One of the big questions that I’m asked when I first meet with prospective clients is, “so what do the midwives and doctors think about doulas? Are there ever any conflicts?”
In my experience, it is VERY rare for there to be any issues with other healthcare professionals. On the whole, I find that my presence is welcomed and appreciated. Whilst my primary role is most definitely to support the mother, followed by the dad or other birth partner, having a doula-supported birth should make it a better experience for everyone involved.
When I transfer into hospital with clients, I cling to them like glue and do all I can to get us past triage and into a room as swiftly as possible. After that, unless something intense is going on and my client ‘needs’ me to be close, I take a step back. This allows the midwife to form a relationship with the mum, and I can’t stress enough how important this is; it is not a doula’s job to hog her client!
So what else do I do?
- I make sure that I shake the midwife’s hand and introduce myself.
- If I ever nip out to get snacks or supplies for myself or the couple I’m with, I ask the midwife if they’d like anything brought back.
- When I dim the lights I leave enough light for them to write their notes in.
- I help to keep the room clean and tidy.
- I include them in discussions (unless there is a need for a more private talk), drawing on their expertise and wisdom.
- I take time to explain any tricks that I use, and show them how to locate acupressure points etc.
- When they finish their shift or I leave after the birth, I thank them for their help and let them know what the couple particularly appreciated.
- I often write letters of recommendation to their clinical supervisors.
A lot of midwives ask me why I’m not a midwife, and offer to write references for me should I ever decide to apply. Others have invited me along to their NHS supplied antenatal classes, one SOM (supervisor of midwives) asked me to give a talk to a group of midwives about the role of doulas and how we can best work together, and another has become a friend. So I’m happy to say that the whole doula vs. midwife scenario happens a lot less than people seem to think; the doula-midwife combo works!
As far as doctors go, obstetricians and anaesthetists tend to be shocked that I’m not a ‘medic’, one recently walked out the room smiling and wagging his finger at me, saying “I don’t believe that you’re not a medic”. This is perhaps slightly perplexing as ‘being medical’ is NOT a doula’s role, however, we do tend to know a fair bit about birth, and with my education and training, I can talk their language. Another consultant told me to “keep doing what you’re doing (reflexology) because the baby is much happier now… if the foetal heart rate stays like this, we won’t need to do anything”, and once, during a caesarean section, an anaesthetist told me that she thought all women having a section should have a doula with them.
The day that a woman gives birth is the most important day of her life, she puts her trust in her team of carers, so it’s up to us to make sure that we do work as a team, because who wants to look back on their birth and remember tension, animosity, and larger than life egos?