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What are we doing, doulas?

In hospitals where staff have evolved into grouchy, overworked and under supported clock punchers, doulas have become the true guardians of birth. This is a sacred profession. We are witness to a very private miracle. More than that, we are the only ones who never leave the bedside, watching these mothers and their babies for any signs of trouble.

In the home or in a hospital room, our eyes and ears are supplementing the caregivers limited provision and divided attention.

If we want to begin to lower the death rate of mothers and their babies, then we need to continue to have the back of those who are ultimately responsible for the outcome. Meanwhile we need to make sure that they are held accountable for the trauma and the bad outcomes that their systems, protocol, apathy and their neglect are causing. When mistakes are made, doulas must speak up. When caregivers lie and medical records are falsified, doulas must speak up. When families are bullied, doulas must speak up. When the caregiver misses something critical and the doula catches it, saving a life or not, we must speak up.

Sure it is comfortable for hospital workers and even homebirth workers to have this silent servant on hand, but if doulas are not part of the accountability, then we are still part of the problem. We must have the confidence of every caregiver, that we have the patient’s best interest at heart, that we know our scope, and that we are committed to behaving professionally at all times. This means that when my provider has made a mistake, whether accidentally or intentionally, we have the balls to approach them at an appropriate time and in an appropriate location, and have a mature conversation.

In order to make a difference, we must earn the respect of everyone we interact with, by showing respect to everyone we interact with, even when they don’t deserve it. The birth team is just that, a team. Conduct yourself as an equally contributing member. Because you are. There should be no egos and there should be no contention in the presence of the birthing family.

You deserve to be paid fairly for your contribution to the good outcomes that you bring with you when you enter the birth suite. But if you are there for the excitement or for the paycheck, you’re there for the wrong reasons. Set your intention on saving lives first, preventing trauma second, and respecting birthing families from start to finish. When we can genuinely say that we have done this to the best of our ability, then we have done our jobs well.

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