When I am called to a birth, what do I put in my bag? I could bring a massage roller, some aromatherapy oils, a straw for mum, a flannel for wiping her face, some energy boosting drinks, etc. The list goes on, and I have seen extensive lists of what other doulas bring with them. But I don’t bring anything for mum. I bring stuff for me. I bring spare socks, a drink, some nuts, an energy boosting drink, a spare top, a 10 minute hypnosis energising MP3, some chewing gum. Does this make me a selfish doula? Does it make me lazy? Well, I can be both of those, but actually, I’ve thought it through and I think it makes me a better doula. Here’s why.
My job is to prepare the couple for their birth and empower them. Great preparation means that THEY have the oils, the comfort measures, the right foods in the house. It is their birth, their way, and getting them to prepare for their birth empowers them. I might WANT to arrive with a flurry of fabulous comforters, but that just makes the couple more grateful or needy, and me feel better. It doesn’t empower them. Furthermore, by taking care of myself, I become a stronger support for them. Who wants a doula who is tired? A doula who is faint with hunger? A doula who is stressing because her socks are wet , or who worries that she has bad breath? If I can be at my very best, then I can be there for others in my very best capacity. I think this approach runs through all our caretaking. It is what mothering is all about – you have to take care of yourself to be able to be there for your baby. It is what I teach in my Compassionate Midwifery workshops – you have to take care of yourself, if you are to be a compassionate and caring midwife. And it is important advice for dad during the birth too. Dads have to remember to eat and rest, or they will find themselves feeling faint on the day, or getting ill in the few days after the birth. We are reminded on a plane to take our own oxygen before we oxygenate those we are caring for. This applies to all areas of our lives. So, for mums, dads, doulas and midwives, the message is the same. Take care of yourself so you can be there for those that need you. It doesn’t make you selfish, it makes you stronger.