Saturday, May 28, 2011

Criteria for Birth Assistants

There's an interesting thread over at's forum asking whether or not you would hire a doula and/or midwife who had never before given birth. It's a puzzler to me, because the issue seems SO clear cut in my head that I'm rather shocked to find that my opinion seems to be held by only a very tiny minority of responders.


I would never hire a doula or midwife who had never given birth. Maybe that sounds extreme to say never, but, for me, it's 100% true.

When I attended my DONA birth doula training shortly after K's birth, I was surprised back THEN by the same thing. Out of a dozen or so trainees, maybe two of us had ever given birth. Even back then, when my current opinions on birth ect... weren't quite formulated, I was sure that I could never hire one of these doula-to-be's until she had given birth. Now, having seen the trend of this thread, I've been thinking a lot about why I feel so strongly.

To start with, I absolutely don't doubt that one can be a wonderful midwife without having given birth herself. However, I don't think she will be the BEST midwife she's capable of being until she herself has experienced conception, pregnancy, and birth for herself. And, frankly, given the option, I would only want the very BEST.

For example, I had rather awful morning sickness with K. I couldn't eat anything for weeks, and then suddenly I craved nothing but white rice and canned tomatoes with extra salt. I had tried ginger in a whole variety of forms, ice, lemon tea, pinching the inside of my wrist, eating while still in bed, ect...but still it was tomatoes and rice that allowed me to relax into my first trimester. Knowing now, the nutritional needs of a pregnant woman, I'm rather appalled at my first trimester eating habits. HOWEVER, I also fully recall the feeling of being dreadfully nauseas 24 hours a day for weeks. It's something I would want my midwife to recall as well. Not that everyone will experience the same levels of morning sickness, but having experienced ANY level of it would be enough to know that a woman in the first trimester battling morning sickness, absolutely doesn't need anything but sympathetic suggestions of healthy foods. If I hired a midwife who had not previously given birth, I would be afraid that she would think in more clinical terms...and be more apt to disprove of my canned tomatoes and rice even as that might be LITERALLY the only thing I can eat.

And, of course there are countless examples of similar positions throughout an entire pregnancy where thinking only in more clinical terms simply wouldn't cut it...for me at least. I would need that full connection of kindred spirits who have been there, done that to feel fully at ease.

It seems odd that more women don't share these sentiments.

As for a doula, well, she's there entirely for emotional support. Yes, she offers more , but the primary reason why anyone would hire a doula would be for the emotional support. So...why would you hire a woman who's never given birth to offer you emotional sympathy and support during YOUR birth?

It TOTALLY doesn't make sense to me.

I think some of my extremism might stem from my feeling that I will probably birth unassisted next go around. I support midwives AND doulas, but maybe I feel that I don't need their clinical assistance so much as their emotional support since, pending some unforeseen emergency, I can't see myself utilizing any of their other roles.

Anyway, it's an interesting thread, you can check it out HERE.

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