Pebbles in the Jar for Doulas
Imagine you have a basket of pebbles- and a jar that is empty. And every skill you learn as a doula, you add one pebble from the basket to the jar. When you begin your journey as a new doula you learn some basic skills in your training… the double hip squeeze, counter pressure, some acupressure points, touch, etc… And so add the pebbles to the jar from the basket. You may end up with a dozen or more in the jar.
Now you attend your certifying births and you pick up some more tools- you learn how to put ice in between the layers of a baby diaper and the padding for helping the mom with perineal swelling from a nurse. You learn how to spray water on the mom’s back without spraying her partner. And you pick up maybe a few more skills from watching the nurses. So you add a few more pebbles to the jar.
You read more books and you learn how the clock is one of the most detrimental tools in a labor room (Sarah Buckley). You learn that truly watching a mom in labor is better (Whappio Bartlett) than using a contraction app on your phone. You read Ina May’s books and add horse lips to the mix of pain coping skills. And over time you add a dozen more pebbles to your jar.
Now if you only doula as a hobby or only dabble, then perhaps you are not adding as many pebbles to your jar. But if you see this as a calling that you need to refine and add skills to, then you may find other ways to add pebbles to your jar. You may find that attending conferences are essential. You may hear others say they can not afford to attend that Rebozo workshop or that workshop on acupressure for labor and postpartum. And if this is not bringing them in any income to support these trainings or they find this is just more of a part time hobby, this may be true. But a doula who is serious about her craft will work on enhancing it.
You should expect that doula to be attending workshops. You should expect that doula to be reading articles online that present new research. You should expect that she has a library of books that is becoming more extensive over time. You would expect that of anyone else in a profession. Can you imagine if you went to your computer programmer and he only worked in DOS and had no idea how computers had changed over the last decade or even the last few years?
And as a doula, sometimes as you are learning new things, you still rely too heavily on the basic tools. It may be because you have not yet learned how to integrate new tools into your approach. It may be that you are forgetting some basics because you have replaced them with some newer ones. Sometimes it may be good to pour out some of those pebbles and review them.
We do this in several ways as a doula group. Everyone can not attend every training. So when someone does, we get together as a group and discuss new skills we have learned and share them with each other. During a birth you may be frazzled over a long night and forget something that if you were fresh you would have remembered. We are often texting to each other during breaks to get reminders. We even have a private facebook group where someone may step out to the bathroom and share a dilemma and get pretty immediate responses from the other doulas. And after a birth, we call each other to debrief often times, reviewing what worked- or what did not work and getting input on new ideas for solutions if that issue arises in the future. And we encourage each other to keep sharp by learning new techniques- by attending workshops and conferences first hand- and by being open to input from each other.
I loved a new blog article that released by Amy Gilliland, PhD on her doulaing the doula blog. It is called Not Any Woman. She writes about the different skill sets a doula needs and even more so the ones she acquires with time and experience. A few she discusses are: the emotional skills, the positioning and comfort skills, and her communication skills. She emphasises that many of these skills take time and are honed over that time by learning from what works and what does not. I think this is so true.
Our newest doulas are not thrown into the bull pen and expected to be experts from the beginning of their doula work. Our mentoring only begins when they apprentice a birth. There are countless conversations along the way. We chat after our Mingles about conversations that were just had with new potential clients, ways we can best meet their needs a newly pregnant families. We discuss how to learn what the family needs during the prenatal meeting. We share so much within our group. We enjoy each others input and offerings.
And over time each doula has a very full jar of pebbles of knowledge that she can pull out and utilize as she sharpens her skills in meeting the needs of the couples we serve.