Becoming a doula

Why would you want to become a doula?

The money’s not great. There is no employment security or benefits. The hours are long, and you have to be on call a lot of the time. It’s not a high-status job, and there are body-fluids involved.

And yet…

There is the obvious excitement and joy that goes with supporting a family through the birth of a new baby. There is the thrill of getting that 3am call, and rushing off in the night. There is the delicious privilege of cuddling the baby afterwards. Those are the bits everyone expects are the big motivators for becoming a doula.

But I think there are others.

Some people choose to become a doula because they are fascinated by the anatomy and physiology of the pregnant, birthing and lactating human body. The intellectual challenge of learning about the hormones, the process of labour, the evidence for treatments and interventions draws them. These doulas pursue every course, read every book.

Some are called to becoming a doula by a desire to serve pregnant parents and new families. Some doulas had a particularly strong and transformational birth or postpartum experience themselves. Either they loved it and want to stay in the that world, and continue to share in it vicariously, or they had a traumatic time, and they want to help other parents and families avoid those difficulties.

Some people become doulas out of a desire to change the “system”. They want to improve conditions for labouring and birthing parents, create a more supportive environment for postpartum families. They want to stand in solidarity with birthing parents, to make sure that the parents’ voices are heard, to make sure the labouring parent is treated respectfully, that the baby is cared for compassionately.

Some people love being a doula because they can be self-employed. They can put their client first, without being restricted by the rules of an institution. Some love being a doula because of the lively and supportive community of doulas. In Victoria, where I live and work, the doula comunity is a rich source of information and mutual referrals. And a source of spirited discussion and good laughs!

I have stopped working as a birth doula. Arthritis and age have made it impossible for me to stand by a labour bed and massage a sacrum for hours. I miss the connection I had with my clients, I miss the collegiality I had with the local nurses and doctors and midwives, I miss the excitement and purpose doula work gave to my life. But I also miss being able to say “sorry I’m late with the… I had to go to a birth!” It was a great excuse! I miss having breakfast at the all-night diner on my way home from a birth. I miss being invited into families during this intense and intimate time, that was such an honour!

But I am still training doulas. I can still share the wisdom and skill that doula work taught me. I can still gather aspiring doula together and revel in the discussion of how best to stand in solidarity with new families. If you are not put off by the long hours, the being on call, and the body fluids, join me! My next DONA International-Approved Birth Doula Workshop runs from July 1-4, 2022, at Mothering Touch – 733 Johson street, Victoria BC. You can read about it and register here: