Your Doula is NOT Your Advocate
“I’m hiring a doula next time to avoid…”
“I need a doula to protect me from…”
“If I would have had a doula it might have saved me from…”
“If you’re not comfortable with your doctor, hire a doula.”
Just talking about these phrases, and variations of it, there is an implication here that might give an expecting family the wrong idea… These phrases imply that doulas are advocates.
[verb ad-vuh-keyt; noun ad-vuh-kit, -keyt]
verb (used with object), advocated, advocating.
1. to speak or write in favor of; support or urge by argument; recommend publicly:
He advocated higher salaries for teachers.
2. a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc. (usually followed by of): an advocate of peace.
3. a person who pleads for or in behalf of another; intercessor.
4. a person who pleads the cause of another in a court of law.
None of these are part of being a doula. Advocating for anyone would contradict your doula’s role. Contradictions aside, these expectations also put a lot of pressure on your doula and may leave some serious blame towards them if your birth does not end the way you anticipated. From another perspective, let’s say things go better than you anticipated. Who would deserve the credit, your doula or you? Moms are the real stars, doulas are just lucky enough to play the supporting role.
Although these are all very alarming concerns and should be addressed, none of these fall under your doula’s responsibilities. Part of having a doula is not for protection or so they make sure you avoid anything. There are some lines that a doula is not able to cross. Coming between a doctor and their patient is one of them. While you should hire one for any extra support you need, if you are not comfortable with your OB or midwife hiring a doula is not the solution. Switching is the answer. No one should feel anything, but comfortable, with the person helping bring their baby into this world.
Now, with that said, if there are certain procedures or medications you would like to avoid, awesome! A doula can help with that! However, the key word there is help. When you have a specific plan for your birth, your doula supports you unconditionally and provides you with the tools you need to carry out your own desires. You are the one that makes things happen. We are just by your side, cheering you on.
While hiring a doula will increase your chances of having a satisfying birth experience, it is just not in a doula’s (or anyone’s, for that matter) power to predict or guarantee the outcome.
It isn’t just about liability like some might think, either. Being your advocate is a much greater job than your doula is trained for. A doula’s job is never to speak for, or over, you. Our job is to listen to your birth preferences and help you find your voice to advocate for yourself. You are going to be telling your birth story over and over and I promise it will feel much better to say “I made sure my wishes were respected” rather than “my doula made sure my wishes were respected.”