Thursday, 9 February 2017

Pro-Doula; Violence, Victims and Vindication

Let’s be clear that Randy Patterson isn’t getting rich being a doula. She is getting rich on the backs of doulas. This is an important distinction.

The hard working doulas that line Randy Patterson's pockets are trying to make her business directive fit with what is generally understood about the role of the doula. I imagine that they are afraid that the organizational violence will be turned on them as happened with this former ProDoula. In an article entitled “What About This One?” (Pyramid Scheme Alert) authored by consumer educator, Eric Scheibeler, there is a list of seven reasons why people don’t warn others about falling victim to MLM schemes. Among those reasons are shame, embarrassment and cutting losses. I'm sure that many, maybe even most, ProDoulas are honest, hard-working doulas that offer evidence-based care; but there's no skirting the fact that they are associated with a dangerous and unethical organization known for its organizational violence.     

While I worry about unsuspecting doulas that are taken in by ProDoula tactics, I worry more about the consumer who doesn’t see this coming. While consumers are likely to be wary of someone hard selling them vitamins, spices or cookware, they might not be as savvy to the person calling herself a doula and aggressively “warm chatting” them. It’s unlikely that many consumers would understand the differences between an ethical doula and an unethical one in the first or even subsequent meetings, and therein lies more danger. These families don’t just wind up with a bunch of unwanted vitamins; they are victimized at one of the most vulnerable times of their lives. New parents may never really know what their birth experience might have been with a doula that they interviewed and chose without any pressure and with only their needs in mind. To make it worse, they likely aren’t able to warn others if they become aware of what they gave up because they’re exhausted new parents just trying to survive. 

One of the hallmarks of classic MLM schemes is “paying to be trained to work for the company” according to the Pyramid Scheme Alert. ProDoula candidates are pressured to take multiple courses and to pay for private "business advice," which often is more about recommending the services of Randy's family members than it is anything of any real value. To anyone considering this type of "training," I say run for the hills. Better yet, find a doula training organization that offers good and affordable doula training based in evidence. While no doula organization is perfect, there are many good ones out there.

Build your reputation and business proactively and ethically. Get involved in leadership in your community of doulas; share information and support one another; diversify your skill set; seek certification; and network with your community stakeholders, care providers and families.    

Monday, 6 February 2017

Where BuzzFeed Fell Short

When I was contacted by a BuzzFeed reporter a few months ago to comment on an article , my first instinct was to send her away.  Her second call had me more intrigued.  She seemed to be looking at the doula industry in some detail, and I felt more compelled to contribute. I explained my beliefs around how and why ProDoula came into being and discussed  how their deviation from evidence-based doula care has the potential to undo decades of academic work.  I then called DONA International and explained to the public relations director that I had done the interview, shared its content and suggested that they would be wise to consider an in-depth response to the article.  When my two hours of interviews were distilled into a single quote, I was disappointed, but hoped that it was because much better information was available.  Unfortunately, valuable print space was wasted on Randy Patterson's personal style and office decorating scheme.  I suppose that edgy looks and profanity-laced quotes make better news, but they hardly contribute to a further understanding of what is really at stake here.
The fall out from the article has devolved into personal attacks and defences and sappy personal drivel, but we have yet to read a substantive discussion around why ProDoula is so dangerous and where to go from here.
The ProDoula ethos didn't materialize out of thin air.  It was taken directly out of the Mary Kay Cosmetics playbook.  There's nothing original about what Randy Patterson and her business partner are doing, but it is disguised in new deceptive packaging.  Having just read "Mary Kay on People Management" written by Mary Kay Ash in 1984 describing her ascension to wealth starting in 1963, I recognize much of what ProDoula is selling its members.  The "MK" philosophy swirled around a single magnanimous and bigger than life personality and targeted women and some men that were eager to succeed and wanting to be validated.  1963 was ushering in the women's movement, calling women out of their kitchens and putting them on the business stage, and Mary Kay was right there to help those women legitimize.   She stepped forward as a Svengali figurehead that stood in receiving lines dishing out personal attention and eye contact to the disenfranchised and unfulfilled.  Sound familiar?  She held elaborate rallies where women wore tiaras, took part in company chants and were pumped up to head back out and sell! Sell! SELL!  Much like the ProDoula "conferences" we see today these were not academic in nature but meant to bind the sales force using the rhetoric of the golden rule business philosophy of their leader.
It was disturbing to read the unabashed deception that is the MK business model.  It validates using and abusing relationships, manufacturing camaraderie and professing love in order to secure sales and plump up bottom lines.  In his whistle blowing manual, "False Profits", Robert L. Fitzpatrick describes the flamboyant figurehead of MLM schemes and how faith and work ethic link virtue with labour.  Sound familiar? MLM schemes use the "if you aren't successful, you aren't working hard enough" blaming tactic to keep their sales people working harder and investing more, often putting people in financial and emotional jeopardy.  It's all couched in a means to a profit battle cry that helps excuse the despicable nature of the approach.  Market saturation and bullying tactics, such as the "You are taking food from my children's mouths" cliche and the scarcity model keeps everyone scrambling for market share at the cost of ethics and morals.
What IS new about ProDoula is the combining of a service with the MLM model.  At first glance, this would seem impossible unless one could define the service as a luxury, which is precisely what Randy has attempted to do.  But doula support isn't lipstick, and it goes way beyond face value.  Marketing birth support, a deeply emotional and trusting relationship, as if it were a  product is tricky business; and, as it turns out, is also dangerous.  ProDoula is attempting to forge agreements with care providers that supersede the very autonomy of the birthing family and possibly zero out the doula effect  entirely in order to secure markets.   This promises to not only co-opt the care provider but to also confuse them as to what doula support really is, how it is effective and under what conditions.  Mothers who don't have the doulas' full allegiance because their doula has an agreement in place with the care provider aren't receiving doula care as it is described in the research, but are instead getting a pseudo employee of the birthing place.  Twelve-hour clauses in contracts serve to undermine the doula/client relationship and go completely against all that we have come to understand about continuous care.  Doulas that hijack parents in baby stores and evangelistically bully them into hiring them ignore the very premise of the doula/client relationship and destabilise the connection that leads to positive effects on outcomes.

 In fact, I insist that these women don't call themselves doulas at all.  They should find another term that better describes what it is they are selling.