A doula is for life, not just for birthdays…

I was very,very sad to read this lovely blog post by the very lovely doula (for she still is a doula, even if she isn’t currently supporting birthing women, because it never really leaves you) Jay Kelly.

I’m far from rolling in it either, I do what I do because my heart will not let me do anything else.  I am inordinately lucky to have a husband with a flexible job and the amazing support of not only my own amazing mum, but also of my husband’s equally amazing mum.   I supplement being a doula with a variety of jobs I can work at totally flexibly, but there is always a price to pay, so when I should be sleeping whilst someone I trust more than myself is looking after my kids, I am actually catching up on the AIMS Journal…

I am lucky too, my clients pay me what they can, which might be in cold, hard cash I can spend in Tesco or pay my bills, but it might equally be some work on my home, it might be some lovely treasure or service that makes me feel wonderful (and as a busy mum I can’t put a value on that) and enables me to carry on giving to others, it might be things my children want or need or would benefit from learning, from music lessons to party entertainers.  Payment for me is a circular process, and whatever I receive I can recycle into love somewhere else.

Women will always need the support of other women, and, paid or not, doulas and mid-wives will always be there.  It is a sad reflection on a consumer society that we have to put a price on our care, and sadder still that the lack of value our society gives to caring means many can not justify the expense of hiring that support and many more can’t afford to give the gift of care because it is a low-paid vocation.  Childcare, mothering, and care work in general is an area of society I would like to see get a much higher social and economic value, and I will continue to campaign for care to be a central part of human life.

The average wedding costs a staggering £18,000 (Telegraph).  All added up and written down in black and white, that sounds like a huge sum of money to invest in a single day.  The birth of your baby is an equally momentous day, and I would argue more important as not only do the memories last a lifetime, there are considerable health benefits for both mother and baby associated with a peaceful and empowering birth experience.  All of a sudden £500 for the services of a doula seems like a bargain!  The cost of a baby’s first year is estimated at anywhere between £1,600 and £7,200, excluding childcare costs (money advice service) and much of that is a long list of things that are nice to have, but nowhere near as important as your physical and emotional health.

So, my questions are:
•  Do you know the person who is going to be with you during your pregnancy, birth and afterwards?
•  Will the same trusted person, who knows you well, be supporting you and your partner, protecting your space, your wishes, your needs and generally taking care of you physically and emotionally before, during and after the amazing event that is the birth of your baby?
•  Can you afford not to have a doula on and at your side?

Pay what you can afford, share and swap your skills, be creative, because whilst a doula can’t wave a magic wand and guarantee you a perfect birth, the evidence is quite striking – doulas really do make a difference to the emotional and physical outcomes of birth.  Having a doula on hand to help you and to nurture you, and to do all those little things, means that instead of making time to do all the jobs, you can get on with the most important job in the world, mothering your child.