“I wanna wake up and know where I’m going. Say I’m ready. I’m ready.” – Tracy Chapman
I take lots of deep breaths.
On this Monday morning I am trying really hard to get my mindset in check.
My weekend was a bit more of a rollercoaster than usual. A medicated (and NOT in a sedated way) toddler, an adorable and sweet toddler (it’s a Jekyll and Hyde thing with toddlers…even without medication), sleep hindering allergies/cold and subsequent medicine fog, the honor of talking to a group of doulas in training, a difficult conversation with a friend, an amazing prenatal with clients, and the fact that it was the weekend and therefore I had the ability to sleep in a bit to make up for the coughing fit at 3am.
Yet this morning I was still feeling physically pulled down in my gut. The first day of the mentor course that I have been putting together starts tonight. It is a very big thing that I have been working on both in putting the logistical parts of creating an online course and figuring out an action step I can take to get towards my bigger goal.
My bigger goal is to bring about systemic and multilevel change in our maternity care system.
A tendency I have that I am working on every day is a deeply ingrained reflex to be easily overwhelmed when it comes to conquering large tasks. These can be actual large tasks…like making an impact on America’s health care system or things that seem large in moments of depression*…like cleaning the house.
This course is actually one of the first several steps I have been taking with a doula mentee, Riah. We have been talking for months about how as doulas we can make an impact on the ground level. And we are not content with throwing one starfish into the sea at a time. We decided that one thing that we could do was go one step up (to start). Instead of just supporting our clients, we would support other doulas. More doulas, more clients served, more consumers requesting evidence based care, more health care providers wanting to give potential customers what they want.**
In addition to bringing more people into doula work we also wanted to create a space for doulas of any certifying organization or philosophy to learn from each other in a supportive environment. While this seems like a no brainier in a community that is built upon supporting women, we found that while there are many communities we didn’t find the one that fit for us; one that both provided support without defensiveness, criticism, and judgment and also had at its heart the purpose of moving the maternity care system forward on a bigger level. We believe that the second, larger goal cannot happen without the first. If we are focused on the minutia of doula work where we practice differently than the doula next to us, we cannot focus on all the women who will be birthing in a system that has been conditioned to bypass informed consent and dismiss evidence based care in favor of tradition and habit.***
We created social media accounts. We took pictures and made videos. We speak daily about how we can reach people with the same goal.
Our next step was to think of a way to help the doulas we were hoping to reach get started out on the right foot. One of the big conversations I have always had with new doulas (and myself in my own head when I started) was how beneficial it would be to see a more experienced doula put all the things you learn in trainings into practice. This was driven home to me even more so this past weekend when I was speaking to the doulas in training. So much of what you want to know can’t be taught at a training. There isn’t time to have nothing but a question and answer session. There isn’t time for all the dialogue and curiosities that a new doula wants and needs.
As someone who has mentored new doulas (with great success if I do say so myself…my mentees are friggin’ amazing and while I can’t take all the credit, I like to think I made the process a little easier and less lonely), I loved the thought of mentoring more and more doulas by talking about my personal experiences and personal modus operandi. It does not feel authentic for me to talk about “how to be a doula” on a general level so I decided to speak to doulas simply from my perspective. The way I do it isn’t the best or the only right way, it is just one way. There is no ‘best’ way for a client to birth. There are too many variables chief among them (IMHO) being the client and their beliefs, values, and preferences based on their life. But we don’t just leave them with the childbirth education class or the books. As doulas we give them our time, our experience, our knowledge, the ability to ask us all the questions. Then we give them the support to empower themselves in making all their own decisions.
We value the support we give our clients. I want us to value the support we give each other.
We believe these are the first steps in our sphere of influence to bring about very necessary improvements to our maternity care system.
The first step may sometimes be the hardest, but that doesn’t mean that all the steps that come after are easy. It helps to know I am not doing it alone; it is less overwhelming.
So, getting all that off my chest was the first thing I needed to do this morning.
Onto the next thing…I haven’t decided what that is yet, but it will be easier to figure out with that bit out of my head.
Have a great week.
*I got the bipolar numero dos
**At the end of the day hospitals are businesses. The medical staff of doctors, midwives, nurses, etc who want to do best by their patients are not usually the once who write the policies, decide how buildings are built, but the tubs, decide how to teach the next generation of medical professionals. Those decisions are made by the people on the business side and as much as we know that each individual person wants what is best for patients, we also know the reality that legal worries and profit have over most any business.
***This statement is NOT to be confused with provider blame or an ‘us vs them’ mentality. This is a systemic, institutionalized problem. While there are always people that make poor choices out of high emotion when their identity as a professional is questioned, this is not about bad actors; it is about imperfect human beings attempting to operate in a broken, convoluted, fear-filled system. The goal of our work is to create a space for everyone, doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas, and especially birthing people, their partners, and their babies to benefit and focus on what each does best, consistently, and enthusiastically.