Updated: Jan 7
Choosing ''the right'' Doula can be exciting, nerve wracking, or even scary. Birth, for most people, is a rare, special and sacred time. When you are inviting someone into your Birth space in order to support you, I think we can all agree that it is important to feel a connection. For some people, that connection might have something to do with whether or not the Doula has given birth before. We, as humans, have been supporting each other through labour and birth since the beginning of time, and it is natural to want to be supported by someone who has experience; whether that experience is training, having supported many birthing people before, or having given birth themselves.
Photo by Matthew Henry
Every Doula who has never given birth will at some point ask themselves; ''Will my client trust me to support them through something I have never experienced myself? Will they value my knowledge?''
There is an undeniable value in experiencing the magic of birth. But, is it necessary to have gone through it yourself in order to support others?
My answer is no, and I will tell you why.
One of the reasons is, there are many other professions where the person giving the care may not have ever been on the receiving end of that care and they are still great at what they do. If you were about to have surgery, you likely wouldn't be asking the surgeon if they had ever received surgery before, and doubt their abilities to do their job if the answer is no. There are dentists who have never had a root canal, lawyers who have never been on the other end of a court case, and Obstetricians who have never birthed a baby. There are Early Childhood Educators and Nanny's who do an excellent job at looking after children without having children of their own.
There are many Doula's, Midwives, Traditional birth attendants, Childbirth Educators and Obstetricians all over the world who are great at what they do and have never given birth or who are not women. There are lactation consultants who have never breastfed, placenta encapsulation specialists who have never ingested a placenta, and fertility specialists who never had fertility issues.
I know of Doula's who feel that their perceptions of birth changed greatly after they had a baby, and that because of it they can be of better support to birthing people, and that is great! I know of amazing Doula's and Midwives out there who face fertility issues. I know Doula's and Midwives who will never have children by choice. People choose this line of work for many different reasons, and it does not need to go hand in hand with having children yourself.
I personally feel like my passion for birth is similar to someone who is passionate about the Ocean, who has dedicated their life to its preservation and study, but who has only gazed at the surface and admired what little they could see of this under water world. I have dedicated my life to the preservation and study of these mysterious and never ending depths, but I have never been in them, never had to surrender to it. At least not since I was born.
Many people feel strong calls to do things in life, and when it comes to birth there are people who feel both the call to bring life into the world and the call to assist during the process, while others only feel one or the other.
I am one of those Doula's who long for a baby of my own, and hope that one day I will have children.
Some of you may also be thinking: Is there anything wrong with wanting to hire a Doula who has given birth before?
My answer is also no.
I don't think there is anything wrong with what may draw a person to one Doula over another. However, I do recommend that you ask yourself: What is your reason for this preference? Is it because you want to be supported by someone who understands what you are going through? Someone who has had to surrender to the mysterious depths of giving birth and so, can give you better guidance?
Although these feelings can be perfectly natural, the important thing to remember is, every Birth is different. There are SO MANY VARIABLES! Two people who had home births are going to have vastly different experiences. Two people who gave birth in the same hospital with the same care provider are also going to have very different experiences. Someone who had an emergency cesarean would have a very different experience than someone who had an elect cesarean. One persons experience birthing twins is not going to be the same as someone else's experience with twins.
People have experienced painless birth, with or without pain medication. Some experience ecstatic birth, maybe even an orgasm, while another experiences quite a bit of intense sensation and pain, or both. Sometimes people have a traumatic experience during labour and birth. Some people experience loss.
What it comes down to is, no matter who is supporting you, no one knows exactly what you are experiencing but you. And that is a beautiful thing.
This birth is yours, and yours alone. Yes, if you have a partner, this is your partners experience too, but you are the one who will vividly remember this time for the rest of you life in a very unique way; how you were treated, who was there, what it felt like. Whoever is supporting you, especially if they have given birth before- such as a Doula, friend, or family member- needs to hold space for your experience without assuming it is like theirs, just like it may be best for you to not assume their experience was like yours will be.
Sharing stories is incredibly important, and so is valuing uniqueness. You are going to relate to other peoples birth stories after you have given birth, and that can bond you, teach you, reaffirm things for you and show you perspectives you hadn't thought of before. It is perfectly alright, even encouraged, to bond with people over the shared experience of birthing. Wanting someone there who has given birth before is OK, as long as you understand that their experience is theirs, and yours will be your own.
There is no right or wrong answer in this, there is only right or wrong for you. Choose what feels best, choose the Doula who you believe will best support you, whether it is because of who they are and what their story is, or simply because it feels right.