Sunday, June 3, 2012

No Common Ground in the Birthing World

As many of you know, I am a birth doula. I was so excited during my training and couldn’t wait to help women birth their babies. However, from the first birth on I have become steadily disheartened. I haven’t been able to quite put my finger on it, but the birth world has been draining me and left me feeling depressed and powerless. Not feelings I enjoy, as you can imagine.
Last night, I finally realized what the problem is: everyone- be it professionals or mothers- has a completely different opinion when it comes to all things surrounding the birth experience. There is hardly any common ground and each new person you work with challenges your own knowledge and beliefs.
It was when I was discussing a topic on one of the Facebook pages I frequent that I understood that the extremes in the birthing world are just too extreme for me. You can find everything- from the women who believe that a woman’s body always knows how to birth and therefore needs absolutely no assistance, to the doctors who think that natural childbirth is overrated and would prefer to just surgically extract babies on a routinely basis.
I just can’t do this all the time. I cannot constantly be surrounded by so many passionate voices that completely disagree with each other, are unwilling to find a common denominator, and disrespect each other entirely. It is wearing me out and making me unhappy.
It’s midwives vs. OB/GYNs. It’s CNMs (Certified Nurse Midwives) vs. CPMs (Certified Professional Midwives) It’s medical vs. holistic. It’s doulas vs. doulas- ABC doula won’t attend anything other than a home birth while XYZ doula will only attend hospital birth, etc.
I feel like I’m stuck in a constant tug-of-war, in which I am being pulled back and forth. Because as a doula, all you do is support the mother and smile and nod. You have no say in anything and your opinion isn’t part of your job.
The problem is that I have an opinion. And I have a big problem keeping my mouth shut. I also have a big problem not having any authority, just being part of the ride without being able to alter the direction. I believe as a doula, I have a very important role in supporting the mother and I can make a huge difference in her labor. However, on a larger scale, I am not doing much to change the big picture. I’m the smallest fish in the vast see of births.
I may just have to retire from the birthing world all together. There just is no common ground that I can believe in. I have strong faith in the holistic side of the birthing community, but I also believe in the necessity for occasional medical interventions. Once again, I find myself between chairs and I just can’t find a good one to sit in. It looks like the world of birthing is not meant for me.


  1. I can understand that fully. I think people as a whole are so much like confetti-just a bunch of little bits tossed up and falling with no direction. We've become so separate and disjointed that we have a hard time getting along. We've lost our common ground and were just floundering. And when we lose our connections to others, we lose a bit of ourselves and we become fearful. We cling to absolute truths, like people's feelings on birth. We're afraid to respect others because we are afraid of being wrong.

    Perhaps I've lost the subject a bit. I'm a bit melancholy.

  2. I can understand how you feel and am wondering two things. One, do you have any fellow doulas or other birth workers in your life who you do meet on the same philosophical level with and can vent to/share ideas with? Two, perhaps leaving the birth world isn't the only answer. I can see you changing course and becoming a childbirth educator instead of a doula. There are many natural birthing organizations you could choose from to become certified in and this would allow you to share your view of birth with others while potentially serving larger groups of women than just being a doula could.

  3. Oh, this is tough. And while not in that industry, I can definitely understand your tough predicament. I like the suggestions of the other commentators. I think you should try to use your passions in a way that are most respective of your passions and your voice. A childbirth educator sounds like something that would most allow you to come out with your opinions and be in a teaching role to new moms.

  4. It is frustrating- but you also have this when you've got your kids outside the womb, too... cry it out vs. rocking, etc, etc, etc.

    As a nurse (but not in L&D), I can't help but wonder why the nursing profession as a whole won't step up to the plate and do what they're supposed to do. If that were the case, mothers wouldn't be in the predicament of trying to figure out if we have an extra humungo sum of money to pay for a birth advocate/doula. Instead, it seems as though the nurses are standing on the side of the line that opposes the natural birth world, which is not where they should be! They should be completely unbiased and spending their shift supporting the new mom. When I was in labor, I couldn't help but feel like my nurses were trying to spend as little time in my room as possible. This is what I hear so often. Bummer.

  5. You are going down the wrong road, dear friend. Hit reverse and think about it again. You were an amazing doula for me and your place is in the birthing world. Your sweet spirit is needed with mothers as they go through one of the most life changing experiences ever. You need to find a group that suit you. Align yourself with a birthing center or pass your card around at Trader Joe's but figure out your niche and dig in your heels. I'm so overjoyed that you were a part of my birthing experience. You have a passion also and it's helping mothers, you do it well so keep at it. Just find your place in the birthing world, it will be hard but rewarding. I wish you the best though, I know it's tough trying to make a dream work.

  6. I agree, I don't know about giving up alltogether, and I could totally see you as a midwife, if going a little further, through that training interests you... That essentially unites your hands (for the most part), and gives you a definite voice in the process. Something to think about?

  7. As one of your friends and privileged clients, I appreciated your views on things. You are a great middle ground option for the average mother. You arent pushy about your beliefs, but you are open about the options that women may not be knowledgable on.

  8. I had a doula for my second and I'm sad to say she was terrible. She was a lovely person but she didn't understand what I needed at all. We ended up asking her to leave DURING. I can absolutely see where you're coming from, , you are the passenger for that ladies show. It's got to be hard especially when you think you can help. From my own experience if you can't be a part of her game plan then you're really detracting from her experience and that's kind of what it's all about. Not to imply that's what you're doing at all.
    I bet you're doing a wonderful job. I guess it's up to you if emotionally you can continue to be a part of it all.