May 6th 1988 I awoke in early labour and a few hours later I held my blonde baby boy in my arms as the sun shone on his head and I was incredibly proud of myself. I had *rocked* that birth. I sought out the nurse that had been there when our son was born; I wanted to thank her. She was sitting at the nursing station with a couple of other nurses and I waited for the conversation to lull. Her response to me has rung in my ears for 27 years. “Yah, no problem...it’s my job”. I felt utterly shamed by that. It was the biggest triumph of my life and to her, it was just a job. In that moment, my doula self was born. That comment would propel me into the world of labour support to be the person at a birth for whom it wasn’t just “a job”. I’d be the person who resonated with the miracle of it and the honor of being present for it *every time*.
And so it was for most of us trained in the first 20 years of the doula movement. We marveled at being invited to attend births and held it as an honor. I do believe, looking back over the 15 years I’ve been doing this and talking to other long time doulas, that this was how we helped to create the doula profession . The industry was built upon the backs of women who were honored to attend births for a wage commensurate with the amount of training we had and we felt privileged to make the emotional investment that it required.
Now that we are in the next evolution of the effort to have doulas as a standard of care for all women, I see a troubling and aggressive entitlement amongst doulas. They feel they can take a 3 day workshop and then demand to be paid a rate that would be more appropriate for someone who had earned a degree and had many years in the field. They go on to berate and attack anyone who doesn’t ascribe to their bullish tactics. I struggle to think of another profession that wants both acceptance amongst highly trained professionals AND to earn close to as much as those who have worked years to become experts in their fields. This is really arrogance disguised as some sort of feminist principle. They have replaced “you honor me” with “you owe me” and there’s nothing more repugnant than having to buy someone’s feelings and belief in you. I recently saw a post by a doula that went something like “for a 1000 bucks I’ll be as non-judgemental as you want”. What an empty and callous thing to say. It has put one of the key values of the profession on the auction block. Pay me to care. Pay me to believe in you. I rise against this ethos for a million reasons not the least of which is the women who deserve better. We’d all do well to remember and honor the women who fought so hard to create standards of practice and codes of ethics to forge this profession. Give your head a shake if you think you deserve to make as much for attending a birth as the health professional that is responsible for the mother and baby. Get your egos in check and give some thought to what it really means to be a doula. Find the honor in the work or maybe rethink your career choice.