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Limiting belief: It's important for doulas to have given birth before becoming a doula

a doula supporting a client

The idea that a having experience being pregnant or giving birth, or giving birth vaginally is a prerequisite to being a good birth doula is very common among aspiring or new doulas. This is a powerful limiting belief that I really want to address. How many fabulous potential doulas never get into birth work because they think they are not enough because of the way their life has unfolded, either intentionally or unintentionally?

As an experienced veteran doula, I can empathize with people who feel like their lack of birth or natural birth experience prevents them from being a good doula, but I also know with my whole being that it's not a valid factor that should stop any person from pursuing a career in supporting people through conception, pregnancy and birth journeys. In fact, one of the biggest challenges for career doulas to deal with is their own small children. It can be hard although possible to live on call life and attend births when you have babies or small children of your own. How I wish more young women would start their doula careers before they start their own families. It would give them such an advantage in their business to get well established first! A good doula training course should provide all aspiring doulas with the confidence and knowledge they need to provide excellent support. Doula training courses teach us about the stages of labour, comfort measures, medical interventions, informed consent and advocacy, common pregnancy conditions, holding space and more.

One of the reasons I feel that any limiting belief about one's lack of birth experience is irrelevant is because how birth evolves is always different. Hospital birth is different than home birth. What people experience during an induction is different than one's experience having a water birth. Even two people who experience a cesarean birth can have wildly different experiences. If a doula has given birth once, twice or even three times, the chances that she will support someone who gives birth and experiences it exactly as she did is highly unlikely. And, people don't want to receive support from someone who has a bias about how birth should happen or what they should do. The best birth doulas have a lack of bias, are very open minded and are able to support their clients in the way they experience birth and what they choose no matter what that looks like. Good birth doulas are able to set their own experiences aside and see their client's experience through as unbiased a lens as possible. Our own traumas or biases can cause doulas who haven't done the work to possibly project or attempt their own healing unconsciously through their clients experience.

I never assume how my client's feel whether it's their physical sensations or their feelings about a situation. I try to always ask them how they feel about what is happening. How are they experiencing their current circumstances. There are so many amazing resources available in the birth world to help potential doulas gain confidence in what birth can be like. In addition to confidence in birth physiology and the technical skills of doula support, the qualities that make someone an amazing doula include empathy, great listening skills, natural nurturing tendencies, healthy boundaries and an ability to really connect with others. These skills are far, far more relevant than any personal experience giving birth.


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