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Till Human Voices Wake Us, Or Why I Wish Doulas didn’t Exist

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I imagine if you visited a culture in which birth was considered a normal event–a visible part of the community–the idea of hiring a doula would be laughable.  Your intuitive knowledge of birth would be intact.  You would believe that since you figured out how to digest your food and how to wake up after sleeping, you would, indeed, know how to birth.  And the people around you would let you.

In our culture, birth is private.  Typically we retreat into the den of medicine, technology, and malpractice to celebrate our journey into motherhood.  Once entangled in this trinity, we are pinned and wriggling on the wall so how should we presume?

And we need instruction and authority and equipment to deliver. 

Some families hire a doula.  A woman who has attended many types of births.  A woman who can navigate the intricacies of the system.  I do believe that whether planning a medicated birth, a cesarean, or a low intervention experience, families can enjoy the best outcomes with a doula at their side.  The doula becomes the surrogate community that is missing in our culture–she provides support from early pregnancy coffee shop talks to postpartum home visits.  And she is the advocate–working for the family and no one else; no hidden agendas, no judgement, and no insurance company to answer to.  And–she is pretty inexpensive considering she is on call 24/7 for you.  She’s less expensive than an epidural and probably less expensive than the bill from your wedding florist.  

The fact that the profession of doula exists is merely one symptom of a deep isolation, fear, mystery, and sterility surrounding birth.  So while I love being a doula, I’m sad that the profession is necessary.  I wish that our community guarded the sacred transformative power of birth instead of timing it, numbing it, sterilizing it, insuring it, managing it.

7 responses »

  1. Hi, I linked to this…
    just beautiful.

  2. very much like the phrase “surrogate community”… doesn’t it just make you want to move to the Farm, circa 1973?

  3. I often feel isolated in my feelings of wanting to be alone during birth. Although I have friends that are doulas and would love to be one, too, I do not want one at my birth. To be honest, if I could choose so, I wouldn’t even have hubby there! But I just have him sit quietly out of sight so it gives me the illusion that I am alone.


  4. I think not having a doula was my biggest mistake with Suzi’s birth. I figured we couldn’t afford it, but I know now it would have been worth whatever it cost. My mom and husband looked like deer in the headlights during most of the birth!

  5. inexplicableways

    Steph–don’t feel alone. The !Kung women in Namibia, the Pitjandjara tribe of Australia, and the Igbo tribe of Nigeria value solitary birth. 🙂

    I’ve had a slew of hospital births lately and since in those situations the room fills up with all sorts of personnel, there is no possibility of much alone time.

  6. Love this!! I am going to link to this on my site if that is okay with you?
    Shine ON!!

  7. Thank you, this was great. I too wish that women could feel as nurtured and empowered as I did with my last birth (water birth at a birth center). My heart aches that so many women don’t know what they’re missing!


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