Thursday, September 9, 2010

What makes a doula "experienced"?

I was talking with someone at a party last weekend who is in the midst of interviewing doulas. (Yes, I was voted "Most likely to talk about childbirth at a party" by my MCH cohort - what of it?) She wanted someone who was "experienced" and asked me how many births I thought made someone experienced. I was brought up short - truth to tell, I wasn't really sure. I thought well, I consider myself experienced - how many births have I been to? How many did it take before I felt more "experienced"?

I had kind of been losing track of the number of births I'd been to - I had them all recorded in one place or another, but hadn't been keeping a running total like I used to. I keep saying "oh, probably around 45" so I finally sat down and totaled them all up the other day. My accounting may still not be exact, but it looks like I've attended 42 births at this point.

So, 42: not bad at all - and I'm proud that those were a very diverse group of births: high- and low-risk, women from all backgrounds, with all kinds of birth plans (or no plan at all), with a range of different providers and settings. So I feel "experienced".

And yet I know I learn something new at every birth, and almost always think of something I wish I had done different; and I also know doulas who have attended hundreds of births. So maybe I'm only medium-experienced? And so how can I say exactly when I did cross the line from "novice" to "medium-experienced"? Ten births? Fifteen? Twenty?

On top of that, did I become a "better" doula when I became more "experienced"? Certainly my comfort and confidence have increased the more I've done this work, and I hope that both my greater confidence along with my growing knowledge and skills have helped my clients. But when so much of attending births as a doula has to do with "being" instead of "doing", there may not be that big a gap between me as a novice doula and me as an experienced doula as I think.

What do you think? Is an experienced doula important to you? Doulas, what differences do you see between your novice self and your more experienced self? Do you think there are any special strengths of being a novice doula at births?


Kate said...

One of the reasons why I chose my midwife is because she had attended over 350 births from start to finish. No OB I interviewed could say that! Not even close...they usually arrive in the room when the baby is crowning.

42 is pretty good! If I was in the market for a doula I'd be fine with 42. I'd be fine with 15, though, too.

Empowered Birth Doulas said...

I've been running into issues getting past 6 births at the moment. I'm new to an area where there are several doulas who have attended hundreds of births and others who have been practicing as long as I have (one year), but have around 20 births under their belt, so I'm feeling stuck. I keep wondering if I break 10 if I'll suddenly start getting more requests for interviews per month, as that seems to happen with newer doulas I've spoken to.

I do feel that many women care about the number of births I've attended, even if it seems we've made a really great connection. I find, too, that the partners seem to care even more.

Still, I had a client that never once asked me how many births I attended and didn't seem to care. I offered what she felt she truly needed and we hit it off from the start and that was that.

Enjoy Birth said...

I'd say only about 1/2 of the moms ever ask how many births I have attended. I think that a connection is more important then experience (when it comes to doulas - I would want my midwife to have lots of experience)