Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Most Women Don't Actually Need A Doula

This blog post is the first of many guest posts in my new series on pregnancy, birth and babies here on African Babies Don't Cry. If you would like to chat about guest post opportunities on this blog, please contact me

Guest post by Leigh of  Diary of a Durban Doula

Most women don't actually need a doula...

Most women don't need anyone.

I am a doula. You might be shocked when I say that most women don’t need a doula. I would go even so far as to say that most women don’t need anyone to help them to give birth. Women have the knowledge and power and ability to birth beautifully all on their own.

But I’m still a doula. I am a doula because most women have forgotten their innate wisdom and the exquisite power of their bodies. Women choose birth settings that offer a sub-optimal setting for a physiological birth. Women trust drugs and tools and pieces of paper over their own bodies. Sometimes they are necessary, but when we trust our bodies before we trust tools and drugs, often we end up not needing them.

You can't blame them for their misplaced trust. Society tells us that women’s bodies are inherently defective. The fact that over time breasts will be affected by gravity, that over time hair will start to turn silver and wrinkles will appear – these are processes to be feared and averted at great cost.

Vaginas are ‘dirty seeping wounds’, and vulvas require surgery to approximate the proportions of digitally altered images. Body hair must be removed – look prepubescent if possible. And those two terrifying words: Thigh gap.

So when someone you trust tells you that your baby is getting too big, that your pelvis is too small, your body will never go into labour on its own, that you aren’t dilating fast enough, that you need an episiotomy because you aren’t pushing hard enough – you believe them.

When someone tells you that the body that nourished a baby for all this time on the inside can’t nourish the baby on the outside, and that the belly that kept this little bundle warm for so many months should be replaced by a Perspex bubble, you believe them.

That is why I am a doula.

My job is to help a mom trust her body, and her baby; to see her body not as an emergency waiting to happen, but as a beautiful flower blossoming and releasing new life, to remind her of her lineage. When she thinks she can’t go on, my job is to show her the strength she already has that she has possibly never accessed.

I know my job is done when a mom secretly believes that really, if it came down to it, they could have done it without me, but it was just nicer to have me around.

Giving birth naturally was the best thing that ever happened to me! It was the most affirming and empowering experience of my life, and as a doula, I would love to help other women to experience something similar. We seem to have the idea that a positive birth experience is the exception and not the norm, whereas I firmly believe that with some extra preparation from all parties involved, birth can be great experience for many more women. My aim is to give families evidence based information so that they can make real choices about pregnancy, birth, baby care and beyond. 

To this aim I run a website at Giving Birth Naturally and my doula blog Diary of a Durban Doula I also distribute all my favourite baby products that you often can't find at the usual baby shops at my online shop: http://www.bumbeline.co.za. 

I have the most wonderful husband, to whom I have been married for 7 years now, and we have two gorgeous girls. I am qualified as a ballet teacher, and I have my Masters degree in History of Art, so that is what I do as my 'day-job', but working with moms and babies is a calling for me so everything is a means towards that end! I trained to be a doula though WOMBS (Women Offering Mothers Birth Support) in South Africa, and I am a chronic researcher so I am always trying to stay up-to-date with the best evidence based practices!


  1. Hmmmm I believed completely that my body knew what to do but I couldn't get my son out. He was stuck. My pelvis was too small. I think it's certainly important to believe in yourself but sometimes it's just not going to happen. Posts like this make people like me who tried the very hardest to do it naturally feel like the ultimate failure and hang onto regret. I did what I had to and it was my choice but I don't know that I'll ever be ok with it.

    1. I'm sorry you feel regret about your birth. Rather try to see the positive and be thankful (as I am) that we live in a world where if we need medical intervention, it is available to us.

  2. A lovely article! Not pushy, just friendly and reassuring, giving credit to medical advances " Sometimes they are necessary" but reminding us that for the most part we should be ok.


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