Two professional doulas from Toronto are sharing the joys of giving birth with women around the world with the launch of their second book, Joyful Birth: More Childbirth Stories Told by Doulas.
Co-authors Lisa Doran and Lisa Caron compiled stories written by doulas that remind women how normal and simple childbirth can be—something the two doulas found missing in today’s media.
“A lot of women are fearful of birth,” said Doran, a naturopath with a practice in Ajax, a town in the eastern part of the Greater Toronto Area.
Caron said a lot of birth stories in the media are portrayed as difficult or complicated, making for sensational TV reality shows, but they are nothing like reality.
“Normal, plain old birth is what we’ve been doing for millions of years. It is not sensational, but when things go wrong, or when things are hard, it’s sensational,” said Caron.
“We get so much of our information sensationalized by reality TV shows today. … What makes good TV is of course conflict or complications or somebody who’s about to die.”
Doran has been a doula for over 20 years and has three children of her own. Throughout her career, she has attended some 400 to 500 births.
In the most common cases, birth follows a very predictable path and is a quiet and sacred event, Doran said.
However, “because the wonderful things are so simple and so normal, the women who experience them, they won’t talk about them,” Doran noted.
Growing need for doulas
Mothers, sisters, and friends of pregnant women have traditionally fulfilled the role of the doula for centuries.
Doulas do not serve a clinical or medical role, but rather provide support to the pregnant woman physically and emotionally, during the pregnancy as well as postpartum.
Doulas must undergo a comprehensive training program before they can receive certification by one of the official certifying organizations, such as DONA International. At the end of 2009, there were 6,994 doulas from 42 countries registered with the organization.
“We’re there as part of the family, but we’re not emotionally tied in with the experience,” Doran said, calling doulas “invisible observers.”
“It’s really a companion kind of role—a very traditional role,” she noted.
More people are becoming educated about labour and know that they just want someone there that’s just totally focused on them, and not focused on the medical aspects.
—Lisa Caron, co-author
According to Doran, childbirth has become overly medicalized in North America. While midwives used to play the role of a doula, nowadays midwifery is regulated by legislation and midwives are busy filling out reports rather than emotionally supporting the pregnant woman, especially in a hospital environment, Doran said.
Meanwhile, expectant mothers are increasingly recognizing the importance of personal support focused on their needs, said Caron, who has been a doula since 1996.
“I think more people are becoming educated about labour and know that they just want someone there that’s just totally focused on them, and not focused on the medical aspects, or the patients in the other room.” she said.
Doran said that most doulas are very busy in their practice.
Connecting with women
Caron, who has a background in business, wanted to become a midwife at the time that midwifery became regulated and required more training. She decided to become a doula instead.
“Watching a new life come into the world never ceases to amaze me,” she said, adding that she also treasures the help she’s able to provide to a family at the time they become a family.
Doran decided to become a doula after her friend dragged her into a doula workshop in her freshmen year in medical school.
“It really kind of changed my life,” she said about the course. She applied everything she learned later on through her “doula filter,” which led to her decision to give birth to all of her three children at home.
“What I had seen in the hospital environment I didn’t find was empowering to women at all,” Doran said.
With their book, the authors hope to share their experiences as well as those of many other contributors that might empower women to make knowledgeable decisions when considering how they want to give birth.
“As women, we learn from other women’s experiences,” said Doran, who added that she believes one of the most valuable ways to learn is from others’ stories.
“It was important to share joyful stories, they’re harder to find,” said Caron.
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