Posted in Birth Stories, Blog, Emma, Emotional wellness, Featured, Just for you, Life as a mom, Mother, Posts for mommies-to-be, Still pregnant?, Woman, Working or staying home

When a doula has a baby: part 2

In my last post, I wrote about what it was like to have a baby after attending a whole mess of births as a doula. For me, a more complicated question posed by friends, family and doula clients has been, “How did having a baby change the way you doula?”


One of the most frequently asked questions in my interviews with new families used to be, “Have you given birth?”. Of course they wanted to know. Does your mechanic drive a car? Probably. Is your butcher a vegetarian? Probably not. As the Seattle doula community grows to include more and more young women, like myself, who work full time attending women who are doing something they’ve never actually experienced themselves, this question becomes more and more interesting.


Before, I would talk about it thusly:

  • No, I have never given birth to a baby. However, you (potential client) aren’t asking me to give birth, you’re asking me to help YOU give birth. I have helped lots of ladies give birth.
  • Something I can bring to a woman in labor that may be beneficial is a blank birth slate. I have no joy, sorrow, baggage or otherwise around my own body, baby or process so I can be wholly present for you and your unique situation/experience.
  • Logistically, I can get to you quicker, I can stay with you longer and be more available than someone with kids.
  • And, finally, I totally get it if you want someone who’s had a baby and ______, _______, ________ are all good doulas to contact.


All of those things are still true and if a friend were to ask me, when interviewing doulas, if they should go with _______, who has not had a baby, or _______ who has. I would still say all of the above.


However, there are some things to add.

It’s not as simple as “people without kids have more time”. Yes, before I had a daughter I could take off at a moment’s notice – dropping whatever project/movie/party/shower I was currently partaking in and zip off to the hospital/birth center/house of the laboring mama. Now, I would have to wait for someone to get to my house before I left and make sure there was pumped milk ready. Then say goodbye to my babe and THEN zip off. That, duh, would take longer than before. But it’s also that I am always mentally in two places when I am away from home. My clients will never be first again. My daughter will always be. There is a way you can be 100% present for other people before you have a baby that abandons you. You will now always be distracted. You are, in a different sense, always on-call. Because once Sean got oil from chilis on his bare hands and had to go to the emergency room, and you can bet your bottom that if I were at a birth I would have very lovingly told him to get himself some morphine to take home because I was busy. If Hazel was sick, or broke a bone, or whatever, I would come home to be with her.


Traditionally, back-in-the-Old-Days, doulas (and midwives for that matter) were the childless. Perhaps because it worked out best – those women weren’t so loathe to get up in the middle of the night, could leave to be with a laboring woman at any time and could focus on her entirely, without having to soothe, nurse, play with, put to sleep, etc. another child.


Of course, doulas with children are amazing at births. Because they know. That goes without saying. But there are challenges to being a doula and a mama.


I have, embarrassingly, made the cardinal sin of saying to a woman regarding her contractions, “I know”. No I did not know! And I vowed in doula training that I would never say that. I think that the few times it popped out I meant to say, “So many women have done this before, I know, because I was there. And they struggled, too. And they were scared and strong, too. I know, because I was witness to their hard hard work. You can do this because they did it and I am transferring all of that wisdom and strength through these words.” But, come on. “I know” was so wildly inappropriate. No amount of watching women give birth can make your body feel what it’s like. When my doula, whose 4 year old was at home during my labor, said, “I know” from her wide open, sympathetic eyes as she watched me pound the bathroom tiles with my fist, it really meant something to me. And I believed her when she told me I could do it because she seemed credible. Did my clients believe me when I said the same? I don’t know.


More than anything, my own birth restored my faith in birthing. Over the years I saw many lovely births – both ones that went as planned and ones that didn’t. But in the mix were so many cervixes which “failed” to progress, shy babies reluctant to come, women beat up and bruised, both physically and emotionally by their births, their providers or themselves. And I felt all of their sadness and disappointment deeply. To have my own birth be one that went quickly, smoothly and so much according to plan, it again planted in me the belief in women, babies and birthing as things that make sense.

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  1. This was such a great article. Especially the part about how you can no longer ever be 100% present for other people. That, for me, has been the most difficult part of having children, I think, or at least the part I was least prepared for mentally. 🙂 Thanks for sharing the rest of your story, though- it’s so interesting to hear it from the perspective of a doula!

  2. dana ericson says:

    I am Jen Pierce’s mom and admired your guidance at Jack’s birth. It was FUN to read about your daughter’s birth. Thank you. Dana

  3. May I add that I despise the critical, judgmental terms the medical world gives women and their body parts: incompetent cervixes, inadequate contractions, labors that fail to progress. This terminology sucks, but its what they call it and that is the only reason I used it here.

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