You're 22 years old and ready to dive into a new career and passion--birth! You do your research and end up settling on a training you believe totally aligns with your views and how you want to practice. It's woman-focused, holistically-minded, and thorough. So you drive a couple states over and settle in for what you believe will be a weekend of knowledge-heavy, estrogen-soaked goodness . . . and boy, does it deliver! In a room full of women as passionate as you, you spend days learning together, growing aspirations, and leaning on each other through tears. You drive home elated, high on birth and oxytocin--filled with inspiration and ready to conquer the world and fight the birth system. Wooo!
But . . . then what?
You see, this was me. Almost five years ago now. And while so much of me left training feeling secure in knowledge, energized, and empowered, the other half of me was deeply, deeply confused. Our group of doulas-to-be spent days learning the mechanics of birth, positioning, and of course, why to absolutely never ever ever be induced. We even got to take fetal heart tones and check each other's cervixes! So why then was the business know-how condensed to the last hour of our weekend together? How do I find clients? How to make a living? How to bring home the metaphorical bacon and support the family that inspired this career path? These were questions left largely unanswered. My trainer, whom I still deeply respect, started off multiple statements with "Now if you're going to be charging *money* for this.." and left me with a quote that would ring in my head for years to come:
"You are valuable, and so you should be paid. But you are not valuable BECAUSE you are paid."
I'm sure that hit home for some women there, but for me? For me it felt like guilt. For me it felt like, "Wait. Should I be wanting to be paid? Don't I believe women deserve support? And wouldn't it sort of be a crime for me to have that knowledge and support but to *withhold* it, all over a petty little thing like money?"
Unsurprisingly, these subtle messages took root in me. Despite a strong start with the utmost intentions of certifying and kicking some doula ass within a few months, I quickly found myself feeling unvalued, disrespected, and burnt out instead. When the opportunity presented itself to shift and take a full-time job in labor and delivery, I jumped on it . . . there I could be in the world I loved AND be paid. And if the past few months had taught me anything, it was that in the doula world, these two things were seemingly mutually exclusive.
Years passed, and while I still felt immersed in the birth world in many rights, I missed the unique role I had passionately filled in doula work. Two years later, I decided I was finally ready to take one more stab at it . . . but this time, I needed things to be different. I knew I wanted to put in the extra work and commitment to certify. I knew I wanted to have a sustainable career, where I could focus ALL my energy on this work. And I knew I needed a different certifying organization to get me there.
For one, I wanted an organization led by fiercely powerful women. The kind of women who were where I wanted to be. Ever heard the saying, "Hitch your wagon to a star"? This is what I was after. I found this and more just by listening to Randy Patterson, the co-owner and force behind Prodoula speak in bits online. When I discovered she was releasing her first book, The Matriarch Rules, I absolutely devoured it. The message of taking responsibility for your own life and career, deeply valuing yourself, and long-story-short just making shit happen, resonated deeply in me and I. Was. Hooked.
I was also after an organization that taught me how to support more than one type of birth. This is crucial, folks. That aforementioned job in L&D was a rude awakening for me. I realized that birth can look *MANY* different ways. I realized some of these ways were far outside my comfort zone and that I lacked the training needed to jump in as a truly knowledgeable support person. How could I best support birthing people through a Cesarean birth? What if my client chose an induction of labor? And considering well over 60% of women end up choosing epidural pain relief, what can I do to best support my client then? I'd heard of doulas who simply left the hospital once an epidural was placed--an equally shocking and horrifying discovery. This is not the way I wanted to practice so it was certainly not the way I wanted to be trained.
And speaking of doulas in the hospital, I wanted an organization who promoted the professionalism of its members. A group who respected not just the work doulas provide their clients, but also the expertise and value added by the entire birth team. I'd unfortunately been on the other side of the coin long enough to see more than one doula behaving badly-- fighting providers, dismissing nurses, and several stories I won't bother to share here. Let's just say, my faith in doulas was at an all time low. I knew that to be the type of professional I wanted to be, I would need to be supported by an organization that believed I could charge my worth, hone my expertise, and still be viewed as a knowledgeable peer and asset in the birthing space-- not an adversary.
You've probably figured out by now that this is *exactly* what I found in Prodoula and then some.
After flying through my Labor cross-certification, the next month I certified as a Postpartum and Infant Care Doula and honestly, I'm just getting warmed up. Turns out that when it comes to this doula gig, feeling widely prepared, supported, and valued can make the tables really turn for you. Kinda like birth... isn't that interesting.
While I still deeply value the training that got my feet wet five years ago, I now know I was really a Prodoula all along. I'm grateful for the journey and I'm grateful for the opportunity to be reinvigorated by this powerful work once more. What's the moral of the story here? I'm not sure I can confidently tell you. You see, my Prodoula chapter has just begun, and I'm still excitedly turning each page. And maybe that's kind of the point after all.