Often times when people learn I am a doula they assume that I have children of my own. There comes a point in interviews with potential clients where the question of my personal labor/pregnancy/baby experience comes up. Until recently I have felt sheepish about admitting that I am not a mother yet (as if it is something to be admitted to). Maybe it’s because I am afraid of not meeting people’s expectations. At the same time, I am not embarrassed that I’m still waiting to become a mother, nor do I think that it diminishes my skills as a doula. I don’t feel that becoming a mother would automatically make you a great doula (though lots of doulas are fantastic mothers), just as experiencing loss doesn’t automatically make you an effective grief counselor.
There are many doulas who are mothers and who find doula work through motherhood. It makes sense. Sitting in my doula training, many of the women in the room had come to the training as a result of a wonderful birth experience with a great doula who inspired them. Sadly, others had found their way there through traumatic birth experiences and were motivated to never let another family go through the same. I had neither. I didn’t even know anyone who was pregnant at the time. I was there because I have always felt pulled toward work that allows me to walk with and support others as they navigate major life transitions. I thought this doula thing might be my way to do just that. It has been.
I’m very intentionally not a mother yet, but I love being a part other people’s journey toward motherhood. I mean the whole journey: the dreaming/visioning, the multitude of choices, the drama of labor and birth, and the finagling that comes with adding another demanding person to your family. Right now not being a mother is allowing me to fully be a doula. I can drop everything and go to a birth without worrying about childcare. I have all my mothering energy and time to devote to my clients. I have skills now that I can use today to help ease the transition to motherhood for other women; a cool head, an open heart, a calm presence, and an ever deepening well of knowledge about the childbearing year. I can “hold the space” for mother and partner as they make decisions about how they want to go through labor and birth. I can offer alternate sources of information, coping techniques, and a nonjudgmental ear.
I really look forward to being a mother some day, but in the mean time I have the privilege of working with families as they bring another tiny human into the world.