Everything you need to know about becoming and Doula and choosing a Doula training…
This week alone I have had about 6 enquiries about the path to becoming a Doula (or “birth professional”).
Common questions include:
“What training should I undertake?”
“Can I make money to support my family?”
“What are the things I need to know before deciding it is right for me?”
You are considering Doula work, and perhaps you are feeling the flutter of this call beginning to take hold of you; you’re ready to quit your job even though your partner thinks it all sounds a bit nuts, but you have no idea where to start?… then this blog is for you!
It is a LONG ride so get yourself comfy, put your feet up and get ready to get a faceload of important information. I could have easily turned this into a mini training, a video series, and opt in, a series of blogs or some sort of lead magnet or paid offering BUT I specifically chose to put ALL of this information in ONE place. It might not be the best ‘business strategy’ but I want everyone to have access to it, like I wish I could have back in the day. I want this to be an easily shared resource that we can add to. It isn’t to bring leads, it is literally to give you a shit ton of FREE information that I have collected over 10+ years because I genuinely care for you and for this profession and I want you to have this knowledge so that you can make a truly informed choice in your next move in choosing a training that suits you, in starting your sacred business and in being of service in the way that you have been called to do.
NOTE: Not everyone is going to agree with me (and that is ok!) but I have tried to consider all perspectives. While I don’t want anyone to be practicing from a place of fear, I also want you to see that harm is and can be done by Doulas (I have heard these stories first hand) so I always take that into consideration when discussing these topics.
Also note, I often refer to Doulas and Birthworkers interchangeably. You can read more about that below.
I am going to attempt to answer some of the above questions, but first I want to give you a bit of a history of my own experience.
My Doula HERstory:
When I first heard about Doulas back in 2009 it sounded like a fairytale! I was finishing my social work degree and looking at changing over to midwifery. The idea of doing a 5 hour virtual training (via CD back then! I think I’m old haha) instead of racking up another $20k in HECs and being ‘certified’ at the end of 5 hours instead of 3-4 years to start a new career sounded too good to be true!! (it kind of was but i’ll get to that).
When I met with the local Doulas they were so welcoming and lovely! They were all Mums and met regularly to discuss their “businesses” (many didn’t use the word business. Only one had a website and she was the only one I knew of who actually made money from Doula work). They also discussed issues within the local birth climate as well as how to better support the community and increase the knowledge of Doulas through meetups and events and ‘meet the Doula’ days. Plus, I experienced first hand the power of women gathering and discussing important topics usually deemed as taboo. BUT, for the most part their businesses were more like hobbies.
Back in 2009 it was a time before social media and most groups met in person regularly, but still, it was challenging to get the message out. Most people didn’t know what a Doula was and most Doulas were working while their kids were small and weren’t really ready (or knew of the possibility) to build a business from this work. It was often believed that charging for this sacred work was somehow sacrilegious.
Suffice to say, the majority of those Doulas either became midwives shortly after or moved into other fields of work once their kids got bigger…. Including me! I didn’t believe it was possible to build a business from this work so I sought after a career that would be more ‘stable’. I went and started a midwifery degree… but that was when I saw Doula work for what it really was; NOT midwifery and SO vitally important to this current birth climate. I could see how Doulas were able to work in a way that supported their clients without the rigid constraints of regulation and registration. And without any responsibility regarding medical outcomes (as we act more as a bridge for information and emotional support rather than giving advice or administering any procedures). I could see how much more I could do with my skills and my intentions than if i were stuck in a hospital or fighting against tighter constraints to work independently.
I was watching the homebirth community crumble around me with a number of midwives being reported, having their registration removed and even being charged with manslaughter. This was not where I felt I personally could best utilise my own gifts and the call I was being asked to answer.
Midwifery (or the one year I completed) almost killed me, and it certainly almost killed my spirit and my call for birth work. I grieved hard and the vast differences between the realities of the work vs what I thought it would be became crystal clear. I threw in the towel and went back to finish my social work degree and work as a social worker… but my work (predominantly with young women) brought me back to hear the jungle drum of my soul call, to Birthwork and to walking thresholds.
Just before I got pregnant with my first son, while I was working as a school counsellor, birthwork started knocking extra loudly! I thought about starting with placenta encapsulation because of the support it may offer for mental health issues in the postpartum period – this was an area I was already passionate about as a social worker. But as I dug deeper I realised that there were SO many more layers to this work and to the underlying issues causing mental health issues in the postpartum period that needed to be addressed before being able to even come close to healing the symptoms. I realised I needed a deeper understanding of the work and sought after a certification program for birth and postpartum Doula training.
To certify or not certify, what is the difference?
As a multiple times university graduate I have certainly been known to be a “certification chaser”. I love to learn and I love to learn from reputable trustworthy people who are passionate about their field, and who practice with integrity. I believed, like most people that certification would give me the highest quality education available (and when I say that I mean, evidence based, supported by other reputable people in the field, offering accountability, someone assessing and supporting the students to ensure the work is done to a high standard, with a focus on ethical practice to reduce potential harm on our clients, ourselves or the profession).
In saying this, I am NOT supportive of regulating Doula work due to how that has ended up for midwives but I am a staunch advocate for ethical and professional practice where we value harm reduction as a united collective so that we aren’t pressured into regulation. I believe this is absolutely possible when people take this work and their behaviour seriously and when we learn from those who have gone before us. This doesn’t mean we all have to agree by any means, just that we hold integrity in high esteem.
I personally believe that being unregulated (or “self regulated”) is an absolute privilege that we should not take for granted and treat with the utmost respect and consideration it deserves.
What is often overlooked is that being “certified” and being given “a certificate of completion” are two different things. I hear people say “certification isn’t worth the paper it is written on” and this annoys me because, to whom is that piece of paper not worth anything to? To clients? Perhaps not because it doesn’t change anything about your ability to work in an unregulated profession, maybe it would if that was important to them (I’ve never been asked about my doula training but things are changing). To the training organisation? To other doulas? Again, probably not! BUT, what about what it is worth to you? As a symbol of achievement and accomplishment? To know that you completed something that you believed in as a sign of your commitment to practicing with integrity and to being as informed and up to date as you possibly can to serve your clients as best you can. It isn’t the ONLY sign of commitment and integrity but for those without the knowledge of other pathways, it is certainly a potentially more straightforward one.
That piece of paper is worth a lot to me, maybe not in terms of money (even though I would have paid a lot for it) but for the blood, sweat, tears and time away from my kids to get me to the end. It likely means nothing to anyone else and it may not mean anything in the bigger scheme of things, but it certainly differentiates those who are committed to getting to the end of something and those who aren’t, and for me that often says a lot.
And this is the same whether it is a traditional ‘training’ program or a mentorship. I passionately believe in mentorships and wisdom being passed down from woman to woman just as it always was. We are coming back to and remembering our traditional wise ways, which always always included a lineage of wisdom being passed down- never written, but verbally and in witnessing the sacred work in action. This is where we need to come back. To have the approval of an experienced elder who has passed down their lineage of wisdom, to continue it on (as much wisdom has been lost, that we cannot ever retrieve), is an absolute privilege that should be spoken about more.
Self Regulation & Integrity Means Radical Responsibility!
I don’t do things for others, when it comes to being self regulated it is up to me and me alone to feel confident that I am well resourced and practicing with a solid foundation of information (that I can take or leave as I see fit) to best serve my community. But not everyone takes on the same level of radical responsibility and many can enter this profession completely from a place of ego. You cannot assume the motives of others, so a certification or some standard of practice creates an equalizer.
Certification doesn’t make someone better than anyone else, or anyone without the piece of paper any ‘less than’. For me it is a symbol of accountability and personal responsibility to learn from others and take the work seriously enough to continue to learn and keep up to date (but certification isn’t the ONLY way to do this either).
From my perspective, the sort of mindset that disregards certification (and learning from others as opposed to learning in solidarity) and the often (not always) coupled lack of responsibility and accountability that comes with it in such a fragile and completely sacred profession like doula work is outright fucking terriying. While I don’t feel paralysed about further witch hunts, we cannot deny those who have been burned and who will be again in the future and how the unethical behaviour of one person has and will damage and impact us all.
Certification generally (and not always mind you), is about learning from those who have gone before us, learning from more experienced humans than ourselves who learned from those who came before them, who learned from those who came before them; alchemising their teachings into something that serves the time we are in now. We cannot possibly do our sacred work if we do not pay our respects to what came before us. We must also acknowledge the impacts this work has on our whole community and the generations to come. If we deny that this work is rooted deeply in ancestral connections we deny so much of the hard and challenging sacrifices of those who helped us get us to this place. We also deny many of those who suffered from atrocious acts, and we have the potential to make similar mistakes again.
The medical regulation bodies are out for blood when it comes to unregulated work that threatens their profit margins – we must be committed and united to prevent them from stealing our autonomy yet again.
Certification is a process where some one or a body of people deem their students to have completed the required tasks that they feel satisfy their willingness to verify and put their name to yours. This is a big freaking call for them! They have to really believe that you have done the work they have set. That you have been held accountable to complete the whole course or program and not just opened a few modules and given yourself a new title. They are people who have worked hard to gain trust in their community by doing positive, evidence based work with clear integrity. They are invested in the outcomes, they are attached to the outcomes and they care about the profession to be willing to stick their neck out. So they are willing to offer you a certification that is essentially a ‘referral’ that says “yes, this person has done the work we set and we verify them. We trust them so you should too.” And let me tell you, when you are just starting out, having experienced people trust you and recommend you is a BIG deal. Networking, collaborations and community are everything!
Certification often costs a lot more than non certifying courses because you need to go through (generally speaking) a more rigorous process and you often have some debriefing of mentoring included in that. Some people want this extra support and accountability and wish to pay extra to access that. If a certification doesn’t cost more I would be asking what exactly it includes that makes it a ‘certifiable’ course. And if you are paying a lot more for certification and don’t have those extra certifying elements, I would be asking what exactly you are paying for.
I can see there is a fine line between hard-line certifications, and standards, and regulation but surely we can still expect Doula work to be held up to a high professional standard while fighting against regulation? Why not both?
As I said above, we used to learn via apprenticeships/mentorships. Wisdom being past down over generations. Just because this has been lost in its original, organic form, doesn’t mean it is not still a necessary part of human nature and human survival today. You wouldn’t go to a hairdresser or massage therapist or even a midwife who had only done a few modules of their course, or used their own birthing experiences as their basis for training, why is Doula work not valid and worthy of the same standards? (I do know a fair few Doulas who thought their own births were enough training… you can probably guess how that turned out).
So while technically you don’t need anything to be a Doula, you can just decide you want to be one, if you actually want to ensure that you do no harm, and don’t burn out, it would be VITAL (and the very very least) to have a community of other’s in the field, particularly experienced in the work to hold you and support you. There is so much harm being done in this sacred field, if you are truly here to be of service to birth and to women reclaiming their power and bodily autonomy, you will invest your time/money etc into ensuring you are the absolutely best embodied spaceholder you can be. This means ONGOING (not just one basic training and you’re done) personal and professional development, community, deep diving into your own ‘stuff’, really knowing and understanding your nervous system and ensuring that when you step into the space of another, you are there holding the energy with zero agenda to save/rescue/be a hero, to give advice or fix, or judge, or heal your own traumatic experience… just pure empty presence, knowing that you have others to hold you behind the scenes.
What if you really do not want to be certified?
From another viewpoint, I know many Birthworkers who are not certified or affiliated with any professional body at all and they are some of the most inspiring, professional and wise people I know. I even recommend their Doula training and their services which do not promote certification. I personally do not actually promote where I trained, nor did I align enough to become an ongoing member of any training. So it is not about certification vs not certified. That it too oversimplified. The issue is that it only takes that one person who opens a couple of modules, says they are a certified Doula and behaves in a way that negatively impacts the biggest moment in a family’s life to damage the reputation of Doulas and get regulation bodies fired up (again) about caging us. Just google the article that went viral a few years ago about the woman who had a terrible experience with her Doula – Doula work was impacted for years! Or the court case in the UK regarding placenta encapsulation. Placenta work has probably only just in the last year started to recover from that.
A few years ago I put out a call to consumers in my community to share about their experiences with Doulas. I was expecting being inundated with positive stories. Instead I was shocked at being inundated with the opposite. Experiences from women who had never felt safe to speak up, or had never been given the opportunity. I spoke to a number of families who were deeply hurt and traumatised by another local Doula and internalised so much shame about hiring them and not doing better research. I heard and witnessed Doulas breach confidentiality in a big way, who took on too many births with no back up, leaving some clients alone, who brought other people to births without permission, who missed appointments without notice, who came hours late, who went very much outside of the professional relationship and overstepped boundaries, who gave medical advice that went pear shaped… and it went on. It was so heartbreaking. I couldn’t believe their pain was caused by fellow Doulas! And in talking to them I felt even more invested in raising the bar of this unregulated profession because I knew we wouldn’t stay unregulated for long if this sort of practice became the norm.
(This is also not to say that being certified automatically makes someone practice with more integrity BUT the probability is higher because they have had to be kept accountable and responsible to obtain the certification in the first place).
Additionally, it is not about WHO is certifying Doulas either, different training organisations have different value for different people. Again, it is about one’s personal commitment to themselves, to their work and to their clients to learn everything they can to value integrity and harm reduction highly. You could do all of these things on your own, with your own study! But it is easier when someone gives you a clear path and you commit to getting to the end and to studying more than one path.
There is so so so much more to this work than what people first think when they start out! So much more. You just don’t know what you don’t know… until you do. So it is so much faster and reduces the risk of learning the hard way and hurting your clients if someone can tell you what to prepare for and then you can make it work for you.
Separate from “certification” is a “certificate of completion”. This means that you have completed the work set but no one has specifically mentored you or verified that the work completed was to a standard that they would necessarily feel comfortable to recommend you.
And before those of you who are against certification get your knickers in a knot ready to come at me, I know, not every certification body is for everyone! There are probably some you wouldn’t touch with a 10ft pole! And that is ok! Just because someone is ‘regulated’ or ‘verified’ by any particular organisation doesn’t necessarily mean that YOU would want to be; or even trust anyone else who is. This is one of the great things about being unregulated! You get to choose who you align with. YOU get to choose who your people are… which brings me back to the fact that when you know who is verified/supported/trained by which organisation and what they each stand for, you might quickly know if someone is the right Doula/colleague/teacher for you just based on who they trained with (if they are proudly sharing that; I actually don’t actively share or promote who I trained with and don’t connect with the community so for me that purposefully doesn’t apply).
I am not at all in favour of separation or segregation, but I am in favour of there being someone for everyone. For example, If you know that an organisation has a reputation of upholding white supremacy and racism, you might automatically assume that anyone who supports them and discusses being proud of training with them are not for you. And this is why some people publicly and proudly discuss their training and their certifications while others hide them away because they no longer want to be associated with the organisation they trained with. And this is also why some people refuse to be certified and want an organisation who do not certify at all! This is completely your prerogative. There is someone for everyone, and different teachers/courses can serve different purposes; you can take what you need and leave the rest if that serves you better.
My suggestion is to just ensure that if you choose not to certify, but want to train with an organisation that you make sure you are not being lumped in with a bunch of other students who have had no support, hardly opened the modules, don’t know what they’re doing and are creating a negative reputation for you by association. There should be at least a “certificate of completion” that is ONLY given to those who actually completed the required tasks believed to be enough by the creators to create a foundation for a positive impact in the birthworld.
The Doula Unschool with Lacey Barratt is a great example of where there is purposefully no certification but students are given an incredibly robust curriculum by someone who has a lot of practical experience and practices with immense integrity and an understanding of the complexities of the profession, along with a supportive community. You wouldn’t get away with practicing out of integrity within that community and that I feel is important. Similarly, my good friend Wild Luna Raven has started an Introduction To Radical Birthkeepers and a FreeBearth Mentorship which are mentoring program for birthkeepers who want to focus on supporting physiological births and bring back autonomy and sovereignty to birth. These again aren’t certified programs but where support and knowledge are high and students are kept accountable and responsible for upholding high standards in the profession. Self Responsibility, integrity and community are the key focus for maintaining the sacredness of this beautiful privilege we call ‘work’.
It is a fact that the majority of people who buy online courses don’t actually ever finish them. In fact many don’t even open them! So, for what you pay for a training course, at the very least there should be an acknowledgement of completion for those who did the work vs those who didn’t. To acknowledge one’s personal accountability and responsibility in respecting themselves and the work enough to complete the modules to the end. I’d be pissed if I did all of the work and ticked everything off in a training and got the same certificate and came under the same umbrella of people who didn’t do anything. But maybe that’s just me?
This is why Mentorship programs are wonderful. You get to immerse in wisdom, experience and story medicine (the most powerful form of education, aligned with our human nature. Story medicine is embodied wisdom, not just mind based, emotionless data). The connection helps you find your own path and be supported along the way. We cannot hold space if no one is holding space for us, so mentorships speak to that. PLUS they help radically decentralise education, to return the wisdom to the people. They help fight against the patriarchy which has taken SO so much away from women, from birth and from all people (and the Earth).
What about no training at all?
Perhaps you don’t want training at all! That is valid too in the world of unregulated/self regulated professions. Just reflect on what that means to you and how you feel you can benefit the profession without learning from those who have gone before you?
Historically speaking women innately and intuitively knew how to be with women. To hold space for these sacred rites of passage. Women and our mysteries were revered and honoured and there was an expectation that it was “women’s business”. It wasn’t until the rise of the patriarchal, industrialised, medicalisation of birth and other similar rites (menarche, menopause, death) that we were handed over and controlled by men and profits. It was the midwives, the herbalists, the wise women and people who were burned and exiled to rid our world of this sacred knowledge so that we would be ignorant of our own innate power. So that we would feel completely dependent on the often unnecessary intervention of others.
Unfortunately we are still suffering today from the consequences of these atrocities. Institutionalised birth is still completely overrun by white supremacy, racism and is completely oppressive by nature. Not only are women and birthing people holding generations of fear around birth along with an imprinted belief that they are unable to give birth without help or intervention, but those who hold space for them are imprinted with those same feas and beliefs.
Have you looked up the history of modern obstetrics? You should. You will be horrified. But we need to unearth these shadows to pay our respects to the Black, Indigenous and People Of Colour (mostly women) who were tortured, traumatised, enslaved and murdered, to give us these revered modern industrialised obstetrics which only continue to oppress and remove us from our innate knowing… and it continues to be the Black, Indigenous and People of Colour who continue to have the highest mortality rates during the perinatal period.
You can consciously believe that birth is a natural physiological process, but you cannot hide from the unconscious programming in many of us that has been imprinted into our cells for generations that it is not. That we are broken. That we are in need of a saviour to save us from this terrible experience. We are disconnected not just from birth and from our bodies but from the whole experience of being a sovereign, powerful, wild human. This has been of great benefit to many who profit from our dependency, but it is an uphill battle when trying to be part of the change.
Regulation, even certification, has most definitely contributed to this loss of connection to our innate, holy, wild and primal experiences and can be seen as potential symbols of patriarchal rule, so I can see why many would want to disconnect from these forms of learning. However, if you have no prior experience with this field of work, or even in the realm of research, academics, or any mentoring or similar by those who have carried down the old wisdom of innate human experiences, it can be a long road ahead (with a potential risk of deep harm or contributing to the regulation you wish to reject) to unlearn and rewild in a way that allows you to fully hold space with empty presence for these sacred human experiences.
I say this, not to offer a sense of hopelessness but to give you a perspective that there is so much more to walking alongside women and pregnant people in their most sacred moments than attending their birth. There is so much to YOUR own learning, or more importantly, your unlearning so that you can offer an authentic and innate understanding of how to hold space for another as they unravel their own power.
This is not easy work! It is challenging to do alone. It is challenging to grasp how deeply conditioned we really are and try to rewild ourselves back, even somewhat, to reconnecting back with our intuitive knowing of how to do this work.
I believe everyone (especially physiological females) has the ability to hold space for birth and our rites of passage, this is part of being human, but there is a process of rewilding that must take place in this modern world if you truly want to make a difference.
So if you choose not to undertake or complete any form of training, ESPECIALLY if you have never had any experience in the area of research, science, history, ethics, social work, psychology (because those who come with a background will already have some of this foundational understanding) it is vitally important to consider the following:
~Build necessary community and continue your own professional development and upskilling in other ways. Mentoring and coaching might be a good alternative for this. Find others in the community to connect with. Know about the history of the birth culture in your area. Make it a point to learn what has happened before you came on the scene (whether you agree or not). I do not believe we can hold space for others if no one is holding space for us. Period.
~Your experiences, biases, judgements need to remain at the door when you hold space for another person: You may have had your own personal experiences with birth and pregnancy, and these will always be part of your journey, but your experiences do not ever transfer as adequate training in the walking of thresholds for others. This is one of the most fundamental core values in doula work. Your own experiences cannot possibly give you enough of what you need without further understanding of the art of holding space to hold space for your clients.
~ Value and commit to ongoing learning: There are many wonderful unofficially trained doulas out there, but there is a big difference between those who keep themselves accountable and value ongoing learning to those who just wish to ‘wing it’. Commit to learning about areas of the work that make you feel uncomfortable and go our of your comfort zone. It is important to learn about areas outside of your own experience and your own privilege and comfort.
~Know your local laws: if you choose not to certify (or train at all) it is imperative that you know your own local laws and legislation around your practice. Some places have strict laws around what you may or may not be able to do. While I am very pro being unregulated, meaning that doula work is not governed by an overarching body who enforces a certain set of rigid rules and makes everyone practice the same way with the same structure who profits from everyone needing to pay yearly membership fees to prove they tow the line (or risk huge fines, even jail in the case of midwifery), you need to know what that looks like for your individual location and circumstances.
~Protect yourself and be really clear and transparent about who you serve, who you don’t serve, what your limitations are, what your role is and what your role is not. While this might look different to other doulas, if you are transparent and clear, you will attract the clients looking exactly for what you offer.
~Know your own values and define what integrity looks like and feels like for you. How would you ensure you practice with complete integrity in your work? Do that.
It always will be a journey, not a destination. One training won’t give you everything you need. It will evolve and grow just as you do. So keep reflecting on your practice, your community, your values and how/what you wish to serve.
Scope of Practice/Standards of practice:
Most trainings operate under a scope of practice which means that Doulas (especially doulas starting out) know and understand their own boundaries and limitations. This scope is not intended to be about caging doulas, it is about protecting them, as well as protecting clients. And it is about offering a container from which to practice (once you are established it is your responsibility to self regulate your practice, no one is going to tell you what to do). When you know what your role is, you know what your limitations are and when you need to say no or refer. This work is not about being everything to everyone nor is it about filling a personal unmet need such as ‘needing to be needed’ or being a saviour. It is professional work that needs to have standards so that you are legally and energetically protected and so that you don’t enable dependencies with your clients.
If your clients need to seek medical advice, there is only so far you can take them to support them within your role before you need to refer and they need to be responsible for their own actions and the outcomes of those actions. The point of referral will look different for different Doulas. Know your own personal and professional limits and be clear about them.
This is just a snapshot of the complexities and many grey areas of this work.
No, there is no universal Doula scope of practice but, for the most part, we do agree to a standard of practice, specifically around the fact that we do not do anything considered to be ‘medical’ such as medical advice or interventions. I, like many, believe this is important for maintaining high professional/ethical (meaning, do no harm) standards and ensuring that we continue being valued as very separate from midwifery and other regulated professions. We agree that we are not medical care givers, we don’t give medical advice, we do not replace medical providers (we are needed and valuable in our own right!!), we do not tell clients what to do or how to do it, we support them to find the answers already within them by offering them resources, information, connection and unbiased, non judgemental emotional and physical support.
We centre the women. We centre our clients. We do not make decisions. We hold space for the women/families to decide and we walk alongside without judgement. This is what makes our role so freaking special.
We are there to BE. To witness. To hold the energy. To centre a woman and remind her of her power and sovereignty. In a world where being is NOT valued, and only DOING something is seen as worthy of payment and accolades, this may be both as equally simple as it is complex. Do you truly know how to BE with someone without physically doing anything?
You may or may not agree with a specific training body’s scope of practice (for example, some are against unassisted birth, some have certain requirements about charging and about student births, or certification) so this is where you use your discernment to choose a course that fits with your personal values. I believe that once you fully grasp the fundamental principles of what it means to ethically hold space for others with complete integrity, a standard of practice becomes more common sense than a need for being told strictly what you can and cannot do. However, when you are starting out it can be useful to have a standard of practice to ensure everyone keeps the bar high and has a foundation from which to start from.
The complexities of Doula Insurance
The other overlooked issue with the scope of practice (or standard of practice and what specifically the boundaries of the Doula role are) is that of insurance. Technically speaking Doulas should not need insurance. If we do not offer medical advice or work within any area of the medical realm, only supporting our clients with information and resources to make their own informed choices then technically we are mere guides and there is nothing specifically to insure us for. However, in these modern times of liability and risk aversion we have seen a HUGE rise in medical insurance claims (hence the rise in hospitals becoming more and more controlling, risk averse and intervention-happy in the hope that they fit within the boxes of their insurance, showing they did ‘everything they could’ to avoid a negligence, malpractice or liability lawsuit. It is a slippery slippery slope this insurance thing!
Privately practicing midwives lost their ability to take out indemnity insurance for births in 2009 (after a massive fight), but technically they could not legally attend births without insurance… so they couldn’t legally practice. After a massive fight they were offered an exemption from being required to have insurance for the birth, but still requiring insurance for antenatal and postnatal appointments. No insurance companies would insure them… as far as I know, the exemption continues!! And Independent midwives were required to undergo more training and more regulation to become “endorsed” by medicare, always with two midwives present in order to continue practicing. The regulation has just become tighter and more rigid and cancelled many of the wise midwives out… but has it actually made birth safer for women and birthing people? Has it actually done us any good?
The point is, if Doulas practice out of the scope of ‘guide’ and non-medical support person then we raise that risk of having a similar regulation situation occur. We also need to weigh up insurance and what that means to us and our practice. What specifically are we being insured for? Are we setting a precedent for needing to be insured? But why?
I know that the incredible work of the Doula Network Australia has secured insurance for Doulas here and most Doulas opt for insurance to over them for public liability and indemnity insurance. There have certainly been times when Doulas have been said to give advice or they run the risk of unhappy clients trying to lay blame onto their Doula. I personally took out insurance mostly for my Placenta services as this was a grey area and clients ingest the placenta so I felt it necessary for that. Similarly for workshops that I run (venue hire requires it). At the time I took out my insurance, the insurance company specifically said they wouldn’t insure for the birth itself because they just cannot fit the doula role into any box that allows them to feel safe enough to ensure us for that.
This is yet another complex issue that many new Doulas overlook and don’t really consider.
Most insurance companies will ask for a certificate of completion of a Doula Training Organisation (or at least proof of enrollment). As far as I have known, non-trained and non-certified Doulas struggle to obtain insurance if that is something they seek. Things are changing all the time though. But our understanding of what our ‘scope’ is (and what it is not) helps to keep us from requiring liability cover because if we are not responsible for the outcomes and don’t give advice on what to do/not do and we aren’t present without medical (legally responsible) care providers, what specifically are we liable for?
Back To My Story
Anyway, I digress, not knowing anything about unregulated Doula work and running a business, at the time I was looking for something that was seen as reputable and certified. I felt (like many do) that a certification would offer the ‘best’ path for thorough training under the wing of experienced and wise Doulas who would support me on my path as opposed to an online training that left me to my own devices to navigate the work alone.
The first training I enrolled in was an online training based overseas. They had online mentors but they were really difficult to get in contact with and I found them to be quite cold and unreliable. I also hadn’t had a baby yet so I found connecting to my mentor and what she was asking of me (or perhaps her ability to connect with me) quite challenging. The online world of communities and groups wasn’t overly evolved at that point (this was around 2010 before groups really became a thing) and I really disliked the lack of community. I felt really isolated, especially because I didn’t have other people around me in similar work or even having babies.
The course was mostly assessed through multiple choice (open book) questions or assessments and graded by my mentor who took forever to get back to me. I didn’t feel like I was being mentored, or like I had support and I couldn’t go deeper than the textbook took me, which felt really impersonal and stale for such sacred and vulnerable work. I never finished this certification. Maybe I will one day… probs not.
We often choose training because we don’t feel that we know enough and lack confidence to get out there and do the work. There needs to be a balance between not feeling so over confident that we just blindly start practicing something that others have spent years and years learning how to do, but also that we never feel like we are enough and just chase certifications and courses, filling a void that never feels satisfied. I have come to a place where, while I want to start looking for some new learning opportunities, I also finally feel like I am enough and that I know enough to be doing the work that I am. I will forever be both a student and mentor, for eternity, always intertwined.
How is in-person/face to face Doula training different?
I am a pretty social person and love to learn in person so I decided to do another training and chose an in person training. I LOVED the in person part of the training. It was once a fortnight over a few months. I loved the discussions and the homework and the community. There were things that I found really frustrating and there were a lot of promises that were broken, communication was lacking, so much turn over with staff (this is often a pretty big red flag) and there was a sense that (as with a number of trainings) it was first and foremost a business, which is great and I don’t resent them for that, but that business came before compassion and care for the students. Students who were mostly Mothers, often of young children, or pregnant and needed extra support and sometimes leniency.
There were a number of moments that had me questioning the integrity and communication of the organisation and a lot of students left with a sour taste in their mouth. I never did receive the actual certification I was promised either (and that I paid for) and one of the big reasons I went with that organisation in the first place. I didn’t receive that certificate because of an administration change in the company (which has continued to annoy me to this day). I got a certificate for completing the course but not the one that I paid for which was a higher accreditation, and which costed a LOT more money. I am sure a lot was going on behind the scenes, but communication is a vital part of running a business and you need to support your students and deliver on what you promise as a basic minimum!
What I did realise from this experience is that community is everything!! Having others who ‘get it’ is almost more important than most other things you are sold that you need. I vehemently believe that you absolutely cannot hold space if no one is holding space for you. I also believe strongly in learning from others, especially those who have been doing it longer and have more experience. My in person class was VERY small and while I loved them, it was not enough engagement and the training body was not overly committed to increasing numbers or creating more community in the area. This was when I created some groups on facebook and in person meetups to meet and connect with more doulas and birthworkers, including those who trained elsewhere.
The common feeling was isolation and overwhelm.
So many Doulas, like me, felt really connected whilst training, but once that ended, they didn’t know how to keep the momentum up. And many stopped practicing.
In addition to this, the training didn’t cover business at all!!
We all felt like fish out of water when we left training with all this passion and enthusiasm only to realise that we had no idea how to actually get clients and how to manage all the ‘awkward’ money stuff and marketing! It felt so misaligned.
But you know what helped?
We were all on our own paths, doing our own individual learning, but we would come back together and learn from one another and we fumbled through it together. It was magic. And we kept at it and expanded so much together.
Since that time Doula work and Doula trainings have exploded and evolved so so much.
Everyone seems to know what a Doula is now- which is awesome!
But there are so many new Doula training programs out there it is really hard to know which to choose or where to even start.
After my Doula training I continued to have a thirst for learning and upskilling. This I believe is a vital part of being a Doula, to keep up to date with the current evidence and practices. I went on to become a certified (yup certified again) Placenta Preparation Arts Specialist through an online training but with much more community than the first online program I did, and with (initially) much more support. This organisation again had a fair few staff changes right off the bat and the communication was questionable but I connected with a lot of people around the world, and I learned a lot. I believe it was by far the most thorough, evidence based and up to date training in this field. There had been some horror stories of other training organisations doing some shocking things and hospitals were starting to tighten their regulations around placentas so it was important to have a really good foundation of knowledge around the safety of the practices, effective sanitisation practices as well as the laws and ethics of what I was embarking on. This wasn’t just for the safety of my clients but also for myself (working with potential blood borne pathogens) and for the whole profession because if I was caught out to be doing something that caused an issues, it would most certainly be splashed all over the media and the whole profession would be investigated (this happened in the UK not that long ago).
The biggest thing I found with this training was that it was based overseas and I found it challenging at times to translate some of the practices and tools to work for here in Australia (for example, trying to buy the correct equipment that they deemed the ‘only’ one appropriate). There were also some big changes to the course from when I started and got my certification to when they wanted me to renew. This particular organisation asks students to become members which means an ongoing yearly fee and a renewal of certification. I am in favour of this ‘verification’ process to ensure that students who they list on their website as students they trust are up to date with current evidence and preparation and sanitation protocols, but I was frustrated with the communication and some of the interactions I had, so I decided not to re-certify and continue being associated with them. I valued what I received very highly but also stopped taking on placentas and decided it wasn’t a priority to go through that process again and align with them again when there were things I now didn’t agree with.
This is where we can take on training and then alchemise the learnings into whatever it is we as individuals need them for.
By the time I was taking on births, postnatal clients and placenta clients I felt satisfied that I had enough knowledge to be doing the work and felt very supported by the local birth worker community but my business skills were still severely lacking and I was pretty much just stabbing in the dark.
How on earth do you build a business from sacred work?
Surely the two are polar opposites and I had no idea how to make them work together!
But if I didn’t somehow bring in some income, I wouldn’t be able to keep doing it.
Probably the most asked questions of doula graduates soon after completing their training!
This is when I joined a birthworker specific business training/hivemind.
While the content in this training was extensive and I learned a lot, again, it was the community that was absolutely everything!
I have never felt so seen, heard and witnessed, nor have I learnt so much from a group/community situation before.
We were all there for the same reason and we all wanted the same things.
We all believed that our work was incredibly valuable and sacred but also that we needed to somehow create a profitable business out of it so that we could keep following our soul calling rather than go back to our unfulfilling ‘real’ jobs.
This meant that we were all learning and doing independent work but coming back and sharing and learning from one another. We were also supporting and lifting each other up too which is priceless when you have a small business. Having others in the field vouching for you, sharing your work and cheering you on is worth more than anything.
During that time I learnt so much about money, the energy of money and how to rekindle my relationship with the energy of money. As well as watching others take big leaps, so feeling more confident to take my own and experiment with where they landed me.
This is the power of circle I am always talking about.
After my second baby was born I realised how broken the hospital system really is (or, actually, how seamlessly it works to make us feel broken within it). I decided I just could not work in the system any longer. I felt a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. How is what we are doing even helping? We are just getting more and more traumatised and not even seeing better outcomes.
Doulas were dropping like flies. Leaving the profession left right and centre.
Doula work outside of birth:
And this is where I saw my role as a Doula expand and extend far beyond birth.
I realised that being present at a birth was potentially ‘too late’ to actually support the global transformation and change I really wished to see.
This work needed to start WELL before birth. And I saw it in the flesh with such incredible power when I was a school counsellor and I spoke to my young students about taboos such as menstruation, body image, red thread/ancestor medicine and even about birth and pregnancy. Planting these seeds early is far more powerful because each rite of passage we experience just connects with the next, and if they already felt like their bodies were broken or unworthy as teenagers, it would only magnify during pregnancy and birth, leaving them vulnerable and open to manipulation and unnecessary intervention to ‘fix’ them.
I stopped believing the common Doula narrative that Doulas MUST be present at a birth to make any difference. I really don’t believe that at all! I feel that if a client wants us present at their birth after all the work we have done prior, then that wonderful. Or in the case of BIPOC where birth is statistically more dangerous. But otherwise, I think that if we have done our job well, we will have done it before birth- to the point that our clients remember their own innate power and do not feel the need to have us present.
If we have done the work prior to birth, our clients will have unravelled so many things before birth, and us being present at the birth is just an added extra for comfort. But this idea that clients NEED us only plays into the patriarchal notion of externalising everything and that individuals do not have everything they need already inside of them. Our work is SO much bigger than birth! It is so much bigger than us as individuals. It taps into a greater, deeper change of remembrance and reconnection, which is why the work must always begin with us and our own unlearning.
Don’t get into the work if you want to “empower” people.
We do not empower our clients, we walk alongside them to empower themselves and remember the power and answers they seek that have always resided within them. This is about centring THEM not us, we must centre ourselves within our work in order to heal and peel layers so to be able to centre our clients when/as they need with complete empty presence.
We hold them when they are moving through the emotions and we offer them light when they are leaning into the darkness but we do not tell them the way- they know how to find their own way, on their own.
Doulas need to stop being saviours and attaching to the outcomes of their clients, and relying on the dependency of their clients to externally validate them- but that is again another post.
So, that brings me to now.
I have learnt so so much, been present with some wonderful families in their most vulnerable moments, I have supported my local community in many ways, I have supported some Doula trainings with mentoring and masterclasses, I have created my own mentoring and coaching programs as well as Doula-specific business resources based on everything I have experienced and witnessed over the last decade, and now I feel I have finally found my own unique and personal niche that all of this was leading me towards. And YES, I have absolutely made money! I haven’t had to return to my previous work either. Yes it was awkward as heck charging for my first client but I have also steadily put up my prices ever since. This work is hugely taxing on our energy. While I don’t believe in the statement ‘charge your worth’ because we are all infinitely worthy, I do believe there needs to be a fair and equal exchange and that your time and energy are valuable.
Phew, what a magical and powerful roller coaster ride.
Now I want to support you on your journey and help you to find the path that is right for you (maybe even with some shortcuts, because I can tell you the things that worked for me and those that didn’t and it might save some time and effort for you).
The first step in choosing a suitable Doula training:
The path to becoming a Doula is a very personal one as is the choice of training. It is important to choose a training that aligns with your personal values and intentions. Many are quite niched into what they specialise in and what they believe in so you want to be really clear about your own personal values and how you envision yourself in the role and what you hope you get from it/do with it, and then see how that aligns with the values and visions of the various training bodies.
Don’t just choose a training because your friend did it.
Don’t choose one because you saw an ad for it and it was cheap.
Don’t choose one because you think you need to fit a specific doula-mold and you think that training will help change you to fit.
There is definitely NO one best Doula training. Sorry, It just does not exist!
One Doula training that is perfect for one person, might be the worst possible choice for another person.
You might even choose to do a couple of different training like I did- that is even better!
There are lots of great ones (also some interesting ones) that suit different needs.
Essentially, that is my biggest piece of advice.
You need to always, first and foremost, align from the inside out.
As within, so without.
This will be the same the whole way along as you unfurl in your business.
Know who you are, what your hopes are, what your values are and find something to fit those rather than the other way around.
Similarly to discussing care models with clients, I would never say that either private or public or independent were better than the other.
I would ask:
-What sort of birth are you hoping for?
-How do you feel you want to be supported?
-What are you looking for from your care providers?
And go from there.
If they say they want to achieve a physiological birth with no to limited pain relief, I would offer them information about each care model and let them choose for themselves.
Choosing a doula training is no different (and see, doulas need doulas too, even aspiring doulas!).
Your Doula training won’t be (and shouldn’t have to be) the be-all-and-end-all of your training.
Second to this, I believe that Doula training is generally not a be-all-and-end-all. It is a first step/stepping stone toward your ultimate goal (which you might not fully know what it is until you are doing the work).
I remember feeling pretty resentful and annoyed at my Doula training for seeming to leave me (and my colleagues) in the dark about the business of being a Doula. I was pissed off that I was ready to step into this new role but I had no freaking idea where to even start in getting clients. I have since changed my view on this and do not believe that any doula training (or any training for that matter) will be absolutely everything you need forever and ever amen.
Yes, they did me a disservice for not telling me that this was an area I needed to know more about, nor how to find experts in the field, but I don’t believe it is completely up to Doula training to be absolutely everything to you. It is up to you as the centre of your business to take responsibility for finding mentors, teachers and experts in the field you want to learn more about and hold yourself accountable and responsible for continuing your own learning.
That is my two cents (ahem rant) on that…
Just know that you will need to continue up-skilling and sourcing professional development as you get clearer of your own position and niche. This also definitely includes continuing to up-skill in the area of business which is something that is constantly evolving and changing (especially in the realm of online marketing).
Many Doulas start out with great skills and passion but the weight of running a business and their lack of knowledge in that area really lets them down and they end up leaving- which is what we definitely don’t want! It is not like midwifery where you will get paid for your time. You will only get paid if you have clients, and you will only have clients if you embark on some form of marketing (which doesn’t have to be gross or unethical or awkward, just see it as getting the message of your wonderful services out there, and the people who are specifically looking for what you offer to more easily find you).
You will have expenses and bills, and you will need to know how to manage this side of the work, but a huge upside to this work is that you have endless freedom!! Freedom to work your own hours, to work around your kids and around your own energy matrix. Freedom to connect, collaborate, build community and use your creativity! You will have freedom to work intuitively and in a way that feels good for you. You get to make your business work for you rather than the other way around. You also have endless opportunities to scale your business to create more time and more sustainability while leveraging your skills and gifts. To be fully, wholly and truly in service to the divine and the gifts she has bestowed on you.
I do not regret any of my training at all. I value training very highly and I believe greatly in “asking those coming back” because I feel that we learn about how to move forward (without repeating similar mistakes) most positively and easily by learning from what has already been done and established. This path (while rather windy and long) has gotten me to where I am now and for that I am grateful. Would I have chosen differently? There wasn’t a lot of choice when I was looking so probably not, and my maiden self was super keen on certifications and feeling really professional from an external perspective.
But now that there is more choice, I want you to choose wisely, to stay aligned with your authentic self and what you wish to offer in this world. And honestly, if you noticed any common theme in my story of training, what hands down made the most impact was not ever the content itself but the community formed within it. Choose a training that offers connections, networking, mentoring, support, and who seem to be widely respected by those you respect and trust. Some of the newer doula trainings coming out today are being raved about because of how they made their students feel! Especially during in person workshops, and the life long connections where you create a family who really ‘get’ what you are doing is absolutely priceless.
Connection really is everything.
Just a little note on the dangers of gurus in the Doula world:
Use discernment around training by organisations who seem to have a hierarchy or a prominent ‘leader’. How your training (and the community around them) make you feel is important, but not just important while in their presence, also when you are out of their presence. Some trainings offer intensive workshops where the students feel incredibly up-lifted and excited, only to leave the training feeling really unsure how to actually put the advice into place on a practical level. These sorts of ‘guru’ leaders may create dependencies by making students feel that they need to keep coming back again and again and again in order to feel confident in themselves because while they were given useful advice, they weren’t given any practical ways of making it their own. Having someone walk alongside you and support you to find the answers already within you and offer practical tools and resources is quite different than those briefly telling you what to do, how to do it and then expect you to put it into place after the training is over.
You cannot hold space if no one is holding space for you, so How will you be supported in this work?
Birth work (and as I refer to the whole spectrum of sacred work, Threshold Walking) is never linear. It is a process that spirals around and shifts and changes over time. You will of course need support as you begin, but you will continue to need support on and off in different ways as you experience new and potentially uncertain situations. You will need people you can confidentially debrief with, people you can ask legal and ethical questions, you will need people you can talk to about how to handle challenging situations, how to work through energy burn out, grief and the multitude of emotions and experiences you will face throughout the work. The beauty of the work is that it is always different and you never quite know what you will get when you walk through the door- this is also equally a challenging part because you have to be able to be flexible and quick to adjust to whatever is arising that will best support your clients and yourself.
We can’t do this work alone.
As such, the biggest thing I feel is lacking from most doula trainings, apart from the business skills, is ongoing support and ways to access professional support after training/while actually IN the work (I say professional because there is a difference between getting support from someone in the field vs someone who doesn’t have any understanding of the unique complexities of this work). So this is definitely something to keep in mind, whether for something to look for in your training, or to keep an eye out for when you graduate, either in the form of group coaching, 1:1 coaching or by any creative means possible. Be sure to work with people who don’t just give you all the answers, who you don’t start to feel dependent on- like you are lacking something without them by your side all the time. But someone who helps you find the answers within yourself and who makes you feel like you are absolutely and wholly enough just as you are- even without them, but who you also know is there if/when you need them.
Because of the fact that I felt that this was the biggest gap in the doula world, especially for recent graduates, this has become an area that I have focused on and specialised in.
As such, I offer 1:1 and group coaching and business mentoring and I have a lot of useful tools and resources to save time for new doulas starting up their business. I created one-off “pick my brain” sessions for just this purpose, to allow anyone considering doula work or navigating the complexities of being a doula to have support if/when they need and I also facilitate a one-day Sacred Business workshop for spaceholders, specifically around what it means to be in service to a sacred business such as this.
You can download the FREE Sacred Business Blueprint HERE
The most common issues that doulas face after graduating:
-Isolation- trying to work alone. No community, no support, no mentoring
-Lack of professional support, especially when navigating complex situations or trauma and/or grief.
-Overwhelm- not knowing which steps to take next or how to find support
-Struggle with the ‘business’ side- don’t know that they need business savvy to really thrive. Don’t know where to start or how to maintain it.
-Burnout and unsustainable practices
-Lack/scarcity mindset, especially around money and reinvesting into a business. There needs to be a commitment to either remain a hobby or step into running a business; but a business makes money by definition.
-Unmet personal needs as a purpose for entering the work (feeling affirmed externally by doula work and creating dependencies or having a vigilante-esque mentality to save others from what they went through).
-Unsure how to get clients, blocked by marketing
-Unsure how to attract IDEAL clients
Biggest and most common mistakes I see Doulas make:
-Don’t practice with integrity
-Don’t treat their business like a business- perhaps feeling ashamed about business or have issues with money
-Don’t charge enough
-Hyperindependence as a trauma response. Constantly proud of being the ‘lone wolf’ without community or anyone holding space for them (husbands don’t count mmkay)
-Continue to uphold internalised patriarchy and misogyny via sisterhood wounds and witch wounds which are most witnessed through intense competition, fear of getting close to others (‘they will steal my clients’), comparison and judgement (which is usually an unmet need or desire that one is not in approval of anyway).
-Don’t diversify and work in areas outside of just the event of birth itself
-Don’t have a connection with their clients and allow for booking *just* the birth with no consults outside of that
-Don’t centre women/their clients and don’t leave their own ‘stuff’ at the door to be worked through by their own support
-Are not authentic or honest enough about their own needs and who they really are. This is absolutely FELT energetically. You need to know yourself and completely BE yourself to attract the clients you LOVE to work with. You need to know your own boundaries, limits and be true to them or you will crash and burn so quickly you won’t even see it coming.
-See the initial training as the be all and end all
-Attribute their value and worth externally to their work- thus becoming attached to the outcomes
-Continue to enable patriarchal constructs by being attached to external factors of the work such as the statistics related to Doula ‘success’, how to tow the line in the hospital etc
-Believe it is their duty to ‘empower’ others by speaking on their behalf, giving advice and not allowing their clients to find their own answers.
-Do the work only to feel they are ‘saving’ or ‘protecting’ others.
-Don’t do inner work or honour shadow work- you can only take others as far as you are willing to go yourself.
-Don’t strive to learn beyond their own privilege/experience/comfort.
-See birth as the ‘main event’; the be all and end all and attending births as the ultimate way to create change.
-Want to serve everyone/try to be everything to everyone- don’t niche or show their most authentic self.
-Compare to others and try to be like someone else.
-Want to be the cheapest because they think that will attract the most people (trust me, being the cheapest is the opposite of a good idea! The worst feeling is working with people that you are not suited to and robbing them of the experience to work with someone who is better suited to them. You can give more of your time for reduced or free rates if you charge enough to those who CAN afford it, and reinvest into support for those who can’t afford it). You’re doing no one any favours if you can’t put petrol in your car or food on the table and you have to go back to unfulfilling employment).
Myths about Doula work:
-You have to have had a baby or been pregnant to be a good Doula
-You can’t make money or run a sustainable and ethical business from Doula work
-You have to be a certain ‘age’ or type of person to be a doula
-You have to be a hippie/crunchy/alternative
-Doulas only support homebirths/’natural’ birth
-Doulas take over from the role of a partner
-Doulas interfere with medical advice
-Doulas are against pain relief/medical intervention
-Doulas are the same as midwives
-Doulas don’t have to be involved in or care about politics, justice or institutional oppression
And that is a big hard NO to each of those myths!
Origins of the word “Doula” vs the use of “Birth Keeper”
The word Doula comes from the Greek origin meaning “woman’s servant”. Medical Researchers Kennell & Klause who discovered in their research that women birthing with their (non medical) assistant in the room for support had far better outcomes than the women (and birthing people) who birthed alone or just with medical staff. Doulas in the historic sense of women supporting women, non medical support people supporting birthing people is not new, it has been around since the beginning of time, especially as birth became more difficult for us as we began walking on two legs and our brains increased in size. Doulas are especially apparent in traditional and Indigenous cultures all around the world. Kennell and Klaus just brought the concept into the ‘mainstream’ and highlighted some statistical evidence to support us- especially in a time of twilight sleep and massively increased medical intervention and pathologisation of birth.
Many are moving away from the title of Doula because of its origins connecting to being a ‘servant’ and being offensive to Black and Indigenous people who were treated as actual servants and enslaved by white colonisers. The word Doula is also beginning to be associated (unintentionally) with working more within the system, and specifically in the area of birth. There is a movement away from Doula as some birthworkers find their places better suited to outside of the mainstream system, opting instead for titles of Birth Keeper and other similar variations. The term ‘Birth Keeper’ was coined by the incredible and inspirational late Jeannine Parvati Baker who believed passionately in the innate power of physiological birth and in all of our rites of passage as transformational and sacred life events. Those who opt for the title of Birthkeeper are often connected more with Unassisted/Freebirth, physiological birth and birth as a spiritual experience. They uphold values around sovereignty and autonomy in birth as well as a collective belief in our need to rewild birth (and all of our rites of passage) in order to evoke global healing.
Some people prefer to use “Birth Worker” “Birth Professional” “Birth Advocate” “Birth/Pregnancy Coach” “Perinatal Professional” or any similar variation.
Working within the current birth climate has been and continues to be incredibly taxing, often inflicting significant trauma to those who are present- yes, even when doulas are present (that is just how the system works). As such, the majority of Doulas and Birthworkers no longer just work in the realm of pregnancy and birth anymore. Many have been using the term “Full Spectrum” for a fair while now to describe their ability to support through the full spectrum of experiences throughout the perinatal period and often specifically indicate their support for clients through loss and termination.
It is often Mothers and parents of young children who are awakened to this line of work during their own pregnancy and birthing experiences. Birth is of course a gateway and the beginning of all things so it is no wonder that in their own rebirth they feel called to support others during that time. However many quickly realise that being on-call and the energy and time it requires to support others in this time of westernised oppressive medicine, is just too taxing while also juggling motherhood/parenthood. They also quickly realise, as I have said, that much needs to be done outside of the event of birth itself to support women and pregnant people to remember their innate power well before they arrive at the birth altar. So we are seeing an influx of Doulas of all sorts.
We are also seeing how birth is only one part of a greater whole journey; of a spectrum of rites of passage that all interweave and interconnect. Thus, only focusing on one initiation in isolation, especially when ALL have been equally stolen and oppressed by patriarchal rule, is doing the client a huge disservice. As such, there are doulas for all different areas- menarche, fertility, sexuality/embodiment, antenatal planning & educational, political and advocacy, postpartum only (which is a whole spectrum on it’s own), breastfeeding, for partners only, menopause, death, ceremonies and circles, loss, and many more.
We are seeing that each area is a potential specialisation and a HUGE amount of work to support in and of itself.
Questions to ask before looking for a Doula Training:
What are your top 5 values in life?
What does integrity mean to you? What does that look like in practice?
What are your intentions for this work? If you visualise it, what does it look like for you in 5 years doing this work?
What area of this work specifically lights you up and do you know a lot about?
What do you love the most about this work?
What do you dislike the most about this work?
How will you access support and community?
What is the birth climate/culture like in your local area?
What is your relationship with money?
How much time do you have to work vs focus on accounting and marketing?
Are you committed to ongoing learning and upskilling?
Who will support you to support your family while you are supporting your clients?
How will you manage on-call work?
How do you feel about being on-call? Would you rather work in an area that doesn’t require you to be on-call?
Do you really just want to be a midwife? Are you looking into doula work to pass some time before you can do midwifery?
(Doula work and midwifery are NOT the same thing. Two completely different roles. While once upon a time there may have been some overlap, these days, they are so vastly different and they deserve the respect to be seen with honour in their own right. Doula work is a call within itself. It is not midwifery rebranded, especially in places where there are strict laws around unregistered midwifery practice.)
What do you need to make (money wise) in a year? Work backwards from there- how many clients can you realistically take on? What are your expenses, time/wage and profits? Do you need to diversify so that you are not relying only on births? What does this look like?
Do you want your Doula training to:
-Have a certification process?
-Have no certification process?
-Have a membership option to remain affiliated with a training organisation?
-Have a Spiritual focus?
-Have a social justice/political focus?
-Focus on postnatal work?
-Focus on birth specific work?
-Specialise in education/antenatal planning rather than birth support?
-Focus on another aspect of the spectrum of life (fertility, termination, rites of passage, menstruation, death)?
-Business focus (at least discuss business and talk about money without shame)?
-Have a more ‘alternative’ feel?
-Have a more ‘mainstream’ feel?
-Be local/country specific?
-Be cultural or religious specific?
-Have a clear political and justice and/or intersectional focus (training specific for LGBTIQA+ community, actively teach about white privilege and decolonising birth)?
-Intensive weekend/week workshop?
-Be the cheapest you can find (reflect on why you are doing this and how your training will meet the desires you have for it)?
Training Organisations (These are in NO specific order by preference).
Doula Training Academy (WA based)
Australian Doula College
Rhea Dempsey training in Vic
Birth Work with Jenny Blythe (not sure if these are still running)
Sacred Birth Doula Training- Celebration of Birth with Anna Watts
Our Doula with Kellie Whiskin in Geelong
Birth Right with Susan Ross
The School Of Shamanic Womancraft
(If you are in Australia, look into joining the Doula Network Australia)
Doula Unschool with Lacey Barratt (Niched for birth photographers but open to anyone)
Introduction To Radical Birth Keeping- Wild Luna Raven https://wildwombwitch.com/
Doula Trainings International
The Centre For Excellence Birth Doula Diploma (not run by Doulas)
Cornerstone Doula Training
The Black Doula/Sabia Wade
Birth Advocacy Doulas
Still Birth Day Doula Training
Birthing From Within
Childbirth Professionals International
Carriage House Birth
Radical Birthkeeper School (via the Freebirth Society)
Radical Birth keepers
The School of Shamanic Womancraft (Australian & International, in person training)
Dial A Doula
Eat Pray Doula (Retreat in Bali with Robin Lim)
Sacred Pregnancy (Sacred Living Movement) with Annie Daulter
Ibirthprofessionals (Ginny Phang)
CAPPA (Childbirth and postpartum professional association)
Badass Birth with Jen Muir
Abuela Doulas with Mars Lord
Best Doula Training
Birthworkers Of Colour Collective
Birth Arts International
International Doula Institute
By The Moon- International Holistic Health School
Zoe Etkin- Embodiment Doula Trainings
The Matrona School Of Holistic Birth
The Sacred Birthworker Mentorship
Post Partum Specific:
Newborn Mothers Collective with Julia Jones
Innate Traditions With Rachelle Garcia Seliga
Slow Postpartum with Jojo Hogan
Sacred Postpartum (Anni Daulter)
Other niched areas of interest:
Mother Rising with Amy Taylor Kabbaz
Motherhood Studies Practitioner Certification with Sophie Brock
Jaguar with Kimberley Ann Johnson
Still Birth Day Bereavement Training
Witch School with Danielle Arabena
Sacred Living Movement With Ani Daulter
Rachel Reed (midwife thinking) and Evidence Based Birth- (Not a training but a resource worth knowing)
Death Doula Training with Sarah Kerr
Death Doula Training with Denise Love
Death Doula Training with Death Wives
Childbirth Education specific
Beer & Bubs
Doula mentoring/business coaching specific
Birdsong Brooklyn (more mentoring)
Gena Kirby The Doulas Doula
Inspired Birth Pro
Christina of Potty Mouth Doula Coach
Or, work with me!
In all my years working as a Doula mentor and trainer I have seen how much vital information is missed in generalised Doula training. While some are more expansive, many are very general and cover the basics of pregnancy and birth and that is it.
What I have noticed is that this leaves Doulas very open and vulnerable to missing out on opportunities to go much deeper with their clients about issues that are at the core of unblocking where they want to go.
I no longer choose to believe that birth can be seen or taught in isolation. That we can discount so many other vital layers when supporting this pivotal time and think that that is enough.
Doulas are seeing it first hand and moving away from birth specific work and into an array of different, specialist modalities to bring us back to our innate wild- who we were before we were told who we should be.
Many Doulas first hear the call to this work when they have had their first baby, but it is really challenging to juggle the demands of on-call work with the demands of this mother-phase. So they are finding creative and powerful ways to support clients outside of birth, realising that sometimes this work, outside or and around birth is much MORE powerful than attending the birth itself.
I believe that to effectively hold space for birth means to also have a vital understanding of a much broader context and to reconnect us back with our rites of passage, with our bodies, with the earth and with each other.
Understanding the fundamental underpinnings of what it means to embody the art of holding space and practicing with complete ethical, trauma-informed integrity is at the core of ANY and ALL spaceholding- doula or not. This is where we should all begin. To rewild and re-awaken the truth of what we are here for from a place that fulfills and nourishes both our human, and our soul rather than depleting us and burning us out.
This to me means to embody ethical and sustainable spaceholding so that you can in-fact contribute to and become part of the positive change we all wish to see, not enable and perpetuating more disconnection and burn out.
More money in the hands of sacred workers, along with a centering of mothers and their experiences throughout their rites of passage will change everything for everyone.
If you are being called to curate, facilitate and hold space for sacred transitions and spaces with confidence, integrity and abundance (in a way that can evolve with you as a cyclic being), Embodied Spaceholding is for you.
Do not stay STUCK in burn out, or to only one form of spaceholding- if you are a doula or a birthworker you are a spaceholder, and this role must be able to evolve with you and your business because you are an ever changing cyclic being.
Become an ethical and trauma-informed Embodied Spaceholder
There are also SO many facets of this life journey that need rewilding, to detach from the stranglehold of patriarchal rule. I want you to immerse yourself in all of the possibilities, and find your place with the rest of us on the fringes. We are birthworkers but at our core we are ultimately spaceholders. We may not attend many (if any) births because our work is still needed outside of that if we are going to actually see the revolution we are yearning for.
Embodied spaceholding is about upholding the sacredness of this work (which is getting all but lost in our modern world) by upholding strong ethical foundations and practicing with complete integrity. Part of practicing with integrity is to keep oneself accountable and have a community of others who will support a path of truth (not just an echo chamber of affirmations). When you open and expand to what is at the heart of what is true for you and your soul, everything transforms and you are more able to open and expand to abundance with a capacity to hold the sacred spaces of others without judgement or reaction.
Holding space is to see someone in all of their vulnerability, all of their humanness, all of their shame and all of their power. Holding space is to walk with them (without intervention, advice or judgement) as they dance with their shadows on the threshold of phases before emerging transformed. One who holds space is not afraid of the primal scream and the struggle they may witness in another, as they know this is the only way to be reborn
But to be able to hold in this way with openness, without judgement, reaction or a desire to fix, requires capacity! It requires ongoing inner work that cannot be ignored or bypassed!
Imagine the power of a sacred container, of others committed and passionate women just like you, cheering you on, celebrating your wins and witnessing you in your shadows? THIS is what we are here for and what are Ancestors are screaming at us to return to- this is how we remember our humanness, in order to embody the ability to hold space for other’s most vulnerable human moments
The Embodied Spaceholder (TM) Pathway includes Embodied Spaceholder Training (for those new to spaceholding) and includes Circle Medicine and Ceremony training to incorporate as a way to diversify your offerings and business. You can join via an online mentorship journey OR via the in-person immersive experienced at the Liminal Training Retreat.
Sacred business is a pathway for existing spaceholders looking to connect more deeply with the energetics of their business and making money while maintaining the sacredness and sustainability of their work. And finally, Anchor Mastermind & Mentorship which is coming soon. The ESH mastermind is by application only as it is intimate, the energy needs to be in alignment, and places are strictly limited.
Payment plans will always be available.
Join the waitlist for ESH online training HERE
Join the waitlist for ANCHOR mastermind and mentorship HERE
If you are looking for guidance and mentoring to enter the sacred realm of Birthwork as well as the art of Circle Medicine & Ceremony Embodied Spaceholding is for YOU! Please get in touch!
Being Trauma-Informed as a spaceholder in ANY setting is an absolute non-negotiable!
Trauma-informed is NOT a buzz-word or a trend. It is a vital part of what it means to hold space well and ethically. Unfortunately this is not an area that most doula trainings cover in-depth- if at all! Yet it is the vital piece for what it means to hold space that leaves clients feeling held and supported vs harmed/disconnected/re-traumatised/let down. What you carry in your doula bag and how well you know the three stages of labour will NOT be enough, and I have heard enough traumatised women and family’s stories, and the stories of birthworkers in legal hot water to know that doulas are sometimes significant contributors to trauma, not just the medical institutions.
Trauma affects people differently and we cannot know how or why someone responds in a certain way, or what might activate them.
It is YOUR responsibility to ensure that you can hold space from a regulated place with capacity and integrity so to not contribute to more harm, suffering and re-traumatisation.
This was some of the fuel that let me to hold a FREE training on Trauma Informed Spaceholding that you can still get access to!
In this free class I discuss:
✨ What trauma-informed spaceholding is (and what it is not)
✨ Why being a trauma-informed spaceholder is important not just for spaceholding, but for all of humanity
✨ How to hold trauma informed space as well as what creating ‘safe’ spaces actually means, and how you can do it
✨ Basic fundamentals of trauma, nervous system responses and capacity building
-Why some spaces feel healing and connective while others do not
✨ Trauma-informed spaceholding as an embodied practice into the future
✨Practical and simple ways to implement more trauma-informed and ethical approaches into your work
✨The difference between spaceholding as an unregulated professional vs a regulated one and how they differ.
✨I will draw upon group work, regulated work and 1:1 work from my experiences as a birthworker, educator, counsellor, facilitator and kinesiologist.
I can tell you that while this 2-hour class offers significant value and so much valuable information, we barely touch the surface on all it takes to be an ethical and trauma informed spaceholder.
Additionally, with being trauma-informed, also comes the understanding of curating and cultivating very intentional spaces that invoke a sense of ritual and allow for regulation. Having a fundamental understanding and confidence in Ceremony & Circle Medicine is not only immensely supportive to the phase of Matresence (the perinatal period), allow for a richer trauma-informed experience, but are a wonderful addition to any doula/birthwork business. If you are completely new and looking for a supportive training in the realm of spaceholding for sacred rites of passage, including birth, the Embodied Spaceholder Training is for those who want to learn about, and feel confident in holding space for sacred circles, ceremonies and rites of passage, either in a group or 1:1 and either to add to their current business or to step into this impactful sacred work as a stand-alone offering. This is especially potent work for birthworkers/doulas to add to their repertoire as it aids their connection with their clients while supporting their client to unravel fears and/or blocks before arriving at the birth altar. This is the powerful work that is vital but outside of the event of birth itself.
You can join the waitlist for the LIVE training (held once a year) HERE.
Sacred Business Activation (Get instant Access HERE)
Download the FREE Sacred business blueprint HERE
RE-Turning Circle Membership is here HERE (perfect for space holders & business owners. This is the absolute FOUNDATION- for community and accountability AND for capacity building)
I will update this list as I learn of any more training organisations
Feel free to get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or www.instagram.com/katherineeden_rewilding