The Developing Doulas 7C’s

We are firmly committed to building a community in which doulas support doulas. We invite doulas to cooperate, collaborate and contribute, to connect and consolidate – always with compassion. The DD 7Cs!

The 7Cs are:

Spending time with others who really understand the day to day realities of being a doula is crucial. Community is about being doulaed by our doula-siblings and seen, validated and accepted. It is about being recognised by your community as a safe, effective and loving doula. Companionship from more experienced doulas in your community also means sometimes receiving loving constructive criticism if necessary. Working together and forging community means making a commitment to offer support and guidance to others. We aspire to call our doula siblings into the circle with radical compassion on issues such as race, gender and sexual identity, rather than ‘calling out’. We make a commitment to personal growth and a journey of learning and unlearning as we deconstruct the judgement and biases we bring to this work. As a community we commit to opposing all forms of oppression and acknowledge that with privilege comes the responsibility to work on ourselves and our community. We also accept that we will all make mistakes and aim to acknowledge and welcome those errors as opportunities for learning, growth, repair and reparation.

Achieving things is so much easier in a team! Whether we are working with the local midwifery team to ensure a client’s wishes are adhered to, or designing a project with other doulas to support vulnerable families, or just stepping aside to make sure a more appropriate doula supports these parents, cooperation is vital. Cooperation also implies a non-hierarchical way of working, without bosses or the kinds of egos that try to make others small in order to feel important. The cooperative model means we all have a vested interest in the success of our community.

Working shared care or backing a fellow doula up when she has a family emergency – doing this work together is more efficient and more fun. Competition is not part of the Developing Doulas ethos, not least because we have found over many years that a competitive business model does not suit this work and doesn’t tend to bring a doula more clients.

Your input is important. Whether you feel you are doing enormous things to change the world or doing hardly anything at all, your contribution is precious. At Developing Doulas we believe that doulas change the world, one family at a time – and tell the starfish story to illustrate what we mean! For us, contributing is something we can all do in small and large ways. Understanding the layers of injustice and discrimination that affect pregnant women and people is the basis of our work. We understand that our contribution also encompasses knowing ourselves and understanding when we need support or require rest and recuperation. Burned out or compassion-fatigued doulas can’t contribute to changing the world!

Connection means our bonds with each other, locally, nationally and with our sibling-doulas worldwide. Seeking out and tending these connections ensures the doula community and individual doulas feel strong, safe and nurtured. There is always someone there to catch you when you fall, because they know you would do the same for them. At the heart of the word connection is a sense of being bonded together. Bonding is about mutual trust and trust comes from working and playing together and the oxytocin that is created when we share the highs and lows of this work. Connection also means being self aware. To strive to be connected to self; inwardly grounded in presence and awareness. We strive to create authentic connections with our clients and support them to connect deeply with their baby and wider family.

As DDs we commit to consolidating our learning. We are always curious and invested in widening and deepening our knowledge and skills – not to become experts, but because we are passionate about gathering in any knowledge that may be of use to our clients. We strive to become ever safer doulas as we deepen our skills and become conduits of radical compassion*. We commit to deepening our understanding of the remit of our role; learning how to communicate the defined boundaries of our non-clinical role to our clients and the wider world.

*”According to philosopher Khen Lampert, radical compassion is a specific kind of empathy directed towards the distress of others. This type of empathy is called radical because it includes the inner imperative to change reality in order to alleviate the pain of others. According to Lampert, this state of mind is universal and stands at the root of the historical cry for social change. Radical compassion means total compassion with nothing excluded. Radical self-compassion applies this empathy to the self.”

DDs have the biggest hearts. We meet each other in the same spirit we meet our clients – with positive regard and a genuine commitment to being non-judgemental. We understand that true compassion includes expending the energy to support each other, in good times and bad. It means accepting that our sister-doulas might point out our mistakes or areas for improvement sometimes, not to criticise, but because when we know better, we do better. We work in a non-hierarchical manner, understanding that doulas with much less experience may have wisdom to share and lessons to teach us. Compassion is love. Compassion is standing in solidarity with those who are marginalised and discriminated against. Compassion is empathy and we instinctively understand that all of us have moments when our own emotions are tough and stop us being the best doulas (and people!) that we can be.

True compassion involves understanding the layers of discrimination and prejudice that affect all of us in different ways. This involves also being aware of our own privilege and how sometimes that privilege or relative power means we may inadvertently hurt someone. We commit to seeing the truth of this and strive to make reparation when we realise our words or actions have hurt someone.

There are a few more C-words that help us be the best Developing Doulas we can be

The DD Extra C-words are: 

Confidentiality, Candour, Complement, Conscientious, Creativity, Capacious, Confident, Calm, Choice, Control, Credit, Curiosity

Confidentiality – a cornerstone of our work. We commit to keeping our client’s business as private as possible. We always seek permission and only share with enthusiastic consent unless we have a safeguarding concern.

Candour means openness, honesty, transparency. A commitment to being honest with ourselves as well as with others.

Complementary means that we complement midwifery, we never replace it. This word keeps us grounded in our boundaries. Likewise, when we work shared-care we strive to complement each other, never competing for the limelight. 

Conscientious. We sweat the small stuff – striving to always do what we promised to the best of our ability, recognising when we are pushed to our limits and need to reach out for support and companionship.

Confidence. Most of us suffer from imposter syndrome or doubt ourselves sometimes or often. This is natural. But DDs strive to develop confidence in themselves, so we know when we are enough and when we need the support of other doulas. We work to believe we are enough – because our clients have chosen us and see in us the qualities they need to feel safe and nurtured. 

Calm. We aspire to be the still centre for our clients. The pause between the breaths, the solid belief in their birthing and parenting abilities, the soft but strong rock in a crisis. We understand that from calm, comes oxytocin, and from that healthy pregnancy, birth and postpartum becomes more likely.

Choice. Right at the heart of a Developing Doula’s philosophy is the belief that parents have the right to make informed decisions. And for that to be possible they need access to all their choices. We develop our understanding of our own choices: who we work with, when we work, how much we charge, what kind of doula we want to be.

Control: Developing Doulas know there are times when things are in a doula’s control and things that aren’t. We strive to develop the wisdom to know the difference. We work on supporting our clients to understand that on one level they have the right to have control over their childbirth experience; we teach them they have full body autonomy and the right to consent to, and to decline, medical intervention. Conversely, we also develop the skill of explaining that childbirth is a physiological event over which humans have no conscious control. All we can do is understand the basic ingredients required for our bodies to express themselves and what we can do to achieve and enhance a high-oxytocin environment. 

Credit: Developing Doulas respect each others’ skills, knowledge, experiences and wisdom and when we learn from each other and share that with our clients, we give credit to those we have learnt from or who have helped us. [thanks to Justine Fieth for the idea for this C-word and the words to express it]

Curiosity: Being curious helps us ask why. It prevents us taking at face value what people tell us. It helps us be mindful of the complexity of human nature and the decisions we are faced with. Being curious helps us ask questions and develop empathy for our clients as we see beneath the surface of their behaviour and read between the lines of their words. Curiosity is a strong desire to learn about the world around us and deepen our knowledge of our subject. [thanks to Victoria Greenly of Younique Postnatal for the inspiration for this C-word!]

When you sign up to Developing Doulas we ask you to read these guiding principles to ensure that you feel in alignment with them. Finding a doula community that you resonate with is the first step on a positive, authentic journey to birth work.

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