Monday, 14 September 2015

Dear Mom, I'm running away.

My sister is 18 months younger than I am and when we were quite little she asked me to deliver a note to mom.  I dutifully obliged and I remember my mother's shoulders slumping and her eyes looking worried when she read it. She was exhausted, frazzled and up to her arm pits in chaos.  Of course, I had peeked and I knew what the note said.  "Dear Mom, I'm running away.  P.S. I'll be in the back yard."   I made my way out to the back yard and there was my little sis sitting cross legged in the blanket fort she had made out of the clothes line.  She had her dolls sitting along side her in a sad vigil.  I'd like to think that I said something mature like " I'm sorry you are so sad.  Would you like to talk about it?" but it's more likely that I said "Mom is a poo head".   I'm sure I didn't get it right as a big sister and I am positive my mom didn't get it right either.  It was an impossible situation that we all had to get through as best we could.

When I read things like THIS BLOG by Catie Mehl, I think of that day in the back yard.  I hear that Catie didn't have her needs met.  I hear that she expected more of DONA and that she has run away. We see where you are Catie and we know why you went.  I can't excuse you using my blog out of context but I understand your desperation and that you felt that you were let down.

Here's the thing... if any of you run away to find another "family"(and while I understand you are professing to be "professional" there is liberal use of the term "family" in the pro-doula battle cry) be sure you haven't worsened your position.  We don't know what happens when more pressure is placed on the consumer of doula services and caregivers are enticed with bobbles and goodies.  It's probable that this will serve as good incentive for insurance companies and health authorities to scoff at doula support as a standard of care.  Take great care before you send the message that doula support is a luxury for women that can afford it; it's likely to back fire.  
As a DONA trainer, I take leadership very seriously.  Hundreds of women have brought their voices to the DONA board table over the years.  Some of our ideas and concerns have been rejected and some accepted and it's hard on both sides of the table.  It's grueling, hard, sweaty, thankless work and it's necessary.  It is imperfect and it has failures and it's important.  For those that have hung on I thank you and I see you and I am excited for what is coming.  People I love and respect have worked their guts out, sacrificed and pushed forward. 
For those that have run away, be careful out there.  


  1. First, you say "We don't know what happens when more pressure is placed on the consumer of doula services and caregivers are enticed with bobbles and goodies" and then continue with "Take great care before you send the message that doula support is a luxury for women that can afford it; it's likely to back fire". How so? What is this supposed "pressure" that you claim is being placed on consumers of doula care, and the providers (of healthcare) to those consumers? To what "bobbles and goodies" do you refer? *Is* doula support a luxury, or is it a necessity? If you believe it is a necessity, what are you then saying about any specific woman's ability to negotiate the birth process without a doula, and how is that empowering her? What are you saying about any particular provider's skill, understanding, and trust-building with her patient, and how is *that* benefiting the woman whose services she has engaged? Are you presenting yourself as servant?; or savior? Which of the two is more empowering to the woman?

    I maintain that is a luxury of a privileged member of the dominant culture to consider themselves a necessity to any person, of any culture or subset of a culture, for any perceived need. Who gave you - or anyone else - the keeper of a woman's birth experience?

    As a prospective nurse midwife, I will rely on the income produced by my efforts to be able to continue those efforts. I won't be able to do it pro-bono and still be able to survive financially to be able to continue to care for additional women and their families. Why should a doula expect less? Why should anyone expect her to? You may say - then, every woman who wants a midwife should have a midwife; but in a country where the health of women has yet to take a place of prime importance to a government embroiled in the business of dominance (countries, minorities, women), that is just not going to happen - until that importance is recognized and promoted by the majority. What majority is going to recognize a professional who does not feel that her profession deserves appropriate compensation? Indeed, what profession can even survive without appropriate compensation?

    Ms. Mehl is not running away from anything that is promising, productive, or that even places women in the prime place of importance. She is running *to* an organization that will allow her to practice at the utmost of her education, hard work, and ability. THAT is what will bring the recognition that is needed to bring insurance compensation to the work of doula - and respect to the women for whom she provides support; NOT those who are willing to allow themselves to continue in "grueling, hard, thankless" work, expecting little or no compensation. That didn't happen in either the first or second wave of feminism, the rise of nurse midwifery and the women's health movement, and there is no need for it to happen now. Indeed, it is THAT lack of professionalism that will most certainly backfire. Enough with the goddess complex already!

    1. Well I don't need to comment here, because you said it all brilliantly.

  2. Hi Kimberly,
    Thank you for your contribution. Perhaps you aren't aware but some doulas are taking out bank loans to wine and dine caregivers for referrals. They are "warm chatting" mothers in childrens stores and frankly, anywhere else parents frequent in order to secure clients. This new wave of deceptive marketing is all about making a profit and as an training midwife so obviously concerned about the care of women in first and third world countries, I imagine this will be repugnant to you. It's not about expecting doulas to support women for free, it's about ethical marketing practices and attention paid to what the studies tell us about the impact of continuous support. There was plenty of grueling and hard work done in both waves of feminism and the rise of midwifery along with sacrifice and lack of compensation. We all stand on the shoulders of many selfless women who fought for the care and respect of women and that work is happening around the board table of DONA International. It's ironic that while pro-doula is placing their members in "prime place of importance" it might well shrink options for birthing mothers in the long run.