*Photo courtesy of Maya Ellsworth, a 16 year old aspiring artist from Hawaii. For more information about Maya’s artwork email email@example.com
Q & A with “That Doula Guy”
1) We hear very little about male doulas, even though we know they exist. What inspired you to become a doula? And what advice would you give to other men who are considering becoming doulas?
My formal education and background is in social work, so I’ve always been in the helping profession. I worked as a community organizer for several years, but eventually decided that I was ready to find a different path that would be both personally and professionally fulfilling. I’m a pretty down-to-earth guy and I have always loved working with children and families. I began working as a “manny” for a family with a newborn, but quickly found that I was doing much more than solely childcare – I was also the family therapist, dog walker, chef, housekeeper, and educator. Postpartum doulas meet the needs of families with a new baby, providing intangibles like emotional support, as well as practical support like errand-running, cooking, cleaning, and hands-on education about caring for an infant. I love working with babies, but I also love working with adults and supporting people during times of transition and stress. Becoming a postpartum doula was a natural way to fuse my talents with the needs of postpartum families.
As for advice to other men who are considering becoming doulas – do it! If anyone is drawn to being a doula, regardless of their gender identity, I suggest that they take a training and learn more about the profession. It is a great career choice for folks who are intuitive, compassionate, willing to be in the trenches with families, and not afraid of a lot of hard work and long hours. It’s also an incredibly gratifying job!
2) How many families have you worked with? What have you found to be the most valuable postpartum support new parents need?
Since taking my postpartum doula training in January 2015, I have worked with 14 families and a total of 21 babies (including 7 sets of twins!). Most new parents find tremendous value in having the emotional support of a postpartum doula. I do a lot of listening, affirming parents’ concerns, validating their struggles, and answering questions with evidence-based information and by connecting them to the appropriate resources. I also make sure that parents and their babies are fed, hydrated, and getting some sleep – the practical stuff.
3) How do you make a woman feel comfortable when she is baring all, in her very most vulnerable state?
I prefer to use the term gestational parent or birthing parent rather than “woman,” as not everyone who gives birth identifies as a woman. In the first few days postpartum, the birthing parent is usually exhausted, exhilarated, and riding a hormonal roller coaster. In this vulnerable time, I am always very intentional about my choice of words and actions. I feel that it’s important for new parents to feel loved, affirmed, and supported by the people around them, so my presence should only add positive energy to their home. It’s everything from the smallest actions like showing my respect to the family by removing my shoes and washing my hands when I arrive at their home, to bringing a nursing parent food and fresh water, offering a shoulder massage, and being available to listen. Oftentimes birth stories are shared or anxieties are divulged in this time, and having a gentle and compassionate response helps to build trust and create a safe emotional space. I’ve seen new dads open up in some profound ways when they’re holding their new baby, reflecting on the journey of the past year and expressing a hopeful and eager attitude about the future with their child.
4) It is so wonderful that you provide support services to LGBTQ parents. What should other doulas know about supporting this community?
I call myself “a different kind of doula” because I provide culturally competent and affirming care to all families. As a queer-identified man, I know how challenging it can be to find truly inclusive postpartum care providers. I love working with LGBTQ parents, providing attuned and compassionate care at a time of vulnerability and change.
Other doulas who want to support LGBTQ parents and families should, first and foremost, educate themselves. Don’t expect potential clients to be a walking encyclopedia about all things LGBTQ. Confront your own prejudices and bias, even if it is uncomfortable to do so. Use inclusive language, be open, respectful, and ask clients questions that are pertinent to the care you’re providing. Heart Tones Doula has a great list of how to make your birth business more LGBTQ-inclusive1. Maia Midwifery also has a great professional training available via webinar2 .
5) What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a doula, for you? How do you practice self care? Or what helps you stay rejuvenated and passionate about being a doula?
The most rewarding aspect of being a doula is bearing witness to the start or growth of a family that includes brand-new people! I think it is pretty awesome to support parents as they welcome a new human to the world. I love seeing parents go from cautious and anxious in the early days to confident and sure of themselves as their baby grows older, and it’s rewarding to know that the support I provided to them may have positively impacted their ability to take care of their own needs and their baby’s needs.
The biggest ways I practice self-care are by sleeping and spending time with my own family. I also love to read, cook, be outside, take awesome trips, and eat chocolate. When I’m feeling balanced and healthy, I’m much better able to show up for my clients.
Mac Brydum is a postpartum doula and certified lactation educator counselor, specializing in care for LGBTQ families. He currently lives in Los Angeles with his partner and their pets. For more information about services, please visit www.thatdoulaguy.com