In a typical interview with prospective clients, most doulas are asked about their philosophy on pregnancy & birth. This is a loaded question: parents are basically asking a complete stranger to succinctly tell them about their emotional, spiritual and political beliefs surrounding their life’s greatest passion. Considering how important it is to carefully choose who will be present throughout someone’s labor and birth, the question deserves an answer worthy of the honor, so here goes!
Although I am spiritual and open to mysteries I will never understand, I have faith in the scientific method. While sharing anecdotes is illustrative and healing, they should never solely replace the power of a double-blind randomized controlled trial. I want to teach and share what has been proven effective and safe.
Unfortunately, there are corporate interests that dictate what will be studied and published. Some holistic modalities are free, so the financial backing of studying their impact on birth outcomes is limited, but that is starting to change. Every day, I learn new research proving the positive impact of yoga, essential oils and other practices that are old to humans, but new to science. I want to embrace these new findings and incorporate them into my teachings and work.
The flip side of science is the ancient wisdom of women. If something works for an individual, they should continue that practice. When I was an office manager for holistic and alternative providers, I observed the most powerful impacts from those who believed the most strongly – our minds are powerful! Believe that true health is possible and it will be. Science may or may not catch up eventually.
What we know to be true can change. Take for example the Brewer Diet. Touted for years as the ultimate prevention for toxemia, research has never been able to replicate the studies of its creator. Since then, other dietary approaches have come forth that offer better results. I try not to become too emotionally attached to any health trend, because progress is not just inevitable, it’s desired.
Finally, there are choices. Science does not account for our individual needs. Someone may have other considerations than risk and health. Infant sleep is an example: some parents find the American Academy of Pediatric’s guidelines impossible to follow and are willing to bed-share for its other benefits, while trying to mitigate the risks. There is the best way, and then there is the most practical way for each family. Science and public health are focused on the collective, while families are all unique.
Trauma-informed implies context. Our personal experiences develop our intuition and beliefs that trump what is published in a peer-reviewed journal. Pregnancy and birth are a family’s journey that takes place within a mother’s body. To provide trauma informed care strips me of judgment and places me in a supportive role, whatever form that might take. I consider all women to be survivors of a misogynist culture and society. Those of us who choose to be mothers get to call the shots to emerge from pregnancy to motherhood an empowered being. A trauma-informed doula helps to ensure that the physical, emotional and medical encounters of pregnancy and birth be the result of enthusiastic consent by all involved parties.
Since the variations are endless, there is no way to prepare for every possibility of birth. Armed with good information, however, many negative possibilities can be averted. Focusing on prevention means that I want to spend more time advising a family of how to avoid a negative outcome than planning on how to respond should one occur. Little in life is unavoidable with proper planning and pregnancy is no exception. Seek support and information as early as possible.