In some cases these mums have a right to be disgruntled - a couple of those so-called "doulas" were operating well outside of our scope of practice. Very scary for the mum who has never had the support of a good doula to read, and horrifying for the doulas who do their jobs well and stay within our scope of practice.
One of the prevalent things mentioned in these particular articles and blog posts describes doulas as "Airy Fairy Hippies who promote themselves as producers of births that are so good and wonderful that they are like rainbows and unicorns" (this is my take on the statements made in these articles and blogs and not the original wording, however the words "Airy Fairy Hippies" and "Rainbows and Unicorns" to describe Doulas all come straight from the blogs and articles themselves).
The biggest issue that I've found with these articles and posts is that these mums never "shopped around" for the right doula for them. They heard from a friend that there was a "great doula" in the area and upon meeting said doula they hired her on the spot. No questions asked, no mention of "meshing" between them and the doula and then lots of complaints in the blog/article about everything that the doula "did wrong" during mums pregnancy and labour.
Now I am not everyone, but I personally shop around for things that are important to ensure that I get "the best deal" or "the best fit". This applies to a service on my husband's car, and electrician to check the wiring in our house and a plumber to check the pipes. Most recently (and currently at this point in time) we are shopping around the various real estate agents in a bid to get the best price possible for our old house back in Morwell, Victoria.
You have to do the same with Doulas as well. Not every doula will be a match for every mum who contacts her and vice versa. You need to do your research and, unless there is only 1 doula in your area or none at all, you are guaranteed to have a variety of doulas in your area who would love to have the chance to meet you and see if you are a "good fit" together.
All doulas are different, some are the equivalent of the "Airy Fairy Hippies" described in the above mentioned blog posts and articles, others are serious and studious and stick to a strict schedule in their business practices. Some are male, many are female, some are bisexual, gay, lesbian or transsexual. Some have lots of kids, some only have 1 or 2, some adopt or foster, some don't have any kids at all for various reasons that are their own.
Some are "crunchy" parents who use gentle parenting techniques, others are strict parents. Some promote and only attend drug and intervention free births, others only support women who are having an elective cesarean, while others support families who have lost their baby in utero or who will lose their baby soon after birth. Some doulas also support people who are dying from a terminal illness (these are called Full Spectrum Doulas). Doulas are all of these and more.
I myself never had a Doula for my own births, although now I wish I had, it would have made my births be much better experiences.
The picture at the top of this post is of me and my youngest child just minutes after she was born - my 2nd VBAC delivery after 55 hours of labour that could have been much shorter and far less traumatic if I'd had a Doula there to bolster my confidence and help me to find my voice. I look at this picture and I am filled with a mixture of happiness that my baby girl arrived safely, and sadness at how I was treated in the process of bringing her into the world and that I didn't have the extra support that I needed. Don't get me wrong, my husband was a fantastic support to me during labour, but there was only so much that he could do and he would have benefited from extra support as well.
As you can see I am a normal mum. I don't see myself as a "crunchy" mum or a strict mum. I am somewhere in the middle, I have to be with a child who has extra needs. I live my life day to day and plan ahead when needed. While I love the idea of natural drug and intervention free birth I know that that is not for everyone - I have not experienced it for myself either - and what worked for me won't necessarily work for everyone else. I devote my entire being to my clients, if they need me I am there ASAP to the point where I can leave my whole family in the lurch (lucky they support me wholeheartedly in my chosen profession and my kids are always excited to hear a new baby has been born). What I want out of your birth doesn't matter, all that matters is that you have the best birthing experience possible and I will support you and your decisions with my whole being. I cannot speak for you, but I can reassure you and tell you that you are doing an amazing job, whatever the outcome may be.
So as you can see we (including myself) are many and varied, but the one thing that brings us all together is the desire to provide extra emotional, physical and mental support to people going through the most important stages of our lives, whether it be bringing new life into the world or helping others on their journey out of this world. It is a very demanding job - we don't do this just for the money, we don't make millions of dollar's and many of us barely manage to put food on the table from what we earn once all of our expenses have been paid for - and not just anyone can do it. Quite often we burn out from everything that we put into our work and need to take reasonably regular breaks to rest and recharge before getting back into it again. We regularly attend marathon labours that last for over 24 hours (and in the case of the last birth I attended it was 53 hours lol and I only managed 3 hours of broken sleep somewhere in the middle because the adrenalin was still pumping). We are passionate, we love birth, we love being able to support people and feel blessed and honoured to be able to do this as a job. We are drawn to it like moths are drawn to a flame. Many of us (myself included) feel that we were born to do this and only this and anything that we did beforehand was only a stopgap measure until we found our true calling. Sometimes we end up with 2 or more clients going into labour at the same time. We cannot predict or control this, and on the rare occasions that it does happen we do everything that we can to either be at all births for as long as possible (sometimes we end up having to drive from one birth on the east side of the city/town to another birth on the west side, or north and south sides of the city/town, it is not ideal but we try to make it work) and if all else fails we try to arrange a back up doula to attend in our stead. This isn't ideal, but sometimes it has to happen.
What I am trying to say is that, no matter how much a friend or someone you know extols the benefits of a doula that they have personally hired or if they know somene who has hired a particular doula, you should always look around and make sure you mesh well with the doula that you decide to hire. This can sometimes mean having an interview meeting with 10 or more different doulas before you find the one that suits you the best. It will be worth it in the end as with the right doula even the most traumatic of labours can become something beautiful and special and be worth all of the pain that was involved at the time.
I have been lucky, I have become good friends with all of my clients, and they all had good outcomes even with things that came up during labour/birth, and we still talk regularly and share what our children are up to. We meshed so well that we were able to take the "client-doula" relationship further and will most likely remain friends for life. The best part is that we probably would never have met if they hadn't contacted me to ask if I could be their doula, and because of that I am truly blessed.
I know that in future I will be faced with clients who I don't mesh with or who don't mesh with me even if I do mesh with them, and that is OK. It is part of the learning process and it is why I insist on an introductory meeting first to discuss things and see how well we get along. So please, please do your research before hiring a Doula! It will be more beneficial for you if you do.
As always, feel free to share :)
FOOTPRINTS & RAINBOWS