Becoming a Doula – My Story

Becoming a doula – My Story is a bit of a misleading title. I’m not sure that I became a doula. It was part of me already. I just didn’t know it until I trained as a doula.

I had been mostly a home educating mother for my children’s growing up years. We had moved often, but had recently moved to AL. We were living on a little farm where my daughter raised Golden Retrievers. My children and I were involved in helping with that. We home schooled, did a bit of gardening, ran the kennel, and had horses.

The Beginning

Not so strangely (I’ve met several doulas who had similar beginnings), when the dogs gave birth I found myself very in tune with their labor signals. Later, we jokingly referred to my daughter, Katie, as the midwife while I was the doula and midwife assistant. There was even a newborn exam for the puppies!

During a time of life transition, between a friend suggesting it and my own inclination toward it, I began to look into becoming a midwife. I had not heard of doulas, but thought it was another name fora midwife. A midwife in my state suggested I become a doula as a beginning route toward midwifery. That was when I learned the difference.

The Journey

Eleven years ago, there were only a handful of doula training and certifying organizations, but I didn’t know that. Someone referred me to a DONA trainer, and we planned a workshop. My daughter, who loves learning, wanted to participate, too. Actually, our class ended up being comprised of 18 mothers and daughters. We had the best time, and I knew a calling stumbled into my path.

With DONA, the workshop is just the beginning. Some of the other requirements for certification are:

  • a long list of books to read
  • writing birth reports
  • working with 3 families families that meet the requirements
  • assessments from midwife, doctor, and/or nurses who observe your work
  • attend childbirth education class
  • attend breastfeeding class
  • writing essays

The Arrival

ugandan doula, becoming a doula, international doula month

This process took a couple of years, but I learned so much! I also jumped into the deep end by attending a midwife/doula mission trip to Uganda. And I do mean deep end! This is where I learned I loved serving mothers. Believe me if I loved it in a Ugandan Hospital, there was no turning back!

Since that time, I have also certified as a postpartum doula through DONA, Int. This was born out of my own mothering experience with a sick baby. My heart is to smooth the way for mothers and provide the support that is very missing in the U.S. during their 4th trimester…the support that I had needed myself. There is such a sense of satisfaction in coming to the end of my time of service with a family knowing they has gone from surviving toward thriving.

My Path

A benefit with my particular training organization is the support they provide for their doulas. There are online groups where business questions, policy questions, and any question that a doula may have can be asked and answered by women with decades of experience. This has been more valuable than I knew it would be when I started down this path.

Often, a woman will reach out to find out about how to become a doula. Today, there are a lot of certifying organizations …somewhere around 80! They have a very wide range of requirements.

I needed to know I would be prepared, educated, and competent. This was especially important to me for my postpartum training. A postpartum doula is in a position to recognize a struggling mother and help prevent her from falling through the cracks. I cannot overemphasize the importance of good training.

Since then I have learned more about DONA, Int., the oldest and leading training organization. I am very glad I stumbled into their training program. Non-profit and volunteer run, DONA, Int is highly professional. Their requirement for continuing education assures my clients that I am continually improving my knowledge and skills. They are also very involved in improving mother/baby health outcomes through research and lobbying efforts…something I am proud to support.

Choosing a Path

Are you interested in becoming a doula? I highly recommend you consider your philosophy and ethics. Here are some prompts:

  • What kind of support do you want long term from your organization? Will this organization be able to provide that for you?
  • How long has it been in operation? With a privately owned program, what is the likelihood the program will continue?
  • Is the training/certifying organization respected and recognized in the medical field?
  • What are their ethics, and do they mesh with yours?
  • Is there a possibility you may move from your local area? Will a particular training organization be recognized elsewhere?

I found that becoming a doula was a bit of a misnomer. It begins on the inside with the doula heart. The training just gives birth to that heart.

I hope you have enjoyed this little 3 part series during International Doula Month. You are invited to read the first post “What is a doula? and the second post Thank a Doula.

Marcie Hadley, CD(DONA), PCD(DONA), CLC, and LCCE(LAMAZE), has been serving families since 2010. She especially enjoys getting to know her families, meeting their unique needs, and sharing evidence-based care information. Marcie has worked with unmedicated, medicated, C-section, family friendly C-Section, and VBAC labors, Her postpartum experience includes working with families of first children to families of 10. She has worked with mothers who have experienced postpartum depression and illness following birth. Her goal is to empower mothers in their own mothering wisdom.

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