Now that you know what a doula is, I’m curious what pops into your mind when you hear the word “doula”? What does that doula look like? What does that doula stand for? Let me guess. You’re more than likely thinking of someone like Ina May Gaskin with long braided pigtails only helping women give birth out at the Farm. Am I right? Why do I assume this? It’s from experience. When they first come into my office, I’ve had several people walk in with wide eyes and look almost as if they are surprised when they first meet my team of doulas and me. I’ve even had several people comment on how “normal” we are. Is the stereotype of doulas really that abnormal? For some reason, people think we will be burning incense when they walk in and be banging on a drum or something.
Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with these things, but I want others to know that today’s doulas, the modern doulas, aren’t just hippies. We are educated, empathetic, caring, loving, and hardworking women. We are nerds, girly girls, hippies, lesbians, straight women, mothers, not mothers. You name it. We are every woman.
Our role has also evolved over the years. Doulas help all types of women at all kinds of births and beyond. The modern doula believes every woman deserves continuous support, a reliable voice, and a positive experience during birth and the transition with a newborn. So, to clear up some of the stereotypes, I have come up with some points to shed light on the modern-day doula:
1. We Support Every Birth and Every Parent
You may think that doulas are only for those who choose to have a midwife as their care provider. This is absolutely NOT true. Yes, we support women with midwives, but birth doulas also work with women who have an OB and plan on giving birth at a hospital. As for me, 98% of my clients are those very women. In my opinion, these are the women who NEED the most support and an advocate by their side. So, know that doulas don’t just support home births. We support hospital births, birth center births, and medicated and unmedicated births. We ultimately want you to have the positive experience, whatever that looks like, that you want. The modern-day doula provides their support to any woman who wants it.
The modern-day postpartum doula also doesn’t help just one type of parent or parenting style. We work with each family individually to help them decide their parenting philosophies and empower them through their transition into parenthood. We are an objective source of information and support that can help the mother and partner adjust to life with their new baby.
Overall, no matter how your birth unfolds, we support you. No matter how your postpartum period goes, we support you. No matter how you choose to parent, WE. SUPPORT. YOU.
2. We Receive Training and Continue Our Education
The modern-day doula has received training and continues to educate herself to be the best she can be. People may think that doulas have no formal training, which is not the case. There are different certification programs available for doulas to go to. The modern-day doula has more than her experience working with expecting and new families. She attends these training, reads all the books, and works toward certification so that she can bring a wide breadth of knowledge to each birth and postpartum experience that she comes to.
It took me about two years to receive my birth doula and postpartum doula certifications through DONA International, so it isn’t just a weekend course to complete. The modern-day doula is a professional who invests in her knowledge, education, and training.
3. We Have All Types of Specialties and Experience
Not only does the modern-day doula receive standard doula training through her certification organization, but she also continues her education to help more families and has a lot of experience, training, and skill sets. She could become a bereavement doula helping families through the loss of a child or an adoption doula supporting others through adoption. She could become a placenta encapsulator or a massage therapist. There are so many different specialties and training available for doulas. For example, I’ll share with you some of the training that I have received. Not only do I have a college degree and received my certification as a birth doula and postpartum doula through DONA, but I also received my license in massage therapy specializing in prenatal/postnatal/and infant massage. I became a certified Hypnobabies Hypno-Doula, a certified prenatal fitness educator, a childbirth educator, a newborn care educator, and an infant massage instructor. It’s wonderful that there is such a wide variety of specialties because these trainings allow us to better support all types of clients.
4. This is a Business, Not a Hobby
The modern-day doula believes in the value she provides her clients and treats her time and services as a business, not a hobby. Some doulas still treat their work as a hobby because they may have a full-time job or are busy raising a family. Since they still want to impact the birthing world and support women, they do what they can, which is wonderful. However, there are full-time doulas, like myself, who make this their career. Educating, empowering, and caring for women is their business and livelihood. Again, doula care has evolved with all of the available education and training. It has become a business, allowing us to make a living for ourselves by doing what we love most, which is educating and empowering families during this incredible time.
5. Doulas Are Every Type of Woman of Every Age
There are all types of doulas out there. This is great because it allows you to find the right doula for YOU. I’m the type of girl who loves a great pair of high heels and lip gloss. So, I’m not your stereotypical doula. I know that my personality and style may not be the right fit for every mother. That’s okay! You want to choose someone who makes you feel comfortable, will put you at ease, and will completely support you during your birthing and parenting decisions. That is a modern-day doula. Whatever your birthing and parenting decisions are, your doula should provide you with the information you need to make the best decisions for you and your family.
I am also here to tell you that doulas are of every age and every ethnicity. Some doulas are very young adults (18 years old), some are grandmothers and great-grandmothers (in their 60s and 70s), and there are doulas every age in between. There is no stereotypical doula anymore. The modern-day doula is every age, every race, every religion, and more.
Overall, the role of a doula has changed throughout the decades, yet it has stayed the same. I hope that I have opened people’s eyes to their perception of what a doula is today. Doulas are not just there to support women who want natural births or home births. Doulas are women supporting women no matter what choices they make. We are there to lend a helping hand, a strong voice, a compassionate ear, a watchful eye, and a full heart. We are the modern-day doula.