Part of my Doula path is hearing that :
“A Dou-what ?”” Douala you said ? “”What’s that ?”” How do you spell it ? “”But you are already a midwife ?!”
Beforehand, I’ll say that this article engaged only my own feelings and experiences and if you want more large information, you may want to check one of those :
Yes folks, embracing the Doula path wasn’t the most straightforward one. But then, it seems that I’m not meant for straightforward road anyway.
So what is a Doula, and what is the difference with a Midwife for me.
Well the thing is, I am still a Midwife and I am also a Doula. It is just for me 2 ways to do what I love to do. Evolving in an environment that I’m passionate about and touching so many different topics that I can dig there until the rest of my life, there will still be more to feed my curiosity. Plus it makes me grow as a woman, lover and human being.
My Doula story (so far)
I landed in midwifery school by default because I wanted to be a doctor, failed twice the entry exam but get the one for midwifery school. (In France doctors-,midwives-, dentists-,pharmacists- to-be used to all do the same year of preparation and then you got to choose where you want to go).
As soon as I got there, I felt that it was much more fitting to me than being a doctor. I became more and more passionate, involved, feminist, curious, compassionate and to this day, I’m still so thankful that midwifery found me.
Now, being a midwife is extremely rewarding because we get to be there on an incredibly intimate and happy time and the parents are usually grateful that you were there. Depending on the country, you can get quite a lot of medical responsibilities which is thrilling and gives you a purpose.
But …the darkside of being a midwife
Being a midwife is also incredibly tough because of those responsibilities. In France and England, where I worked as midwife, you can be the only one a woman will see in labour (and it can even be all along pregnancy and postpartum). Of course there are doctors in hospitals but you are the one who assess the situation and decide to make the call or not . And in some maternities or situations, you might be the only one when the baby need resuscitation.
I’ve lived traumatic experiences, cried many times. And even wonder some times if being compassionate wasn’t just too dangerous to survive there.
When meeting other midwives, there is often this time when, one by one, we start to talk about those not-so-nice situations. It always felt to me as if we are showing to each other all the scars we have in our hearts due to our job.
As I started in France, I worked in busy maternity, having sometimes 2 women in labour plus the emergency to deal with. I knew only that so it seems normal to me.
When I moved to England, I discovered that they were much more encouraging Homebirth and natural birth. And that they were providing one-to-one care meaning one midwife per women in labour.
The Dream. Luxury. Paradise.
So when I arrived in Germany- which is more like the French system – I felt that I couldn’t go back to hospital anymore. Not providing one-to-one care now feels too disrespectful of basic human rights to me.
I also was happy to relax from the pressure that goes with the thrill of having medical responsibilities.
It was time to start my Doula path.
That’s when I thought that I could be a Doula.
I wanted to have time to developed my knowledge in accompanying pregnancy and post-partum. I wanted to still work in this environment that I love so much. And I wanted to be useful with a topic where I am probably the best version of myself.
The first time I closed the door after a private prenatal session, I felt wonderful. Really, can I talk about pregnancy, emotional state, relationships, mindful communication, ritual and rites of passage, meditation… and that’s MY JOB ?
The first time I assisted a birth was even better. It was a homebirth, of a woman I followed during pregnancy (already awesome). There was a midwife, her assistant (who was also a midwife), the partner and me. And we all found our spaces, without “competition”, to provide the best care. The midwife and her assistant were there to assess the labour, providing medical care, encouraging the woman. The partner was fully living the experience, not having to worry about what to do, but just to be. And me, not having to care about the medical responsibility, discovered that I had much more space and time to be there for the couple.
To feel, to care, to massage, to encourage, to be in contact.
Time and space
So the main differences for me in being a Doula is to have time and space. In the post-partum period, the midwife comes generally 3 times in the first 10 days for 30min/45min. She checks how you’re doing, how breastfeeding goes, how your body heals, how the baby is growing… It’s quite dense. Additionally, you can have a Doula who will come for hours, depending on your needs. A doula can :
Support you with breastfeeding.
Guide and support you in all those -sometimes overwhelming- emotional swing.
Do some light cleaning, some cooking.
Care about the baby when you want to have a nap.
To give you a safe space.
That’s my Doula path, for now.