20 Apr Doulas need doulas too
We all know that continuity of care is the gold standard of midwifery care (more recently‘continuity of carer’) for the best outcomes for everyone. When I was a social work student, the social work department (along with a couple of other faculties) believed that a 1:1 supervisory role akin to the continuity of care model offered the best outcomes for students to not only succeed in their degree and placement, but also in obtaining long term success when they qualified. Interestingly midwifery was one degree that did not offer any form of support or supervision- quite the opposite in fact.
Students were witnessing some incredibly uncomfortable, traumatic and sad events but did not have access to the support they needed to process them. Some of my friends asked for support and were mostly told to “move on” and “get on with it”. This shocked me and I knew I was not in the right profession that aligned with my own values. Then seeing study after study showing that birth professionals are experiencing high rates of personal and professional burn out, trauma and PTSD I knew I made the right choice to leave.
Recent studies have shown that midwives are carrying fear of childbirth and fear of litigation which lowers their confidence in supporting their patients/clients. Additionally 1 in 3 mothers/birthing people are suffering from birth related PTSD so trauma and fear are rife in our birth culture with no end in sight.
If we know that supervision in a continuity of care model is not only valuable but has significantly better long term outcomes for our clients, why don’t we value it as professionals?
I want to see a revolution for birth professionals as much as for birthing people!
Change needs to happen everywhere if we want to see better outcomes for birth and for the next generation and it needs to happen now!
When I completed my Masters in social work I had to complete 1000 hours of placement and it was COMPULSORY to have fortnightly min 2 hourly supervision with another experienced social worker who could support me through the highs, the lows, the deep diving into my own triggers and values and in mentoring me through my personal and professional development, growth and learning. Because our feelings and our perceptions matter! The way that we are supported in how we alchemise these perceptions make the difference in how we support our clients.
Just as every mother/womxn needs continuity of carer, so does every doula! If you are a birth professional you have a responsibility to maintain the highest possible standard of professional and personal development because your energy, your triggers and your ‘stuff’ will interfere with the sacred energy of birth. It has the potential to paralyse you, and to impact the births of your clients. This is how sacred your role is… and why it needs to be taken so seriously.
Knowing how to honour these feelings is the difference between integrating them in a healthy way vs having ongoing vicarious or secondary trauma in a way that paralyses you or blocks you with fear.
We all need connection and we all need a safe space to be vulnerable and honest and to learn from what we experience. But how can we do this when we just ‘push on’ all the time?
I believe that doulas will thrive & prosper long term in their personal and professional lives if they are given a safe, confidential and professional space to work through everything that comes up. Especially in those first fresh 12 months in where everything feels new and a little (or a lot) overwhelming. You’ve learnt everything you can learn from theory, but when you’re actually in the thick of it, things can change in an instant and this is when you need the support the most. You need real-time support to navigate all of the unexpected side of birth and what it means to fully unfurl in this role of holding space.
THRIVE for Doulas is the change that I wish to see. If you are a new graduate doula, come and journey with me.