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Doula Misconceptions: The Bodyguard

I’m not one.

Although I think it would be cool to be a bodyguard.  Bodyguards are nimble and sharp.  They have gadgets and get to wear sunglasses all the time.  I’d love to have a job where I get to be tough and intimidating.

Have you met me?

100% not a bodyguard.

When I hear someone say that they are hiring a doula to protect them, I assume a problem.

Before I get any wordier, let me sum up this post:

If you think you need protection from your midwife or doctor, that is a problem.

And it won’t be fixed by hiring a doula.  Even one who looks intimidating and wears a sassy shirt that says “Meconium Happens” or “Doulas Do It With Enormous Balls.”

In fact, making a doula your bodyguard will only create a bigger problem:  tension, or outright hostility, in the birth room.

When I encounter a woman who is making a strategy to protect herself from her care provider, my first impulse is not to don my doula super-cape.  It is to listen carefully and begin asking questions.

“What makes you feel like you cannot trust your care provider?”

“Have you spoken with her about your birth wishes?”

“What are your lines in the sand?  What interventions/procedures/actions would damage your birth experience?”

And after listening carefully, “Would you be willing to change care providers or even birth environments to avoid your lines in the sand?”

Because here’s the thing:

My job is not to protect my client.  Let’s be honest.  What power do I have at your birth?  None.  I would be laughed at or dismissed if I tried to speak for you.

Who holds the power?  You do.

Sometimes a perk of hiring a doula is that care providers behave differently at your birth.  If you are serious enough to hire a third party to witness and attend your birth, most care providers assume you’re pretty serious about things like informed consent.  I brag that I’ve never seen an episiotomy performed.  Why?  I think it is because I’m present.  Simply that.

Now, what if a doctor or midwife pulls out some scissors and prepares to cut an episiotomy without my client’s knowledge?

  • a)  I wring my hands in the corner and cry “poor, poor perineum.”
  • b)  I crack my knuckles, scream “not on my watch,” and knock the implement of destruction from the care provider’s hands.
  • c)  I quickly say, “Jane, Dr. McCutterson is going to cut an epsiotomy.  Do you consent to that?”

In a situation like the one above, a doula acquires informed consent for her client.  And, yes, that is a form of protection.  But I’ve only had to pull out the “do you consent to that?” card a handful of times.  In unexpected situations, I’ve gone to extreme lengths to hold my client’s space so she can birth without interference.  But never openly; always with smiling sneakiness and a humble attitude.

So, if I’m not the bodyguard, then who am I?

In addition to my role as support person, I’m your P.R. person.  I’m working the room like a politician to schmooze everyone over to your team.  I’m complimenting nurses, bragging on how amazing you are, quietly creating a birthing atmosphere of peace and positive energy.

Most of the time, if I do my job well, the need to play the “do you consent” card won’t be there.

The doula should be a powerful influencer while disappearing into the wallpaper.

It is what an excellent servant does.

Before you decide to hire a bodyguard for your birth, maybe switch to a care provider you trust.  Then hire your doula to do what she’s meant to do:  serve you.

5 responses »

  1. And yet, you can still have a doula, that you don’t expect to be your bodyguard, you can yell out don’t cut me, and the doc can still cut. Sigh. Go read my most recent blog post.

    But I do agree with you and plan to share.

  2. Molly Chappell-McPhail

    Nicely said….

  3. Yes, yes and yes! Summed up perfectly!

  4. Very true…. I must admit though – when I started sorting through the million choices I felt like I needed to make for Maddie’s birth – I kinda viewed you as my bodyguard. And even at times looked to you to help make decisions for me that I didn’t feel like I could make on my own at first. And I am still amazed at how well you listened to all of my indecisiveness and somehow knew just what to do to steer me in the right direction. Which turned out to be no specific direction at all, but managed to help me find my own path for the birth that I wanted.

    And you are most certainly tough!!! I’m pretty sure that I remember in one of my ” I-can’t-do-this-I-must-runaway” moments of laboring with Maddie that I told you I wasn’t strong like you, I couldn’t do it…. and you patiently reminded me that not only could I do it, but I WAS doing it.

    So yep, I would still say you protected me during my pregnancy, labor, and birth…. but you pretty much protected me from MYSELF and my worrying, insecure, self-doubting mind by reminding me that I was tough and could protect my own birth by being informed and following my heart toward the birth that I wanted and felt was safest for Maddie and I.

    • I love to hear how you articulate your birth. It is perfect.

      And I’m some sort of doula hybrid for family members. :). I worried I would get kicked out of the hospital if my sister had birthed there. Yep, a whole different animal with my family.


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