Developing Your Inner Doula

This is a copy of my notes (polished up a bit and put into sentence form) from the doula conference this weekend.

I was VERY nervous, but received overwhelmingly positive from feedback from most of the people who were there, as well as encouragement from the PR Director of DONA (who was in attendance) to submit this article for publication in DONA's industry publication, International Doula. This in itself is quite flattering, as I have had the cover story in this magazine before, and I would nearly burst with pride to have it again.

So please post your comments or questions, and I will consider them all in the writing of my final draft of this article, before I submit it for publication to DONA. Thank you, and happy reading!

And to those of you whom I met at the conference-- it was lovely to meet you all, and I wish you nothing but the best in your pursuit of being the best doula you can be!


To develop your inner doula is to become a gatherer.

Picture a squirrel, constantly seeking out small nuggets of nourishment, and savoring each little bit, treating it as if it were gold. This is how we nourish our minds, and our creative skills for our clients. Their nourishment is food, and ours is information. We should constantly be seeking new perspectives, and new information. It may not be useful in this moment, but tuck it away, and when you need it, it will be JUST THE THING, and nothing else will do.

Developed doulas teach classes.

To teach, even if once a year, you put yourself in a position to gather unique information. You can learn a lot from others. Perspectives and vulnerabilities you can’t see from any other vantage are visible in the nuanced interpersonal connections between teacher and the nervous expectant parent. Pay attention to how different people make you feel, and ask why they make you feel this way. This is a great way to test yourself for your own preconceived ideas about people and birth. Ask yourself if you feel effective in reaching your ‘problem students’, and what you could have done differently for them. The answer will change you.

What you can learn about yourself by teaching is invaluable. Seeing yourself through the eyes of the expectant family can help you fine tune the image you want to portray, and your communication skills. So, Tell the world who you are, and what you believe in, and you’d be surprised who is listening.

I think it’s important to note-- Teaching is not just for our cleints, we can teach one another as well, in meetings large or small. Topic oriented meetings are best, I have found, as doulas LOVE to talk birth! And if we don’t have an agenda, we will generally fill the allotted time and barely finish up the introductions! So make sure you have a goal or topic in each setting, and reach for it.

Developed Doulas attend/volunteer for Non Profit Organizations dedicated to new moms

To help a mother with BF issues, you need to know what the most common issues are in the first weeks and months of life. La Leche League is the best place to go to hear about these issues, and the multitude of women with variations on each issue and how to handle it. This group is an amazing resource for finding ‘alternate ways’ to look at common problems, as well as other methods of coping. The main points of the more common breastfeeding obstacles can be read in a book, but the tips, pointers, and life skills are passed from mother to mother, and if you go to the meetings, they will pass on to you, as well.

In one meeting your inner doula may learn enough to help a woman continue to breastfeed up to or beyond her original goal, and we all know this makes all the difference in the lives of that mother and baby. These same rules apply to meetings for ICAN, and other groups related to birth and parenting. They all have a unique point of view or group of mothers in need that YOU could learn something from.

In order to grow, we need to learn, and meetings like this will stretch our brains beyond our own experience and allow us to be a better doula to women with the specific issues these groups cater to.

Developed Doulas contribute to their community. And not just with money.

Do a BOLD Red Tent Event, startup a Trust Birth Initiative, sign up as a guest speaker at ICAN, LLL, or at different types of birth classes. As doulas, with each act of giving, we get so much in return. So let us give, for the betterment of others, for the betterment of ourselves, and the betterment of our doula community.

You don’t need money to invite women into your home to learn and talk about birth. There is more to giving than dollars—we can give our sense, too!

But please donate something, as it develops our roots in the community as doulas, our connection to the people we serve, and an awareness of doulas in the cultural consciousness. Donate your time so that women know how to find a doula on the day they decide they need one.

Developed Doulas are aware of the mainstream and cultural forces in their field

We should spend two hours each week reading industry materials. And no, I don’t mean blogs. Blogs are a FABULOUS WAY to keep your head and your name involved in the goings on of your field, but reading a blog on someone else’s opinion is reading an editorial. Newspapers differentiate between news, which is fact based, and editorials, which are opinion based—and you should, too.

While these outlets may serve to reinforce your opinion, or get you motivated, it is not to be confused with following the research or literature of the industry we work in.

Developed Doulas check their sources and ask hard questions. Developed Doulas don’t accept anything as fact because of who posted it on Facebook.

Check your sources, and make sure they are reputable, consistent, and fact based. Emotion-laden media serves a lot of purposes for doulas, but please don’t confuse it with fact seeking. Developed Doulas know their stuff. J

Developed Doulas do not indulge the negative media surrounding birth on television.

This is not the good for our professional self-esteem, and in most cases just gets us riled up and frustrated. So turn them all off (unless you know an amazing midwife or doula on a particular episode, and then you SHOULD watch—because those are the shows that we hope will change the rest of them).

Instead, we can read a book, or watch a reputable DVD to expand our knowledge base, so our personal wisdom grows. And with wisdom, comes confidence, grace, and a greater ability to conduct yourself in a relatable manner to your audience, no matter who your audience might be.

Developed Doulas make friends with people whose professions compliment theirs

Visit the offices of professionals who serve the same clients you do. Get to know them, how they work, and their side of the birth story—as we don’t all see it from the same point of view.

Get to know a massage therapist, a physical therapist, an acupuncturist, a lactation consultant, a postpartum therapist, a chiropractor, a midwife, a nurse, an Obstetrician *gasp*, a medical biller, etc. This will create a great referral base, and make you more knowledgeable about birth and pregnancy as a whole.

Developed doulas know their fellow doulas.

Make an effort to meet all of them, and not just the ones nearby. Know the other options, and opinions that help to shape birth in your area.

Developed doulas have backups, and lots of them.

Create a backup program with doulas from the four corners of your ‘workzone’. Meet with them quarterly. Develop a backup fee structure, as well as a ‘finders fee’ for referrals so no one loses when we’re not a good fit with someone.

Developed Doulas ‘Mother each Other’

Share birth stories, and the emotionally difficult parts of working birth for you, and for your family. Share where you felt inadequate, and where you felt strong. Share your general impression of yourself, and who you hope to become. We need to share these things with our backups, to create an intimacy, and a loving trust.

Offer them the opportunity to do the same, and tuck away the seedlings you see in them and hope to see more of in you. This builds us up from the inside out. When we allow ourselves to be mothered, we become more comfortable mothering others. We need to receive nurturing in order to do it well.

We love our clients with the same hearts we love our families, our fellow doulas, and ourselves with. So spread the love, and share your journey.

Developed doulas refer to others.

When a client isn’t right for us, or we can’t take their EDD, the responsible thing to do is to refer the mother on, so she doesn’t have to go back to square one. We need to lovingly, and gently hand that mother to the waiting arms of other trusted doulas we know. Who better to help them than the women we know best?

Those local doulas whom we’ve sought out relationships with, and whom we trust and understand deeply are waiting with open arms to help the people you can’t. Now we have already acted as doula to that woman and her family by mothering her, and sharing the love with the doula we referred her to.

And her new doula, has a mother who is pre-loved, and comfortably nestled within a community of confident, caring women, and already knows she is home. This mother has already benefitted from the gifts a doula has to offer before she even chooses one—and THAT is good for business, it may not hit our pocket books just now, but it will catch up in time.

Social Media can be amazing. Developed Doulas use it.

There are legions of people out there with interests like yours, who are passionate about your passions. Social media is a tool you can use to keep motivated and forward thinking. There are also people who need to hear what you have to say. Some of them don’t have access to a doula, or are unsure that you even exist.

So get on Facebook, get on twitter, speak your mind, spread your words, and get people interested. It will keep you interested as well, and that will make you better at what you do. So after you read this, friend me!

Developed doulas Blog about their experiences.

It is important to maintain client privacy, but you can still blog about your thoughts, and issues you perceive to be important.

We should share tiny things we learn over time that can improve someone’s postpartum or prenatal period. These are the small nuggets that the other doulas will seek out, and hold onto as treasure until the moment that your experience can improve the life of one of their clients.

Sharing your tricks makes us all better, and community success means individual success, as well. Blogging will make you create the time you need to really think about your true feelings on each aspect of birth. This will also clarify your thoughts and make the information you share with clients more concise, and thoughtful.

This is how we learn, how we assimilate new info, and how we share what we’ve learned with others. This is how we create a community of women, all coming together to feed their inner doulas. This is also how to create a better world for women to grow up in, and mothers to birth in.

And in this way, developing our inner doulas will make the world a better place.

And you just thought we made the world better by creating fabulous birth experiences for as many women as we can reach! But we’re so much more! Especially when we grow as a team.

Let’s develop ourselves into a mighty presence of confident women who are in the business of sharing our wisdom to change the experience and culture of birth for this and all future generations.

Lets support change by supporting one another, and spend our time being purposeful and dedicated so we can change the world!

I am a developed doula—and everyone reading this and seeking more information is, too!

Give yourself a hand for pioneering a field that is so unique and so needed, and let’s work together to create a powerful movement, and an enormous lobby. Let’s change the world one birth at a time, and by leaps and giant feminine steps!

Let us leave in imprint on the birth community in the shape of our high-heeled shoes (or our birth crocs). Please join me in the reshaping of birth in America. I look forward to sharing my journey with so many amazing, and powerful women. Thank you.