Why It’s Awesome Working with Child Free Doulas
I answered the “doula call” as a person without a child. While establishing my doula practice in the SF Bay Area, I was a child free single person living in the big city. While meeting expectant parents and going on doula interviews, some families would ask if I had children. This question is not illegal to ask, though it pushes the boundaries of federal Civil Rights Act that prohibits employment discrimination. That being said, it can be awkward for the doula/person being asked this for a wide range of reasons. Frankly, it is a personal matter and as a professional I may not want to share with a stranger my reproductive history. And, an expectant parent may have a strong preference that their doula has personal experience birthing and/or parenting themselves.
Now I am a married person who became a stepmom to an amazing 16 year old. My bonus son was 9 years old when we first met. As a teenager, he is a fully actualized Capricorn, meaning he had a strong sense of self and self-reliance. My mothering experience includes helping transport him to school, meal preparation and emotional support. For as long as I’ve been his bonus mom, he has been fairly independent and not wanting a lot of cuddling etc. I share this because being a bonus mom/stepmom to this amazing kid, the physical and hormonal aspect of the mothering journey is significantly different and a voluntary act compared to his birth mama. My mothering process has yet to include a pregnancy, growing a placenta, postpartum, breastfeeding and sleep deprivation; and in many ways my physical experience is the same as the non-parent.
Over the years of answering and reflecting on the “Do you have children?” question, the benefits of being a CHILD FREE (CF) doula became apparent to both my clients and myself.
“Child Free” Doulas offer:
- Heightened empathy for the non-birthing parent and family members. As doulas, we witness the miracle and work that laboring, making breast milk and parenting truly are; and we hold space for the birthing and breastfeeding person to trust and follow their own process. AND CF doulas are in a position of NOT being able to labor and breastfeed this child. Some non-birthing parents I have worked with have mentioned wishing they could give their birthing partner a “break” and do some of the laboring or breastfeeding for their child. Being a support person can be quite humbling and awe-inspiring, and doulas hold space for the intensity. CF doulas empathize; they are free from the bodily experience of gestating, birthing, and making milk for a child.
- A “clear” birthing/parenting space for our clients that are unbiased on how birth/parenting must look. Each reproductive transition is its own experience, and our knowledge is based off our diversified experience with our clients and not our personal experience. The spectrum of experiences during the childbearing years is huge! It is impossible to have every kind of experience. Though, doulas gain wisdom and knowledge in supporting women and families in whatever their experience is, offering comprehensive and compassionate care however it works out for the client.
- Ease of scheduling. Pragmatically speaking, CF doulas often have less variables when they go to schedule sessions and appointments with a client when the doula does not have kids. If they get a call to attend a birth, request to visit a postpartum family or other unseen schedule change, it is easier to go with the flow when not worrying about child care. It takes some of the stress out of being an on-call service provider.
- More rested professional. It is harder to hold space for someone when we ourselves are exhausted and needing self-care. When care providers are cared for, it prevents professional burnout, injuries and mistakes that may affect clients and or the doula community. Parents of younger children often are working with some level of sleep deprivation. Going to a birth or postpartum environment requires complete focus and ease. Being exhausted can hamper one’s focus, mood, and boost stress hormones in the exhausted person’s body, mind, and spirit. If possible, the entire birth and postpartum team would be adequately rested. Being CF allows for more rest (depending on one’s lifestyle ☺).
The aim of this post is to highlight some of the gifts of the Child Free Doula. Can doulas with children possess these qualities? Absolutely. As an experienced doula, I know that I provide excellent support AND I have not given birth myself. When it comes down to it, a person should work with the doula they feel will support them the best during their experience. Similarly, a doula benefits from working with a client they feel a mutual connection. After all, the client/doula relationship is built on trust and respect. Some doulas have kids, some of don’t. Best wishes as you find YOUR doula!
Beth Rees, CD CLEC is a practicing doula and educator serving the San Francisco Bay Area. Beth has been working with women and families for over 20 years and serving as a doula since 2006. She works with moms/parents, partners and families in developing support tools that reflect the uniqueness and needs for that particular family and transition in a compassionate, nonjudgmental, mom/family centered space. Doula Beth is a Certified Doula (Natural Resources) & Certified Lactation Educator and Counselor (CLEC via UC San Diego). She has special training with Five Flavors Herbs and American School of Herbalism, Gail Tully of Spinning Babies, Rachel Yellin in “Supporting the Hypnosis-Based Birth,” “Tracking Spirit in the Birth Environment” with Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D, and UCSD Extension Lactation Educators certification with Gini Baker, RN, IBCLC, MPH, and Elizabeth Davis’ “Heart & Hands” midwifery intensive. Doula Beth is experienced in perinatal herbal medicine, acupressure, moxabustion, labor and breastfeeding massage, breastfeeding support, newborn care and parenting, mindfulness meditation, breath and vocalization techniques, and postpartum nutrition. Beth creates home in San Francisco with her spouse and 16 yr. old bonus son.