Why It’s a Calling
Doula work is hard! It is physically challenging, emotionally draining and requires a personal connection that leaves life long impressions. Doulas sacrifice to be there for their clients. They prioritize other people’s birth memories above the needs of their own families. They get paid less than what they are worth – often wages are barely above the poverty line. There is a limit to how many clients one can physically and psychically manage. Yet, this work is something that so many of us cannot imagine not doing. It fulfills some part of who we are – it expresses our life essence. To help another woman through childbirth – as she is physically going through the process of giving life to another human being – is what we feel we are called to do.
A calling is often referred to in religious terms because that is our most familiar cultural reference. But a calling means that there is a purpose within us to connect to others and improve their lives. We want to ensure that another person’s journey is eased by our presence. What we give is not only a skill or a service, but the essence of our own humanity. Doulas in my study said it was a passion, a priority, without doulaing they would feel that a part of them was missing.
Ten of the sixty doulas in my study described or mentioned the word “calling”. Tracy said, “Being a doula is a part of who you are. You can’t try to be a doula…you either have it in you or you don’t.“ Nancy shared, “It’s my passion and it tests my compassion. In my real life, I’m a banker! But that’s a career and this is a passion.” Sadie said, “It was in my heart. For so long before I took my workshop I knew it was in my heart and I’ve never been happier even though it’s been so hard.”
The calling of birth doula work often comes at great cost. I’m not talking about the missed birthday parties or band recitals, although those certainly matter. It cost us when we sit holding hands of a woman who is being victimized by her own choices, or who is not respected because she is young, not white, or doesn’t speak English. When we SEE that infants are whole human beings with a full consciousness and no one else acts in a way that acknowledges it, it costs us. When we know a physician feels he cannot trust the system and acts in a way that is self-protective rather than letting labor continue without interference, it costs us. When we trust birth but no one else in the system we are working in does, it costs us.
We don’t do this work because we are martyrs. We do this work because we are willing to pay the price. We know it makes a difference to this mother, this baby, this family. We know that our presence will reassure nurses and doctors to allow this mother to labor another hour because she is cared for. We know that the price we pay is a drop in the bucket to what is gained by everyone else by our presence. We do birth doula work because we are called to make a difference in the world.
Our spirit yearning for expression in the world says, “Yes!”
This is your role.
Be of service.
Make a difference.
Hold the spirit alive.
Like a soft spring breeze it whispers, “Doula this world –it needs you.”