Relationships take time to develop. When you pick a doula it is best to hire her as soon as you can so you can develop a relationship with her. She needs to be someone you feel you can be honest with and share your inner most thoughts regarding your birth fears and ideals. It needs to be someone you can trust. This is a double road though- it is up to you to make this happen as well as the doula.
We had a client who hired a doula several months out. Although they discussed things and chatted along the way, some things were said or shared that made her question her decision in her selection of her doula. She did not address these concerns. She did not ask for clarification or share her thoughts about what was said or misunderstood. And just like when your partner does a bunch of little things that bother you and you do not address them, the group of them together makes for a sore spot between you. This did not make for a relationship that would foster a great doula-client relationship.
We see women select care providers and find out along their journey that this care provider was not going to be supportive of their ideal birth. But instead of addressing their concerns, they either dismiss them or they decide that perhaps it won’t really make a difference. But this is a relationship that will not foster a great care provider-client relationship.
Do yourself and your doula a favor… in fact do everyone in your life a favor and share with them the thoughts that make you uncomfortable when they occur. Address them so they can either be resolved or so a decision can be made early on to switch doulas if the doula is not a good fit. Sharing early on may have been something that could have allowed the relationship to grow and flourish rather than falter. After all it is about the relationship. Every match is not one made in heaven. But being honest is the best way to maintain relationships that will bring the blessings to your life and your birth!
We had a client tell their doula they did not want a particular doula to be their back up. When questioned about it, they did not feel she would be a good fit since her personality when they met seemed different than what they felt they may need in their labor. We have enough back up options that we certainly are able to accommodate that request. But keep in mind, just as Paul states in the Bible that he became all things to all people to win as many as possible, a doula can become what you need. For instance I have had clients want me to be gregarious and fun in their labors. I have had some ask for almost complete silence in their labors. I have had some who loved the casual conversations in the background that insured them all was normal. Doulas become what you need in your labor. But you need to let them know what you need. Since every woman has her own particular needs, your doula needs to know what you think you will need. But ironically that may change when you are actually in labor. She knows how to be flexible as your needs change.
A doula who is gregarious and funny at the Meet and Mingle may be the quiet, calm spirit who holds the sacred space of labor and birth for you. So, remember just as you may have a different personality at a party than at your labor, so she may as well. Ask questions that will enlighten you to her full personality before deciding she may not be who you are looking for to support you.
I often tell women not to lie to their care provider- don’t expect them to be truthful if you are not willing to be truthful to them. I feel if you can’t be vulnerable and honest with them, your relationship is not one of trust for your labor and birth. This is certainly true for your doula as well. Be honest, be vulnerable, be open- it will help your relationship become what will be most beneficial to you for your birth experience. Understand that misunderstandings occur, but share your feelings if they do so it can be cleared up. Communication is paramount for growth in this relationship.
I spoke to a friend who is a bit older than me. I said the bad thing and the good thing about getting older is you don’t care what people think of you. But the truth is you should always care how others feel from your actions or words. But again, sharing how one makes you feel will help resolve any negative feelings you may have from someone else’s actions. She said that sometimes when we get older we know things, we feel we need to speak the truth- even bluntly- and that those who are not in the same place are unwilling to hear the truth. I think about the phrase, “folks don’t care how much you know, they need to know how much you care.”
Sometimes I think in an effort to share what we know from our experience, we have our comments come across too emphatic and opinionated. I used to think that if you did not fully believe something, then you could not really have a strong opinion worth sharing. Now with age I realize everything is not so black and white. Fully supporting women sometimes means not sharing your opinion unless they really ask for it. As a doula that is often hard to not feel the need to share what you feel is truth that will protect them. But sometimes too much information can overwhelm a mom. It is a fine line in this relationship. We begin to feel responsible for them instead of to them.
Polly Perez a friend of mine- and an internationally known birth advocate shared this with me recently. ”
I had to remind myself the difference between feeling responsible TO or FOR many times….
That is why I wrote the following handout and even put it in one of my books hoping it might be helpful to others.
Hope this will help your in some way in your current situation….
Here is the handout—
The Difference in Feeling Responsible TO and FOR
When you feel responsible TO others….
You show empathy, encourage, share, confront, level, are sensitive, listen.
You feel relaxed, free, aware, high self-esteem.
You are concerned with relating person to person, feelings, and the person.
You are helper/guide.
You expect the person to be responsible for themselves and their actions.
You trust and let go.
When you feel responsible FOR others….
You fix, rescue, control, carry their feelings, don’t listen.
You feel tired, anxious, fearful, liable.
You are concerned with the solution, answers, circumstances, being right, details.
You are a manipulator.You expect the person to live up to your expectations.
So, find a care provider and a doula who will feel responsible to you. And be responsible yourself and share your feelings- after all it is about developing a relationship. Be open and honest. Let her know what you think is important and will need. And then know you will be fully supported in your labor and birth!