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.
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.
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
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.
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.