Why Mothers Choose A Particular Doula
Let’s say you have a problem where you need some advice. Explaining the situation will require some self-disclosure and revealing personal information. You are in a meeting for the day with women you have never met before. The advice you need can’t wait so you’ll need to choose to reveal your problem to one of the women present. As the day goes on you have the opportunity to observe and interact with everyone. When you make your choice, what are you likely to base it on? Is it the intellectual qualities or resume of the person? Or the woman you feel comfortable enough to disclose your feelings and your dilemma? If you’re like most women, it will be the person you feel safest with.
The same thing is true about how a mother chooses her doula. It is based on her gut feeling – who she can be naked with – because she will be. Who she senses can accept her fears and her lifestyle – because that is our role. All of these attributes are due to who the mom is: what she intuits as right for her, which we as doulas cannot influence at all. A woman’s gut feeling about which doula is right for her has more to do with who that woman is than who we are.
That mom may need a mother, a sister, or a new friend who knows a lot about birth. She may need someone she can say “no” to safely. But whatever it is she needs, choosing a doula is an emotional decision not an intellectual one. Mothers say, “It just felt right.” “I felt safe with her.” “I just knew she was the one.” “I was leaning towards another doula but wasn’t sure. Then I met our doula and something clicked.” “Even though she didn’t look as good as the others on paper, we just connected and that was it.”
Effective doulas are nurturers and good listeners. In an initial interaction, these are the qualities that attract someone to you. After that, it is all about anticipating and meeting the mother’s needs – and we don’t yet know what they are. She may not even be able to put them into words, but that doesn’t mean that her brain isn’t communicating them on some level. Often the brain sends emotional information to the nerve endings in the digestive system. Her gut feeling about who is right for her is just that.
I often find myself reassuring new doulas about getting clients. It isn’t about the best web site or the number of workshops you’ve attended. It doesn’t matter whether you have given birth yourself. Parents choose doulas based on a number of criteria. Yes, cost and experience do count. Some parents enjoy cool websites with professional photos. But mothers are often looking for someone they can have an intimate relationship with.
Which is why I think competition between doulas is unnecessary. It is more important to be yourself and work on developing your interpersonal skills and a nonjudgmental attitude. When we compete with other doulas in our community we may diminish the opportunities for all of us to get clients. When we band together to promote doula support and have inclusive “Meet The Doula” events, we send a positive cooperative message to other birth professionals and prospective clients.