Hearts, stars, and horseshoes...
Oh, wait. That’s cereal. If you were a kid in the 80s or 90s, you might remember rabbit’s foot keychains. They were supposed to be this sort of lucky charm, and it was even luckier if you had one in some bright neon color (at least that’s how it was on the playground where I grew up...what about you?). In my experience as a doula in Memphis, I’ve heard people speak of what we do in a similar way:
“Hire a doula, she’ll help you get the birth you want!” “A doula will advocate for you so the things you don’t want won’t happen” “I’m looking for a doula who has VBAC experience” “My doula has been to tons of natural births”
If you are pregnant in Memphis or anywhere else and are thinking about hiring a doula as a sort of insurance policy to get the birth you want, I’d like to tell you ever-so-gently that as much as I’d like to be, I am not a lucky charm.
I get it, I really do, and I’d also like to tell you that the feelings behind that sentiment are valid. Humans are relational, and that doesn’t go away during pregnancy. We like safety, we like predictability, we gravitate towards people who have similar experiences and lifestyles. We want the best for our children, even in birth, and it’s natural to want to set up for success. A doula can help, but not in the outcome-altering way you might think.
If a doula isn't a lucky charm, then what are you?
What is a lucky charm, if not a tangible reminder? Whether it’s a rabbit’s foot keychain, a penny, Dumbo’s feather, or a little trinket you carry around with you, a lucky charm is something we can touch and see to remind us to be brave, that we’re strong, that we’re capable.
That’s what a doula does.
I can’t guarantee you’ll get that VBAC, or a natural birth, or that things will go how you expect. But what I can do is be a tangible reminder that you are brave, strong, and capable. I don’t need to have had similar experiences to bring you comfort and support during your birth. It doesn’t even matter that I’ve given birth at all. I don’t have a magic doula bag full of tricks- only my head, my heart, and my hands (thanks, ProDoula).
I’m not a magic wand, but I am present. You can see me, you can touch me, you can lean on me.
I’m not lucky, but I’ll hold your hand and remind you that you’re not alone. I’ll tell you that I believe in you, because I do.
I’ll look you in the eyes and tell you that you’re an amazing mom, that you’re making the best choices you can for your baby.
The love and care I bring as a doula transcends your experience because I’m not here for an experience. I’m here for YOU.
You don’t have to carry me around in your pocket because this is a time where you don’t have to carry anything. That time will come soon enough, but for now you have important work to do, and my job as a doula is to hold you up and help carry you. You don’t need a lucky charm- you need support, and that’s exactly what doulas do.