Sunday, January 31, 2010


Recently, I went to an event sponsored by folks in the NYC birthing community. There were a variety of experts on topics relating to birth and infants and I was asked to speak on CRP/first Aid Instruction. I love attending these sort of events in any capacity, not just for the ability to outreach to pregnant New Yorkers, but also because these events allow me to meet other doulas, midwives and assorted people involved in a similar line of work to me.

It was with great expectations that I listened as one of the midwives spoke about how to choose a provider, learn about hospital protocols and give a summary of the ins and outs of birth. Toward the end of her talk, however, she said something that hit a wrong chord with me.

“No woman needs a doula during her birth or postpartum experience,” claimed the midwife. “All you need is a trusted friend who is not afraid of infants or birth”

With all due respect, I completely disagree. During the birth of my daughter, my birth doula was the person who assured me that everything was progressing normally. She had witnessed enough births that she was not colored by her own experiences the way a friend may be. She had seen all sorts of birthing scenarios and could confidently and accurately tell me what was happening throughout the process. As a postpartum doula, I am trained to screen for postpartum depression. I have assisted enough women with breastfeeding issues that I can instantly assess and correct most problems without referring to the way I did it. And, I have seen enough newborns at this point that I can confidently tell a parent when everything is normal – and when its not.

In my role as a postpartum doula, I am available to my clients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is not unusual for the phone to ring at 4am with questions ranging from nipple pain during breastfeeding to a how to remove baby poop from white upholstery. Sure, many of these new moms have mothers, sisters and friends who say “call me anytime,” but they aren’t comfortable calling at 4am with what might be a trivial questions and feel bad bothering a friend. But I make it clear that its my job to answer the phone and the moms while the without support need it, the ones with a solid support system are grateful to have it.

Moreover, I have no agenda. I do not care if you vaccinate your child, circumcise your son or refuse to dress your daughter in pink. My job is to create confident and capable parents and help new parents to find their own way. Rarely do my clients know whether or not my daughter is vaccinated, how I feel about my babysitter or if I plan on having a bris for my not-yet born son. The only time I offer an opinion about a new parent’s style is if that parent is doing something dangerous – and even then I try and make my corrections as gentle as possible. “You know, using plastic wrap to protect the sheets could increase the suffocation rates. You may want to try a simple mattress protector instead”

Thankfully, I spoke after the midwife who told the audience that there was no need for doulas and after my talk, I found many people nodding in agreement with me. Seems everyone has a pushy mother-in-law/sister/friend who insists that any form of parenting other than the one they used is incorrect and its nice to have an “expert” to call for back-up when you lack the confidence to do it on your own.