My Doula Journey
I've been getting so many questions about how I became a doula, so figured I would share my journey with you all. My love for birth started around 5 years old when my mother was pregnant with my younger sister. I got so emotional when she told me she was pregnant. I knew exactly what that meant, life was inside her (because my mother was very blunt with me and told me, probably at 3 or 4, where babies really came from & how they got there) I was always a nerdy geeky child, constantly wanting to learn everything. My days were spent watching the discovery channel or some kind of science/surgery show. Blood and guts never freaked me out. When my mom was pregnant, I would look through her pregnancy books & be fascinated with the diagrams and pictures. I was totally hooked to this idea. I remember finding what an obstetrician was & I told myself that that was what I was going to be when I grew up. I wanted to work with babies. (Grown ups were so taken aback when my 9 year old self told them that I wanted to be an obstetrician, not just a regular doctor) As I got closer to college years, I realized how much schooling I was going to have to go through and I said that 10 year school life is not the life for me! So I kind of gave up on the idea.
I still loved pregnant women and babies. I was always around them. Always getting something for a pregnant mama (you can't tell a pregnant woman no or else you get a sty in your eye!) and I was always watching/taking care of someone's infant/child. I still wanted to be a mother someday, carry a child & breastfeed them (yup, I was that child who "breastfed my dolls").
About two years ago a coworker told me about a documentary "The Business of Being Born". She thought I would be interested because I was always talking about everything natural (I refused pain medication when I was bleeding to "prepare myself for the pain of childbirth") & conversations of natural birth came up a few times. I watched the documentary, which I hold in high regards....everyone should watch it, and I said to myself, "Self, this is your life". It resonated with me so much because I would always say the same things that the documentary talked about. I fell in love with birth all over again because for once, I knew that there were people out there that thought the same things in regards to the birthing process.
I had heard of midwives before, but the documentary also talked about DOULAS. A lightbulb literally went off in my head. There was something that I could do to help pregnant mamas, be at births, and not have to be in school for fifty-lem years...there is a god! I got to researching and found DONA, which is pretty much the most popular doula training in America. Their prices weren't fitting my budget, so I kept looking, kept searching. I came across so many doula intensive workshops in NYC (mind you I lived an hour and a half away from the city) that would span over a weekend or a few days, but my work schedule was unforgiving so I could never attend one.
I would always talk to the customers in the store that I used to work at, especially if they had babies with them (everyone called me the baby whisperer & knew that if a child was in the room, I wasn't far behind). I came in contact with a woman & her cute little son. We were like soul mates, the energy was so strong. We exchanged numbers and added each other on Facebook. She told me about her friend that is a doula and said that we should link up. I added her friend and briefly talked about me becoming a doula. She suggested that I go with Birth Arts International. I looked it up and it sounded pretty good. I pay a one time fee, purchase all the books, complete the assignments, become a doula, all at my own pace (with a 2 year limit). Heck yeah, let's do that! So that's exactly what I did. I was so excited. I got all my books and got to reading. Each book made me fall in love with the whole pregnancy and birthing process. It made me want to give birth myself every time I opened a book.
Mind you, the "training" option that I chose was the online option. So pretty much, I was teaching myself. It was cool at first, but I'm a very hands on, visual learner. Months went by, I finally finished reading all 11 books in between my hectic and inconsistent work schedule, and I completed all of my book reports and some of my assignments. My pace was going too slow for my liking. I desperately needed and wanted to be certified, I just wanted to be out there in the birth world already, but I was stuck, by myself and all my doula books. I cried out on Facebook and Mary, the friend of my customer, reached out to me saying that she was having a training through Traditional Doula Arts (her own certifying program) in a few months. HELLO! We had already built raport, and this meant that I could expedite my certification process. My job was giving me problems getting the days off, and I was getting frustrated beyond measure. I literally begged and pleaded with my managers to give me the days off, the finally obliged. I literally dropped to the floor and cried happy tears.
Fast forward to the actual doula training. It was a 3 day program in Long Island, NY. It was so amazing. There was about 8 of us, 10 if you count the babies that were there as well. Along with Mary, she had a partner Yao, who was also a doula. Yao is Native American Mexican so we had a beautiful opening ceremony. Copal was burning, we honored the four directions, and we had a guided meditation. It was awesome. It was literally like we were a tribe and we were sitting in a circle, learning life lessons from our elders.
For me, a lot of what I was taught was a refresher because I read damn near every birth book in the world. It was great though, hearing from women who had attended births and experienced birth themselves. We learned about herbs and herbal infusions, relaxation/rebozo techniques that we practiced on each other, stages of labor, repeating different cultures, and much much more. I also saw my first placenta!!!
We had a closing ceremony which involved making flower crowns with each other while singing and conversing, honoring the four directions, singing, being smudged my Copal, & speaking words of love to each other. I cried because that was the experience that I wanted. I direct connection with other love filled women wanting to help other women with their birthing process, to have that connection and support, to be able to feel each other and the materials that we would work with. It was a blessing and I was so grateful. I now have a team of support from my instructors and my "doula sisters" as I like to call them. That's the experience that I was searching for.
Overall I'm glad that I went to a in person training with someone that I had raport with. I would only suggest the online teach yourself option if you operate better like that + you don't have the flexibility to go for a weekend intensive training. I personally hated it. It wasn't for me. I'm glad that I kind of left that alone (even though I can still use the Birth Arts International resources for another year). Being that I did a lot of work with the first training option, the completion of the Traditiona Doula Arts checklist would happen faster. I need to attend two more births and write reports on them to be officially certified, but I know that my training is done and I have so much knowledge to share with women.
My first birth was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It was a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) home birth. My client was so awesome and strong and listened to her body. I used some of the relaxation methods that I had learned and respected her wished whenever she wanted to stop or do something different (like hold her belly up while she was having contractions). She delivered the baby in about 5 pushes right in her bedroom and her recovery is going well. That birth set the tone for me, although I know that all births that I will attend may not go that smoothly. It confirmed that being a birth worker is something that I was destined to do. I plan on furthering my birth work and becoming a midwife assistant as well within the next year.
I plan on helping a lot more women, especially WOC & underprivileged mamas, because they are the ones that need it the MOST (just type in doula in Google & see how many faces of color you see). I also want to take my work globally and assist and train other women to usher more babies in this world in a space of love and security.
Hopefully that was a clear picture on my birth worker journey. If you have any questions, please let me know.