Anne is one of my most favorite doulas in the world. I wish we still lived close to each other so we could work together. She has a different way of looking at things, which makes them more memorable and easy to understand. I thought this post was a great one to end on -- it shows how we can let go of the discomfort that might normally accompany us when it comes to being around and touching others -- as doulas, this is what we do. Enjoy, as Anne shares how she bursts her bubble.
I worked with somebody once that had a definite “bubble” of personal space. It was kinda fun to subtly test the limits of those boundaries. I finally determined, through months of occasional observation and experimentation, that the space was 3 feet. Step, even 1-inch, into that invisible 3-foot force-field, and my subject would move away to reestablish the 3-foot bubble.
I, too, have a bubble. When it comes to supporting a woman in childbirth, I temporarily deflate my bubble to support my client AND the rest of her support team. Conversely, I understand that my client may also have that bubble. So, how does that work in such a short amount of time and in such an intimate setting?
In a combination of ways. Conversation, empathy, care-taking, simply being, and sometimes, sleep deprivation.
Conversation and sleep deprivation Labor room conversations, at least the ones influenced by my quirky personality, can be hilarious. The people in that labor space learn things that –- well, let’s just say that things that happen in the labor space, stay in the labor space. Humans are social. Somebody has a story about skunks, everybody else has to share their story about skunks or some other wildlife interaction, which leads to some other topic like nudist colonies and the technicalities of furniture cleanliness in regard to naked rears. Sleep deprivation just makes it all that much more entertaining. People start shlurring theyr wors an mis..misum.... an people don hwere tings wite.
Empathy I have huge amounts of empathy. The people that have chosen, or have been chosen, to be in the labor space care about the mama in labor. We all want to make the experience easier in whatever way we can. We cheer her on, we give her water, we massage tense muscles, and tell her how beautiful she is. We acknowledge her perception of her experience and help her to see the big picture. We all get giddy when her efforts culminate in 10 glorious centimeters of openness. Pushing is the best. Everybody breathlessly tells her that is the way, just like that, good job…and we grunt and we hold our breath and we push too!
Care-taking The bubble slowly deflates with a soothing of a brow. Light massage. As labor intensifies, the bubble deflates completely. It becomes all hands on deck. Time for position change; one person holds IV lines, another person holds the blankets for privacy screen, another person changes the chux pad, another person physically helps mama roll, the person holding the IV line passes a pillow to the person helping mama roll, the person holding the privacy blanket then wipes mama’s brow with a cool washcloth, and the nurse readjusts the baby monitor-ducking under the person giving the mama a sip of water. All bubbles deflated, we are all up in one another’s business!
Simply being Probably the most important. The care team for my client become protective. We hold the space, her privacy, her concentration, her focus, her rhythm, her ritual, HER ever-evolving strategy for bringing forth her infant into this world. In the early stages of labor, a knock on the door is a welcome distraction. In the final stages, a knock on the door is met with looks of annoyance and protective aggression.
Birth is a short, intense, intimate journey. Some are “mush longer den udders.” Sleep deprivation joke, get it?!? Guffaw, snort! Emotional support begins long before labor begins. Physical intrusion into the bubble is typically a gradual process, becoming more involved as the intensity of labor calls for more support and the temporary removal of the bubble. Informational support never ends. Doulas aren’t medical experts, but we are quite familiar with the key terms to know in the chapter of life called the Journey to Parenthood.
Anne is the youngest of 6 children, which is probably why she gets along well with people. She also grew up on a dairy, which is probably why she gets along with animals. She has two daughters, and is a volunteer 4-H Community Leader. She was one of the original creators of the Chico Doula Circle, volunteered for a hospital-based doula program, and offers gratis support to expectant teen moms. Anne is currently waiting with bated breath to see if she passed the Lamaze Exam to be a Certified Lamaze Childbirth Educator. Find her at Happy Pushing or on Facebook.
As a new doula it can be hard to know what books and blogs can be helpful. Today's post gives a list that is sure to get any new doula rolling in resources!
Every few months, I make a new friend or get reacquainted with someone and I see that twinkle in their eyes when I tell them that I'm a doula. And I know that before long, I'm going to get an email asking me for suggestions of books and blogs they can read to carry on their excitement about maaaybe becoming a doula. I wish I could go out for coffee with everyone who emails me with their maybe-doula excitement, but since I can't, here are my best recommendations to get you thinking about childbirth in America, doula support, and living the life of a doula.
There are so many resources out there, this is really just the very beginning! There are resources for supporting breastfeeding, books for all kinds of birthing methods, and MANY collections of birth stories. And I haven't even touched on the vast area of birth trauma, including resources specific to homebirth cesarean, vaginal birth after cesarean (or VBAC), and supporting survivors of previous trauma and abuse. I'm considering writing a follow-up post on resources for practicing doulas, so let me know if you would like to see this on the blog.
Books, Books, Books
Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care, by Jennifer Block
This is the book to read to get grounded in the information about today's maternity care climate. You might be pumped about doulas because it sounds so lovely to massage a laboring woman's back while she labors in a birthing tub (guilty of that one, myself!). But you need to understand the institutions and practices that affect most birthing families in America to really offer comprehensive support during childbirth.
Birth Ambassadors: Doulas and the Re-Emergence of Woman-Supported Birth in America, by Christine Morton and Elayne Clift
This is actually a book ABOUT doulas and the doula profession! I firmly believe that all doulas should read this book. I found myself doing fist pumps, exclaiming aloud on the subway, and highlighting like mad while reading this book. It's an excellent look at the actually quite varied and disparate world of people practicing as doulas. I wish this book had been around when I started out!
The Birth Partner: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions, by Penny Simkin
The author is one of the mothers of the modern idea of doulas. This book is very rooted in Penny's particular way of providing labor support and style of coping skills, which isn't right for everyone; but it provides solid information to help you and your clients prepare for and cope during labor. I took this with me to my first 10 or so births because it's a resource with so much depth, yet it's easy to use as a reference.
Spiritual Midwifery or Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin
Ina May's books are pretty foundational for birth workers! For some people, the ideas and language in the book are going to seem really out there. I consider myself pretty comfortable with the woo, but I remember being a little overwhelmed at times when I first read Spiritual Midwifery. Still, the birth stories are fantasticand many people find them incredibly empowering. Plus the statistics for birth outcomes at the Farm are outstanding.
Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds, by Cynthia Gabriel
This is the rare birth book actually written by a doula! She has attended a LOT of births, and she is also a medical anthropology researcher. The book is written for parents preparing to have a low-intervention birth in the hospital setting, and is a rich resource for helping clients to prepare! I learned a lot from reading this book, and recommend it now to every client planning for a low-intervention birth in the hospital setting.
Optimal Care in Childbirth: The Case for a Physiologic Approach, by Henci Goer and Amy Romano
Ok, I haven't actually read this book which takes a look at routine maternity care practices and what the evidence says about them. However, this is the newest book written by Henci Goer examining the research behind routine maternity care practices (previously she published Obstetric Myths vs. Research Realities and The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth). This one is based in far more current research. I own and love the other two, but if I was starting out now I would go for this one.
The Radical Doula Guide, by Miriam Zoila Perez
MZP is a reproductive justice activist and writer who has been part of the doula movement for quite a while now. The Radical Doula Guide is a self-published zine/primer on all kinds of political issues relevant to birthing people that many large, mainstream doula training and birth organizations tend to ignore. There's also information for doulas who may or may not see themselves widely represented in their local doula community - such as women of color, men, and queer/trans folks.
Blogs by Doulas
Miriam Zoila Perez's blog. Mostly contains profiles of self-identified radical doulas from all over, plus links to some of MZP's writings about reproductive justice elsewhere.
Doulaing the Doula
Amy Gilliland, PhD, is a DONA doula trainer and researcher. She has been at work for several months on a series of posts laying out the argument for national doula certification. She also writes a lot about the professional and personal developmental stages of doula practice. Intelligent, thoughtful insight into the working lives of professional doulas from someone who has been in the field for decades and is still practicing.
Other Birth Blogs
Evidence Based Birth
I can not sing the praises of this blog often or highly enough! Understanding your options in light of evidence-based birth practices (plus personalized, unconditional support) are at the heart of doula care. This blog has helped out doulas, maternity care providers, and consumers alike by taking the sort of research that is usually hidden behind a pay wall and making it accessible and understandable to a lay audience. Rebecca Dekker's thorough-yet-digestible reviews on the sorts of topics that are increasingly important to many birthing families today are invaluable for helping your clients weigh their options, determine their preferences, and communicate effectively with their maternity care provider to achieve their desired outcomes.
Primarily a mother-to-mother or consumer-focused organization, Improving Birth also focuses on the importance of evidence-based care practices in maternity care. They also advocate for consumer rights and awareness around maternity care practices, and local communities can organize Improving Birth Rallies around the country in conjunction with Labor Day. A great organization to pay attention to if activism and advocacy are important parts of your interest in doula work.
Science & Sensibility
The blog of the Lamaze Childbirth Educators organization, Science & Sensibility is another great resource for understanding current research and writings about maternity care practices. Henci Goer and Amy Romano both write for this excellent blog. It sometimes also contains useful business information for doulas and childbirth educators.
After several years as a practicing doula, I invested in the 100% Doula Business Foundation Training course this past year. No one thing has ever been such a big help to improving my doula business! My only complaint about this course is that I didn't have it when I was starting out as a doula. I so believe in this training that I would encourage any doula starting out in solo practice to jump on this when it is open. The course opens every February and September. Check it out!
Finally, doulas are HUGE on social media, so searching for the hashtags #doula, #doulas, #doulalove, or other things like that on your favorite social media site will turn up tons of fun Doula and midwife accounts. I like @carriagehousebirth, @ancientsong and @homesweethomebirth on Instagram. On Facebook, I love reading Peggy Vincent's birth stories from her days as a homebirth and hospital midwife in Berkeley.
Emily Landry is an experienced toLabor-certified Birth Doula, a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC), a Licensed Massage Therapist, and a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator serving families in the Tulsa, OK area. When she's not attending births or teaching childbirth classes, you might find her working to improve the local community, coloring in quirky coloring books, playing games with friends, reading the newest book about birth, or running around town with her wife Emily (yep, they have the same first name!) They love visiting local restaurants, stores and coffee shops, and seem to run into previous clients every time they pop into Target or Sprouts. In 2015, Emily was interviewed by the Dearest Doula podcast about her life as a birthworker.
I got great news over the weekend, which gave me the idea for today's post. I then asked other doulas to share something they love -- it could be tangible or intangible. Something that makes us smile. Something that makes us cry. Something that keeps us connected to this work we do. I loved that the responses I got were all so different, yet they are pretty universal when it comes to doula work.
I received a simple text message on Saturday, and it made my day. "Hey, Stacie -- we will be needing you again!"
"I can never get over the shock and awe when parents see their baby for the very first time. So much emotion, so much love, so much birth ❤️." Ashley Rodside
"I love watching partners take over and lead the coaching they just saw from me a minute ago. Then, I can fall back into the ether while they labor without me."
-Sarah Branion of Wonderstruck Doula Service
"That moment of instantaneous relief and pure ecstasy as the new mom and dad meet their baby for the first time."
-Brittany Kurtzhals of Holding Space Birth
"I love it when I am working with a mom who has valid fears and she overcomes them. They are so happy that they did it!!"
-Erin Swart of Erin's Doula & Birth Services
"The look on mom's face when she sees her baby and realizes she did it!"
-Courtney Little of Little Miracles Birth Services
"When I watch a partner or dad tuned into the laboring person's needs, and I know that my job is simply to hold space for that magic to happen.
-Andrea Hewitt of East Nashville Doula
"I love watching new dyads getting the first feeding latch -- the look on the face that says 'Wow, I'm doing it!'"
-Vicki Bloom of Whole Self Doula
"The tangible relief and burden lifted I watch happen in families when they know they have someone (their doula) who's going to be like their guide through the process!"
-Camille Nyman of Abundant Birth Support
I love Sharon and her creativity, and what an idea machine she is! She is great to brainstorm with -- I lay out all my half-baked imaginings, and Sharon helps plug the holes into a complete activity, or she offers an additional use of something I came up with. When I asked her to share in this year's 31 Days, I had a vague idea I tried to (poorly) convey: "...something about motivating yourself to write when it's the last thing you want to do. How do you come up with creative content, over and over and over?" Well Sharon has figured it out. She took that seed of an idea and grew this amazing, inspiring post, sure to help any new or blocked-blogger out there.
As a birth or postpartum doula, writing blog posts may seem like a lot of extra work for no reward, but I would like to suggest just the opposite. Positioning yourself as an expert on topics that come up during the childbearing year is a great way to establish yourself as an up-to-date professional, attract more business and provide resources to your current clients. Many doulas are hesitant to blog or don’t know how to start or what to write about. I have collated 45 tips, resources and potential topics that you can use to get your professional blogging off the ground or maintain momentum if you already blog.
Blogging can create new business opportunities for you and helps you share your expertise with other professionals, potential clients and the general public. It doesn’t have to take up lots of time or even be done every week. A regular and informative blog can help you to highlight your skills and can be fun to write. I challenge you to write a post and email me with a link, I will be sure to circle back to your blog and leave a comment! I look forward to reading what you have written.
Sharon Muza, BS, CD(DONA) BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, CLE has been an active childbirth professional since 2004, teaching Lamaze classes to over a thousand families and providing doula services to more than 450 expectant families through her private practice in Seattle, Washington. She is an instructor at the Simkin Center, Bastyr University where she is a birth doula trainer. Sharon is also a trainer with Passion for Birth, a Lamaze-Accredited Childbirth Educator Program. In 2015, Sharon was awarded Lamaze International’s Media Award for promoting safe and healthy birth. Sharon has been an engaging speaker at international conferences on topics of interest to birth professionals and enjoys collaborating with others to share ideas and information that benefit birth professionals and families. You can find Sharon blogging on Lamaze International’s Science & Sensibility and DONA International’s DONA Doula Chronicles. To learn more about Sharon, you are invited to visit her website, SharonMuza.com.
(I love this picture -- these are some of my fellow doulas in the Bakersfield, CA area.)
For three years now...
I have hosted a celebration of doulas on my blog. The original idea was something I thought of, literally, on April 31, 2014. I was struck with the idea of trying to feature 31 days of guest posts written for doulas, by doulas, or about doulas. International Doula Month is every May, so this didn't give me much time to act! I quickly contacted a doula friend who had recently shared a blog post about all the things she learns at births, and that was Day 1 of 31 Days of Doulas, 2014. As the days progressed, I sought out other pieces, either crafted for this project, or previously written, to feature on my blog. This was overwhelming to tackle, but so rewarding! So rewarding, in fact, that this project carried into 31 Days of Doulas 2015, and 31 Days of Doulas 2016.
Sometimes doulas or families approach me with a piece to share. Sometimes I know something of someone, and I ask if they would consider contributing an original essay or article to the project. I have also stumbled upon other blog posts related to doulas, and sought permission to repost them on my blog. My most favorite thing ever about acting as editor in this role is when I know there is a story in someone, and I can encourage them of its value and help bring the words to life, now having meaning for someone else -- people who never thought they could write, people who never thought anyone else would care to hear that story -- proud of what they created and pleased to see how that helps others.
Because I love to blog, I created a Facebook group Blogging About Birth. My intention is for this to be a place where birth workers can share ideas, new bloggers can be mentored and buoyed up, and experienced bloggers can be challenged and revived. I love seeing what members share and what projects they are up to.
Each year I prepare a little earlier, because the 31 Days project is a hefty one! Generally I spend one hour a day editing, formatting, putting together the layout, creating or procuring graphics, linking, posting, and writing introductory/closing remarks for each post -- and that doesn't factor in the time connecting with the various authors. If I am lucky, I can stay one or two days ahead of schedule, and beg, borrow, or steal from friends and people I know if contributions are coming up short.
I am always looking for posts that relate to doulas -- if you are interested, please, let me know! And now, I end stealing words I wrote to close out the first 31 Days of Doulas: "At this point, I feel I am out of words! I can only say amazing so many times to describe this project. I am grateful for all I learned. I am grateful for the help you gave when you participated. I appreciate the time it takes to dig deep, sort, and get it all out on the computer screen. Thank you. I have learned so, so much from all of you.
All you Doulas out there, keep loving and serving families and being shaped by your experiences. And when you get a few minutes, don't forget to write."
Some of my favorites from past years
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)