It must have been about eight years or two-hundred births in, although that didn’t really matter as I was past the point of counting the number of births I’d attended to define my cool-girl-birthworker status. I was on a relaxed run on any mundane Fall day, there was a nip in the air as I began my familiar stride. My barrage of thoughts began as I settled into pace and the word “consultant” popped into my head. One could forever debate why the word “appeared” in my brain, (Divine intervention?, My life’s purpose being revealed to me? Read it on a truck that drove by?). But I believe it was because my husband had just been given that title in his entirely different line of work. My next thought? Birth Consultant. And the next?! “WHY THE HELL ISN’T ‘BIRTH CONSULTING’, a thing? The thought train took its own run until I finally realized, several breathless and sweaty miles in, that I was having a major ah-ha moment. One that I’ll never forget.
Every industry has consultants, from construction, to cyber security, even the profession that comes to fix the leak you pray your landlord doesn’t notice. A consultant is defined by a person who provides expert advice and options, professionally. I did this on a daily (and nightly) basis with my doula clients. So how could life’s BIGGEST change, (“life’s orgasm”, anyone?!) where one gives birth and becomes entirely in charge of another human, nearly four million times a year in the US, not have a consultant? It was a no brainer meets the-world-needs-this, moment, for me. And here’s why highly experienced doulas are perfect for the job…
Doulas are God-sent translators in the often (very) foreign land of birth and new parenthood. They walk + support families not only in the pregnancy, but during the labor + birth (this is a biggie), and the postpartum time as well. Every time. And no matter where said family chooses to give birth. The occasional car and/or blizzard birth, included.
Anyone that knows a good doula knows we love our fellow birth professionals; the Midwives, OB’s, Nurses, Lactation Consultants, and many others we feel honored to work alongside. These are the faces families meet on what we call the parenthood path, but very few, if any, of these professionals walk the entire parenthood path with a family, and wherever that path may take them. My Midwife Sisters – I know many of you do blaze this path as well, and we love you for it. But as a care provider, that relationship is different. Your job is to keep the woman + baby safe, above all. But a doula’s job is quite different. We ask the questions and provide the resources so the family can figure out where and with whom they feel the most safe and supported, and then guide them through that space, and more.
An experienced doula not only walks + supports the family the entire time, but wherever that path leads, they go too. What do I mean? Home birth clients that end up in hospitals, by choice or necessity. Hospital clients that never make it to the hospital. Pregnancies that never make it to delivery. Long births that change shifts so many times you start to see the same faces again. Hospital clients that at mile 26 decide they want a birth center. Breech clients that need a version, yesterday. Endless texts for months about #allthethingshavingababy. In-home prenatal and postpartum visits. Filling the gap between birth and the six week check-up, which anyone that’s had a baby knows is worlds apart. Knowing the family’s older sibling(s) + pet’s names and where they keep the extra key just in case. Three am conference calls to assess labor patterns and plans and anxiety levels.
An experienced and respected doula has been through all of these situations (and more) with their clients, being that expert that offers advice and options professionally, but not actual medical care. If this doesn’t qualify them for being a birth (+ beyond) consultant, no matter what the consultees needs, desires and outcomes are, I don’t know what does. Perhaps on my next long run I’ll figure that one out, too.