Nobody Can Give Birth For You (Not Even Your Doula)


Have I written this post before?  Maybe...

It seems like women have been fed a sort of checklist lately.  On it is all the things they must do which will yield a natural birth.  Always on this checklist is a doula.  I recommend doulas for all of my birth class students.  I love them!  They are great!  

A doula cannot give birth for you.

Nor can your midwife, your husband, your birth teacher, or even your doctor.  (Although doctors do sometimes seem all powerful.)

The sad truth, the hard truth, the PAINFUL reality is that nobody (and I do mean nobody) can give birth for you.

You should hire a doula.  She can be supportive.  She can comforting.  She can be a wealth of knowledge and she might even be the best money you ever spent.  

But your doula cannot give birth for you.  Nor can she make medical decisions, boss around your doctor, be your advocate (you must learn to advocate for yourself OR your partner must know what you want so he can do that.)

I read a really sad article in Salon about a woman who had an awful birth experience and seemed upset, in part, at the doula she had hired.  The doula in this case may very well have been overbooked and unethical.  HOWEVER-  I think it is important to note an overwhelming and common belief about doulas.  Namely, women often believe that the doula is a magic bullet that will magically fix their birth.  

She might be great- but she CANNOT replace your own personal knowledge or understanding about birth.  She cannot teach you how to labor while you are in labor.  (It really helps to learn this beforehand.)  Nor can she make your partner magically comfortable with he birth process if he knows nothing going into it.  

A doula cannot replace your own preparation and your own education about birth.  

I will be totally honest.  I think that some women have grown tired of paternalistic, obstetric maternity care.  They don't want that anymore.  (What do I mean by paternalistic?  Paternalistic care involves a wiser,  more knowledgeable, often male, expert or doctor who tells you what to do and in fact might act "like god".  Women these days are often seeking the elusive "empowerment".   A paternalistic care provider doesn't answer your questions, but rather pats you on the head and tells you not to worry about it- they will take care of everything.  This isn't what everybody wants, but in some ways it is really quite a relief to know that somebody else will actually take care of this overwhelming and frightening situation called birth.)  

So women are tired of OBs.  They want a midwife.  They want a doula.  

But they want to have their cake and eat it too.  They want somebody to brush their hair and tell them how powerful they are but deep down inside...some women still want somebody ELSE to birth for them, to "fix it" to make all the pain go away.  

The bad news is that birth will most likely hurt.  It will most likely be hard work.  Birth will also- no matter who you hire to be with you or support- be YOUR hill to climb.  Make that a mountain.  

Sometimes we decide we don't want the OB, but we still want somebody to make it all go away. 

This is a pipe dream.  It doesn't exist.  It is high time that women rejected the paternalistic model of care not just with their provider- but with their doula too.  It sounds really nice to have somebody else "fix" our birth or in essence, give birth for us.  But it doesn't happen.  It can't happen.  IT DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY.  

This is one of the awesome but difficult things about birth.  You and only you can do it.  

Surround yourself with people who are smart and capable and also believe you can do it. 

But be strong enough to realize that while they might help, this is your rodeo, your birth, your empowerment.   


Jenn said…
Great thoughts. That Salon article is sad. When I was planning my 2nd birth (this one would be at home), I almost got wrapped up in thinking I needed a doula because you're SUPPOSED to have one, esp for a homebirth. But I decided to stay true to what felt right for me - to have as few people there as possible and it was perfect in every way.