Pardon me while I step on my soap box for a minute…
Let’s talk about scope of practice and the importance of trauma informed support. As doulas and educators, it is our job to support clients with INFORMATION.
As in, we should have our hands in our pockets as much as possible.
Why, you ask?
Because too much hands on support can send the wrong psychological signals and unintentionally disempower clients – or worse, disrupt sensitive processes and create trauma for our clients and their babies.
Yes, you heard me right: your good intentions can still cause harm. Anyone who has been properly educated on the most basic level of this work understands that more often than not, the best thing we can do is get out of the way and trust the physiological processes of birth and early bonding.
If you are in this work and are teaching classes on any subject surrounding birth or offering educational support without appropriate education on the subject, please tell me how you know whether you’re causing harm or doing good? You have no business offering clinical support unless you’ve had the years of education and clinical training it takes to become an IBCLC or Midwife — it doesn’t matter if you are a student in these fields.
I heard Dr. David Hayes, who is an expert in the field of breech birth, explain in a podcast interview once that if you’re a provider who has no experience in delivering vaginal breech and you run into a scenario where your patient is unexpectedly rumping, the best thing you can do is put the patient on all fours and go have a cup of tea. That concept works for anyone in this field. If you aren’t well educated on the subject (and no, I don’t mean “I have some hands on experience from being around birth) you have no business offering education. One of the best phrases I learned in my early years of service applies here: “I’m not sure but I’ll find out.” It is not only out of scope to do anything otherwise, it is our ethical duty to do no harm.
How can we call ourselves protectors of the sacred spaces and processes of birth if we are unwilling to understand or learn about those processes on the deepest level? It is ironic at best and ignorant at worst if we who attempt to hold those sacred spaces refuse to understand the importance of understanding and trusting the process — that makes us no better than the medical establishment we ridicule. And if you’re unwilling to properly educate yourself in all aspects of your field, please consider who you are serving in this work: your clients or your ego?
As someone who has spent a lot of time and money studying the psychological processes of birth and early bonding (and I’ve barely skimmed the surface), I implore you — educate yourself before you ever physically involve yourself in these processes. ANY support we ever offer should be gentle and mother-led. Period.
TO BE CLEAR: I understand that we are all on different paths on this journey in birth work, and we can only learn by doing our best and holding ourselves to the highest standards. My issue is with those of us who believe that hands on learning ALONE is better than putting in the time and work to study and understand the intricacies of birth and postpartum. It is imperative that we protect these spaces from our own trauma cycles as well. If you aren’t aware of your own traumas, you need to do some work before stepping into this work.
Aren’t sure where to begin? I’ve got a huge list of books on these subjects, and I’m sure others in your community do as well. Do what I did, dig a little until you find the answers you’re looking for — it all begins with self-exploration.