After reaching burnout as an elementary school teacher, trying every day to take a machete to the red tape without cutting off my own limb, I knew I needed to pivot, to do something else to positively influence families and gift them with knowledge and care. Becoming a doula seemed like a natural shift.
I would be great at doula work, I thought. Until I became a doula. And apparently not a very good doula.
Becoming a doula taught me that I didn’t fit in. I wasn’t a doctor hater. I didn’t think the maternity system was evil. But worst of all? I had births of my own that weren’t good enough. I had two inductions. I had an epidural with one. I had my water broken with one. I loved and 100% trusted my doctor with both.
I was literally told that my births didn’t count and a “doula sister” spat the words, “Oh. You’re just a hospital doula,” when I didn’t insist that everyone should desire to birth at home. And it hit me.
Yes! I’m a hospital doula!
It was said as an insult, but it was my A-Ha! Moment. As a mother who has high risk pregnancies and two births that were very different from one another but very perfect for me, I knew that more than ever I would have benefitted from someone who was by my side, providing information, assisting with comfort measures, calming my rollercoaster emotions “despite” the fact that I was “just a hospital birther”.
It was so important to me that EVERY family who wants support through pregnancy and birth could have it. That support is UNCONDITIONAL. Period.
Then I realized that baby’s arrival marks the starting line, not the finishing line.
I thought about my experiences with postpartum – which is a time period, by the way, not a disease. With my first, I was clueless. I was 19, a newlywed, and despite a strong babysitting career had no idea what caring for a newborn 24/7 was like. I woke up every day with the intent to just wing it. There was no plan, no parenting method, no end goal. And it was fine, more or less.
With my second, the script was flipped. I wanted to strictly implement an Attachment Parenting philosophy because the birth community told me that was the only way to guarantee a healthy bond.
My baby was with me coooooooonstaaaaaaaaantlyyyyyyyy. He became the center of my husband’s and my world. Every decision the family made was about meeting the baby’s needs. And eventually it was to the detriment of our health, our marriage, our jobs.
I needed someone to show me it was okay to shift gears, to tell me that I was kicking motherhood’s ass and wasn’t going to damage my baby if he cried for a few minutes while I peed. I needed someone to help me create a sleep plan that worked for my baby and for me, to help keep my house in working order, to listen to me cry and pick me up with affirming motivation that I wasn’t fucking it all up.
I needed a postpartum doula.
So I became one. And once again, the sisterhood of very good doulas taught me how shitty I was at my job.
You will help a mother who wants to formula feed? But don’t you know that a very good doula insists that breast is best?! I sure will if that’s what she wants. Breast is best except when it’s not. And sometimes it’s not. It isn’t my place to create guilt and shame for another person’s needs.
You will help a family who is seeking healthy ways to sleep train their infant? But don’t you know that a very good doula teaches parents their babies will grow up psychologically damaged and never trust anyone?! I sure will, because I know that sleep shaping doesn’t have to be cruel or damaging, but that sleep deprivation IS cruel and damaging – to parents AND to babies.
You take clients that vaccinate? That don’t vaccinate? That circumcise? That don’t circumcise? That bathe their babies daily? That mom is returning to work at 4 weeks? That had an elective cesarean birth? That… that… that…? Don’t you know a very good doula’s job is to teach women how to be the best mother possible?!
Yep, check, sure do, no problem, uh-huh. Because my clients are already the best parents possible. THEY do that on their own. My role is to help them navigate their new normal, affirm that they’re stellar parents no matter what philosophy they implement, and to give hands-on, hearts-on support in whatever ways will help give them confidence, rest, comfort, and happiness.
Because, you see, I admit that I was a terrible doula. If the standard by which we measure a very good doula is an outdated, agenda-pushing, doula knows best yardstick, then I sucked at my job. But I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like fitting in boxes. So I stepped over the chalk lines and instead drew my own line in the sand.
I opened a full-service doula agency to serve families where they’re at. I hired a team who knows how to recognize and set aside their biases, who is committed to building families up in any way they need, who go the extra mile to ensure that no parent feels alone, judged, or confused. We fill in the gaps. We provide comprehensive, wraparound care.
I am a doula who serves real families who know they can have it all. People who know they can be a fabulous parent while maintaining their own VIP status. People who know that it takes a village, but don’t ascribe to all of the village traditions simply out of the sake of tradition.
So I suppose it turns out that I’m a damn good modern doula.