Sunday, November 14, 2010

Have you ever been experienced?

I got the following email and although it's a quick reply, I thought I would share it with y'all (with Stephanie's permission), since some others might be curious too.

I have been a stalker on your blog for a while now, and I am just now getting the courage to write you. My name is Stephanie Fritz. I am currently a senior in the Sociology program at the University of Indianapolis. Over the past two years I have become increasingly fascinated with the reproductive rights of women, and alternate services provided to women during the pregnancy process. I have become increasingly fascinated with the concept of home birth, midwifery, and doula services. I am far from becoming pregnant or even considering having a child, but I have begun considering doula training. I have looked into the different programs for Doula training out there (particularly DONA), but I wanted your opinion on where I should start to find out if this field is truly for me?

I guess my main concern is the viability of it as a career. How are you faring? Also, how did you fall into this?

Thank you!

Stephanie Fritz
Why did I bold that one sentence? I wanted to respond to this part first and foremost. The biggest piece of advice I have for Stephanie, far more important than sorting through the various programs and certifications and reading materials, is to ABSOLUTELY go for it now! The fact that you haven't given birth, in my opinion (I'm curious to hear others' opinions too), is really not much of a disadvantage at all. Doulas attend all kinds of women having all kinds of births, even if they are mostly in the hospital, realistically speaking.

I have had one birth of my own, and even if I only attended all natural home water births, they would still all be different. Mine was 13 hours in active labor. Very different than a 29 hour labor. Very different from a 5 hour labor. Yes, I know what 'a' contraction feels like . . . but that means I only know what MY contractions felt like. I have no idea what a a posterior baby and thus the dreaded "back labor" feels like from the inside. I didn't have to transfer, no resuscitation was necessary, I had an extremely long pushing phase, there are all kinds of things I didn't experience firsthand. You catch my drift: having had ONE birth isn't all that different from having NO births, in a weird sort of way.

But my main point to you, Stephanie, is that having no children at the moment is actually a huge, HUGE advantage, logistically. It might not seem like a big deal to you now, because you've never had to think about it, but trust me, having to arrange for child care in order to attend births can be a massive, stressful undertaking. There are work and class schedules to deal with, and I've so been there and know what a whopping headache that can be, but it's still more workable than a doula with kids (unless she's independently wealthy, I suppose). To illustrate that, I should remind you that I'm actually still IN training for the labor support portion of my doulahood, largely because figuring out how to attend the necessary number of births for my certification is ridiculously complicated due to child care issues.

I could kick my twentysomething self for not having started this process years and years ago, when I first became aware of the concept of a doula. DONA itself was newish, and within a year. three of my closest friends all got pregnant. I had always been fascinated by birth, and now my interest kicked into high gear. I learned along with them, reading the Sears books and "Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way" by Susan McCutcheon. I had plenty of dancing left to do, but definitely felt a strong pull towards birth even then, and one of the mamas-to-be was the first to suggest doula work. I considered it, and ultimately decided against it for the time.

I hate to say I regret the decision, since regret is such a waste of energy, and it's true that I did have all kinds of other experiences . . . but it really would have been a good choice. So I say if you're feeling that same kind of pull - go for it! Especially now.

Which organization? I can't say enough nice things about toLabor's workshop. I did DONA's postpartum training and have been working through CAPPA for my childbirth ed, and I think they all have their strengths, but toLabor was truly a transcendent experience. Do consider it! Reading recommendations: there are of course tons of great books out there, my favorites of which are over there on the right, but I'd prioritize the latest edition of "The Birth Partner" as well as "The Doula Book" by Ananda Lowe.

As for making a career out of it? I'll . . . have to get back to you on that. (See above re: logistics and childcare.)


  1. Amen! And Stephanie, since you're a senior in college I recommend checking out AmeriCorps opportunities in maternal and child health/doula work (at the risk of self-promotion:

  2. I absolutely do not think that you have to have given birth to be a good doula. My doula had not yet had children when she assisted me and I thought she was amazing. Your points are all valid ones. Also, compassion and education are important, too. I would rather have a doula who had been educated in natural childbirth but had not given birth, than someone who had given birth but had no knowledge of natural childbirth.

  3. That IS a great opportunity Rebecca mentions. And Deanna, well put.

    Plus, let's not forget that, as Amy put it on Facebook, we (not necessarily us here specifically, but the collective societal We) seem to have no problem putting our faith in MALE OBs . . .

  4. I agree you do not have to have given birth to be a good doula. And it is easier to make doulaing a career with no kids. That whole childcare issue can really mess things up. :)
    So I say go for it!

  5. I can not explain how much this post has made me feel better! I am currently in training to become a doula and childbirth educator through Childbirth International (still in the req reading stages though). I am 21 and still childless yet have come across so many women, including my own family, who put me down saying I have no idea what childbirth is like so I wouldn't make a good doula, that they would somehow make a better one because they have "been there done that". To them somehow having their own situation means they are more knowledgeable on childbirth than I am, no matter how much I study on the medical process of it.

    In short, thank you.

  6. Hooray! Love hearing this. I had similar concerns when I started out (and I'm still a new doula, so I still struggle with it). People still ask me "how can you be a doula if you have never had a baby?" But you answered it up above! :)
    I started when I was 23 and childless, but my local doula community still welcomed me, referred clients to me, and I was definitely hired. Best of luck Stephanie!

  7. Most of the midwives in the practice I went to weren't mothers. Passion means a lot in this field- more than having been there before. By that logic husbands wouldn't make good support people.

  8. Thank you so much! I am starting my doula training now and do not want kids of my own for many years. I find a great pull to pregnancy, birth, women, babies, the whole process. I was worried I would be speaking almost out of place and love to hear that there are other women out there going through the same thing.

  9. I just finished reading the memoirs of former Britsh PM Tony Blair and he basically said that when he was first elected, though a capable opposition leader he was not really ready to lead a country. The thing is, you can only gain experience by doing stuff. Go for it now, I say! I have been thinking about becoming a midwife, but the reality is that as a homeschooling, single mom of two kids, there is just no way I can pull it off logistically at the moment. You can do it, Stephanie! And who knows, perhaps your experience as a doula will come in handy when you give birth yourself! :)