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Why Doula not Midwife?

I’ve been asked this a few times…if I’m so fascinated, enthralled and passionate about all things pregnancy, birth and baby – why not train to be a midwife?

The answer is quite simple – it’s the same reason I worked in education for 12 years but didn’t want to become a teacher. I don’t want to be governed by a system that doesn’t care about people as individuals. i don’t want to be ruled by paperwork, targets and bureaucracy. At a time when more midwives are leaving the profession  than joining it, I think serious questions need to be asked about their working conditions and the consequential impact on pregnant women.

There are also the practical aspects – I cannot afford to train as a midwife. I have 4 children and they are my priority. Getting myself in to debt, losing an income whilst I train and then working 12 hour shifts is not condusive to a happy work/life balance for me!

So, it was a no-brainer for me. As a Doula, I can work with a woman throughout her pregnancy, there is a continuity of care that is beneficial to us both (given the choice – most midwives would work like this, it’s referred to as ‘caseloading’ and it gives women a named midwife who is responsible for her care throughout pregnancy and ideally birth). She knows, trusts and is comfortable with me, and I know her, her family and her choices. I can be with them throughout labour and birth, I don’t have to go off shift – or be called to deal with a different pregnant woman instead. I always feel so sad for those midwives who pour their energy and expertise in to a labouring woman and then ultimately miss the babys birth, because there is NOTHING more magical than watching a baby emerge in to the world. It’s also disruptive and potentially detrimental to the woman herself. It can be an overwhelming and intimate time, and not having a constant, consistent prescence can seriously hamper both birth, and the mothers experience.

And then I get to see them after the birth, sometimes that’s just as an extra pair of hands – someone to hold baby while they have a shower, or a nap – or a hot cup of tea! Or it may be to help establish breastfeeding. Sometimes it’s enough for them just to know that someone is ‘there’. And it’s equally magical, the calm after the raw power of birth, this re-balancing of life (it also lets me get my baby ‘fix’ without continuously having babies myself!)

I will never be able to do much of what a midwife can do – they go through years of medical training, and most midwives will have experienced far more births than any Doula. But for many, they’re not being allowed to care for women the way that they want to. I’m able to work instinctively, intuitively and independently, which isn’t to say that I’m not answerable to anyone – I am, I’m answerable to the women I work with, and to myself. I need to know that I did everything I could to ensure their wishes were heard, their decisions respected and their birth a positive and empowering experience.

So I have nothing but admiration and respect for midwives, many who do a fantastic job despite being overworked and underpaid, but I don’t want to be one. I’m a Doula, and I’m happy with that 🙂