Five years ago, I was pregnant. At the time, I was working as a school counselor and loving my career. I could never have imagined I would leave that behind to become a doula. I knew a little about doulas, but I didn’t think it was a service I could benefit from as a black woman. The images I could recall in my head of doulas or people who used doulas were of white women. I am not sure why I concluded this was not meant for women of color. Maybe it was because of those images I had stored in my memory. However, I quickly dismissed the idea of having a doula for the birth of my son.
Doulas are trained experts who provide physical, emotional, and educational support during labor and the postpartum period. They focus on the needs of the mother and partner and can be an essential member of a birth team. Childbirth can be an overwhelming experience, especially to new mothers. The support of an expert to guide you through the process can help mothers feel more relaxed. In fact, research shows that women who receive continuous support during labor have more positive feelings about childbirth. With the help of a doula, you are more likely to have better outcomes and an enjoyable birth experience.
There is a huge disparity in healthcare in the black community. Black women are less likely to receive appropriate prenatal care from their providers. Rates of maternal and fetal mortality are significantly higher amongst black women and babies.
So, why do black women shy away from the support of doulas?
Now, let’s be real. My black friends think doulas are for “crunchy, granola white women.” Some of them think doula means only natural birth, hippies, and consuming placentas. They can’t imagine that I show up to clients’ homes in lipstick and pumps because this is my profession and not a hobby. When I explain how I support women after giving birth, they think nanny and housekeeper. And typically, black families do not hire “help”.
Recently, I had a client share her perceptions of doulas for women of color. She is a black woman and a friend. Admittedly, she told me that she too did not think doulas were for black women and that it was a service for “rich” people. When she previously wanted to have a natural birth, she did not consider hiring a doula because she did not know how to access these services. Instead, she researched natural birth and depended on her partner and mother for support.
In the African American community, family support is huge. It is very common for new mothers to depend on their mothers and other female members of their family. Black women are strong. We are the center of our families. Asking for help can be difficult.
New Orleans Doulas supports your growing family. We understand the importance of involving your loved ones and meeting your personal needs. We know it is not easy to let a stranger into this intimate moment of your life. Now that you know that a doula can be an extension of your support system how about debunking the myths and help to spread the word?
Instead of thinking of a doula as a stranger, how about think of her as a modern day member of the village you have assembled to help raise your child?
I can honestly say I would have hired a doula if I had known then what I know now. Do you know someone who could benefit from the additional support of a doula?