Small-Minded Birth Workers

Some of you might know, or it may come as no surprise to you that don't know, that there are a number doula support groups on Facebook.

The intent of these pages are many-fold. Some are intended to help you grow your business, others are on ethics and peer review, while others are for mentoring and local/community support. Most of these are a combination of some sort.

Now, recently a doula friend of mine, who is a member of one such board, sent me a screen shot of a current conversation.

The focus of this group is outlined as such:
" We are strong business women. This group was formed because _____ saw a need in the doula industry.  ____ trainers wanted a place where doulas could discuss the business side of doula work.
This is a forum where we will be sharing marketing ideas, business strategies, answering questions and facilitating discussions. The purpose and intention of this group is to spread the  _______ message.  _______ is dedicated to helping women turn their passion into a paycheck.  _______ believes that Doulas should be paid for the services they provide and believe it is counter-productive to the industry when other Doulas provide these services for free or low cost."
Ok, duly noted that they don't promote or believe that doulas should offer their services for free or low-cost.

And duly noted that they say in their description that they are a group about the BUSINESS of doula work, But... 

But what I don't understand is how these 'professionals' can pretend that they are professional when they make disparaging remarks and ridicule others in the same profession for having differing business practices.

If we lose site of the heart of what a birth worker is, even/regardless to how it pertains to being a 'business', we cease being community changers. 

Now a side note, many of my fellow doulas and friends, both IRL and online, are a part of this group. Just because they are a part of this group does not mean that they partook in the very unprofessional behavior that you will read herein, or that they support this type of ethic. 

Another aside, I received these screen shots from someone not a part of this conversation - so none of the doulas involved sought me out - I sought them out for their side of the story.

Along the left hand column of this post, you will see a conversation that has since been deleted from the group (per an individual involved in this conversation). Also, since this conversation began, at least two of the women ganged up on have been forcefully booted from the group.

Yes, it's a closed group. Yes, it's a moderated group. And yes, they are allowed to keep whomever they want in the group. That is not the point. The point of this post is the unprofessional, unethical behavior and bullying that occurred in this thread. 

The conversation started with an innocent enough question: "do you see doing a discounted or free birth here and there as your business 'giving back to your community'? I don't."

From one individual who was a part of the conversation, there was some conversation immediately after that initial post that talked about how free and discounted services discounts the work we do as a doula. To which a doula came on and said, "It's making a difference.. it's impacting the community."

The next doula who came on replied a little more directly: "['discounting the work of a doula' poster's name], just because someone has the desire to give freely of THEIR services, THEIR skills and knowledge, THEIR time - does *not* mean that they do not value doula work as a 'profession'. 

That is just small-minded to say, I'm sorry but it is. I see is as less likely for someone who *only* does doula work to be able to do low-fee/free births than someone who offers various services/has another source of income. But those birth workers who *choose* to do that work, shouldn't be put down for it."

Snarky, derisive, rude, and condescending comments begin at that point and blossom into a conversation that is almost too painful to read. These remarks are made by both members and admins of the group, alike. Always lobbed at those who support the right of a doula to choose to give free or discounted services, regardless of their reasons for offering.

I have posted before on my feelings about people asking for low cost or free doula services, but I don't care what side of the fence you are on regarding free and low-cost doula services, the behavior of these moderators and members is completely unethical. 

Ethics: moral principles that govern a person's or group's behavior.
synonyms: moral code, morals, morality, values, rights and wrongs, principles,ideals, standards (of behavior), value system, virtues, dictates of conscience"

It is never professionally ethical to treat someone so disparagingly. Never.

One person even came on and asked what principles and basis a dissenter to the 'popular opinion' might be referring to when she said "I cannot disregard the principles and basis of what a Doula was meant for."

As I pointed out in prior posts, and specifically in the history of birth partnersdoulas and midwives were not only meant for those women who could afford them. A doula was never a luxury item, although the term we use for our profession is one of luxury.

Doulas and midwives, godsibs and sage femme, historically went to every woman - not only those who could afford one. We trudged through hell and high water to ensure she had a good, supportive birth because we believed in a woman's right to have it - not because of what she could provide us.

The moderators and contributing members have completely missed the point of this calling. From their own words, it is easy to see that, to them, it is only a business. To them, the 'principles and basis' for what we do for women and why we do it has been lost.

get wanting to be valued in the community. I get wanting to be seen as a professional in the community. I get it because I wrote about it and continue to write about it. But the militant, aggressive, close-minded, and callous version that they believe? No way, I don't get that.

Hell, midwives in this area take state insurance and, as a default, offer reduced-fee services. Doctors do as well. Chiropractors and massage therapists in this area give reduced fee services and do community services and classes for those who cannot afford it.

Restaurants give free food to the homeless and grocers give food to the food pantries. A local man I know offers car services for the price of parts only on certain Saturdays for single mamas and spouses of deployed partners.

It takes a special kind of business owner to not see the merit of giving back to their community through their services in some capacity. And one I wouldn't want to do business with.

Shame on you, moderators and others involved in this disparaging and bullying thread. Shame on you for doing the very thing that you claim to be avoiding: making the doula profession unprofessional in every regard.

I will think of you next time I spend my time sending packets of information and resources and free samples to the 18 year old who is working her ass off trying to graduate with her class at the end of the year regardless of the fact that her mom and dad have all but disowned her and her baby's daddy is nowhere to be seen.

I'll think of you when I send her the name and number of an amazing midwife in the area that does offer her time and services free of charge just so that she can get out of the care of the only provider that her state insurance will cover that is within walking distance of her home because no one will drive her to a better doctor further away.

I'll think of you when I send her to a stellar up-and-coming doula who has a heart for these situations and plans on, someday, getting her midwifery license and traveling to third-world countries to help train birth professionals in every village.

And I'll think of you when she births her baby, on her own, into her own hands, surrounded by women who cannot disregard the principles and basis of what a Doula was meant for.

- actual situation in my professional past

*edited to black out their pictures ;) after receiving numerous 'requests' (well, threats) from a number of the women involved,. Only one woman contacted me and actually asked. Most of them cited Exploitative Law. But this doesn't fall into that category as seen here. As I told them, my intent was to draw attention to unprofessional behavior in our profession, not to individuals... As is apparent through my blacking out of the offenders names (insert roll eyes).. so I obliged. 

Some said it was yellow journalism. Some said I was muckraking. Some said was unprofessional for calling them out. But here's the thing: I didn't sensationalize or exaggerate it in the least. Hence the screen shots. It's only muckraking if I a) SOUGHT it out (which I didn't seek out this information b) it's considered 'scandalous'... to which I asked if they thought their behavior was scandalous? and c) they'd have to be famous. :/ 

And would you consider me a bully if I stood up against bullying? That's what's happening here. So there you have it. 


Rather than end on that note, tell me birth workers, how are you giving back to your community. Mamas, what are you doing to give back to those in your sphere of influence. 


From Two to Three Kids

This is a guest blog post from a local mama who is also a movie producer. Thank you, Maria, for your contribution. 
A windy day brought us together in Acapulco Bay, 19 years ago. Little did we know that we'd be sharing a life and a bed together with three angels. My husband and I joke that having our third child has made us into adults. I think before, we thought that we had time, we could afford mistakes, debt, a few extra pounds, and not worrying about writing a will. But since our son’s birth in June, we've refinanced our home, my husband is going to the gym (for both of us) 5 times a week, and we are currently writing a will. Not because having a third child will kill you, but because going from two to three kids is serious stuff. There is no more joking around. The kids now outnumber us and we need to have a plan.
I’m 41 and he is almost 50. We've been adults for a long time, but it just hasn't felt like it. We took 11 years to have our daughter, and in that time, we worked, fought, made up, drank margaritas, went to sunny beaches, and built a solid foundation on which we now have created a precious little family. I am thrilled to be a mom of three. But it’s not as easy as people say.  “Going from two to three is not a big change.” Those people are liars. Let me tell you why… 
There is never enough time to get anything done. We seem to always be running late. There’s a spill, a missing shoe, or a last-minute potty emergency. Going to the grocery store is an ordeal. You simply don’t have enough hands. Getting a shower feels like a treat. Eating out has never been this unpleasant. Also, we had to get a new car to fit everyone, and change rooms around in our house to accommodate the new addition. 
Then there’s the guilt, knowing that you can’t make everyone happy. Your older child feels like you’re giving them the responsibility of helping with everything because they’re older. The younger child is no longer the youngest. You can’t help them go to the bathroom, eat, or play with them as much as before because you have a tiny being dependent on your boob for food. You are always feeding the baby, or changing the baby, or rocking the baby to sleep. 
At least both of my “older” kids are out of diapers. And it also helps that they can express their emotions. My 6-year-old daughter has told me that I love the baby more than I love anyone. And my 3-year-old son has told me that he wants me to hold him like I hold the baby. Everything seems to revolve around this new family member. And it does. But I try to make it seem like it doesn't.
I make sure I have some sort of quality time with each kid. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes. I want them to know that they each have an important part of my heart. That they matter, are wanted, needed and loved as much as the other. 
I have been an adult for a long time. But I have never been this happy. If what Elizabeth Gilbert writes is true, that the number 3 "is the number representing supreme balance", I have found my equilibrium, my stability, my raison de vivre. I’ll take the messy house, the sleepless nights, the missing shoes, and the certainty that I must be crazy for having another kid. All for the pure smiles, and the 3 hearts which remind me daily that I was born to be their mom.

Maria Sotolongo stays at home to raise her three kids, 6, 3, and 3 months old. She left her TV job to enjoy her little ones full-time. In the few minutes she has of freedom, she loves photography, blogging, cooking, and is now producing a documentary about home births. You can find her and a short trailer of her documentary atwww.mariasotolongo.com


5 Reasons You Don't Need a Doula

You hear me tell you a lot about why a doula is a great choice in any birthing setting... what I haven't told you in awhile is why you don't need a doula. Let me take this opportunity to do just that. This isn't a long post. It's short and concise - as truth often is - and without explanation. So here you have it. 5 reasons why you don't need a doula:

  1. You are strong. You are. You don't need a high pain tolerance or be a marathon runner to be strong, you only need a uterus and a humble respect for it. 
  2.  You are capable. You are. Your mind is sound and your body is able, the last part of that equation is to allow those two things permission to do what they need to to give birth. 
  3. Your body contains ancient and primal wisdom. Cellular memory, your mother's mother's mother's mother's birthing wisdom and knowledge, they are coursing through every fiber of you.
  4. Your body contains immeasurable power. Only a female body can create, grow, and birth. 
  5. You have everything you need within you. Tap into that innate wisdom, power, trust, honor, respect, and knowledge. 
This is your birth. 


B.I.R.T.H. Fair 2014

Every year, Houston birth workers, education professionals, infant and young child professionals, and parents converge in one location to share information and support with their community. Picture this: hundereds of women, their partners, and their nurslings milling about. There are fashion shows, children's craft and learning areas, keynote speakers, workshops, movie screenings, and educational booths for everything from midwives and doulas to baby wearing and homeschool co-ops. 

Every year, the Houston Doula Co-Op and Sage Beginnings (me) are there. Every year, we speak to our community during the workshops. Every year, we meet hundreds of amazing women and their families - will you be one of them?  

Join us for our 13th annual BIRTH Fair as we celebrate natural parenting and pregnancy. Get the latest information about vaccines, birthing options, breastfeeding, babywearing, VBACs, and more! We will have overstuffed goody bags for our guests, activities for children. Birth Fair will be held on October 4th from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the United Way Center on 50 Waugh Drive. Check us out on Facebook (www.facebook.com/houbirth) for our latest giveaways, or visit www.houbirth.org or call 832-499-6029 for more information. This event is free and open to all ages.

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