saddened me. That a profession that witnesses the birth and life of babies every day would support abortion was confusing to me. More than that though, when expressing a prolife stance some doulas shame prolife doulas. They shame us for suggesting that clients who may be considering this option be given more information and even go as far as suggesting we are against women’s rights or are patriarchal and misogynistic. If I wanted to give a client information about the Compassion Women’s Center in Inola, or Crisis Pregnancy Outreach in Jenks, or Dayspring Villa in Tulsa, which offer alternatives to abortion, I was accused of “pushing my agenda” on them.
I for one, am tired of being made to feel like I must be an awful person because I don’t fit some person’s idea of what I should be. I recently learned the term “gas lighting”. This term can be described as a manipulation an abuser uses to make a victim feel like they are the bad guy and the abuser is the victim and in doing so may make the victim question their own sanity. The victim doesn’t have the intention of being a bad person and doesn’t understand how they are being “bad” but the abuser tells them they are and shames them for it. The same can be said for those who are being made to feel like they are judgmental and shouldn’t be doulas because they don’t hold the same principles as someone else in the field. If you don’t use “inclusive language” or support a woman through an abortion, you must be a bigot who wants to send women back a hundred years in regards to women’s rights.
I live in Claremore Oklahoma and MOST of this area and state believe in the same principles that I hold. Yes, there are many people who do not. I do not treat them with anything but love and kindness because I recognize that we can believe different things and not be offended by that fact. I have had prolife and prochoice clients, I have had pro 2nd amendments and pro- gun control clients, I have had ultra conservative and ultra-liberal clients. In my area though, for the most part, my clients are going to appreciate that I am prolife. They are going to appreciate that I have Christian values and not only will offer them judgmental free support in how they wish to birth their babies, but I will pray with them if they need me to. Because of this, I don’t hide who I am and what I believe.
You see, there is a doula for everyone. It is my goal to be a doula for anyone. I usually don’t offer up any political views to my clients because they are irrelevant to the support I provide. But I will not be silent about it, especially to my colleagues when they act like everyone holds the same values and are somehow horrible people if they don’t.
If we want the doula profession to gain more traction and become more widely known among professional circles, doulas need to understand that there are more beliefs and cultures in our country than just theirs. This is a big sentiment among doulas already but it is always in reference to minority populations with cultures outside the “mainstream”. The problem is though that this doesn’t only apply to “marginalized” populations but also to main stream culture as well. If we are going to insist all cultures and beliefs be respected, let’s make sure ALL cultures are included.