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 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."

Let me expound on that dissenters response... 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 worthiness 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. 


Utahdoula said...

Oh, the irony. You say:
"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."
When that is PRECISELY what you are doing with this post.
Hypocritical much?

Nicole D said...

Nothing hypocritical about it Utah - if you saw a child on the playground getting bullied and another child came to the bullied child's defense, would you consider that child a bully for calling the bully(s) out? I think not.

I am NOT calling out their differing business practices, I am calling out their bullying. There's no ridiculing or disparaging here: only honest calling out of bad behavior.

jenEee said...

I am (almost) speechless! I found the behavior of the above women disturbing to say the least. When I hired my doula I understood that she was a professional, and paid for her services. For the aforementioned doulas to not offer free services is their prerogative, but to shame and discredit a doula who wants to help those less fortunate? That makes me sad. Sounds like the complete opposite of the whole mother-centered birth concept, and more like the robotic, selfish, greed-centered world of modern medicine. I wouldn't want to hire any of them either!

jenEee said...

I am (almost) speechless! I hired a Doula for both my births and happily paid her for her amazing services rendered. I understand that it is a business, and how these women make money to help provide for their own families, no one is suggesting that all these doulas take a pay cut and give their services discounted or free. But to so fully try to shame and hurt another person for giving of themself? Why it's downright ludicrous. Seems so much less like woman-centered birth and so much more like big government centered greed. Perhaps they are in the wrong profession?

MrsTribble said...

Wow, I would not want any of those women at my birth!

Gina said...

I thought this post was right on point and it needs to be discussed...It has become more and more clear to me as I have become involved in birth work, that there are 2 completely different motivators at work that compel women into the doula profession. There are those who become a doula for reasons such as: a chance to make money (this reason alone deserves a laugh after you figure out the actual dollar amount you make an hour, but I digress), a chance to have an exciting job because birth is exciting, a chance to be seen as a professional with a title, an opportunity to run their own business and work for themselves, a way to be seen as an “expert” in a field or a way to be able to experience birth on a regular basis but not actual give birth themselves. I am not intending to hit a nerve anywhere, but I am just being real here. Some of the motivations that send some women into doula work can be just plain selfish and shallow.
Then, there is the other side of the coin where some women are compelled into doula work for reasons such as: A righteous anger for the way women and babies are being treated during birth in this country and our appalling infant and maternal mortality and morbidity rates, a deep desire to see change in the way women are treated in society, A calling to help every woman avoid birth trauma and birth rape, unnecessary c-section, unnecessary separation from their newborn, and the list goes on and on.
In my opinion, the first group of doulas may find a way to make money, they may be able to have a successful business for a short few years and be known in their local birth community, but when the glamour wears off, there is no foundation to stand on. It’s ironic that there seems to be such a frantic desire in these circles to protect the profession of the doula, while at the same time, their own unprofessional actions are sabotaging the doula name and condensing this great opportunity we have to make serious and lasting social change into a small business that only caters to the few privileged women who have the funds to afford the luxury of a doula (and statistics show that these women are already at an advantage when it comes to birth outcomes….have we forgotten about where the need is?? where the most maternal and infant deaths occur in our population is not among those who can even afford doulas).
This isn’t even an issue with whether or not we charge for births (and that really should be nobody’s business except for that doula). This is about the fact that it is obvious by reading the comments on this FB thread, that many doulas here are missing the boat and missing the whole point of why the role of doula even exists. It was never meant to be a high end, luxury service, but unfortunately it seems to be evolving into one. And the tragedy that occurs when the “doula profession” becomes something that is only available to a select few, is that when that happens, doulas will cease to have the power to make any sort of progress in improving birth for women.

Diane Tupper said...

I just don't understand why these women are so threatened by others offering low-cost or free services to women who wouldn't be able to afford their non-negotiable prices anyway? I understand being frustrated with a doula under-cutting the local prices to pull in clients, but to look down on those who offer services to the underprivileged as a bad thing? I do have a problem with that. It's the difference between seeing a doula as a luxury, vs. the right of any woman to have a positive birth experience despite economic station.

Jasmine Krapf said...

I was made aware of this blog post early this morning when a friend sent it my way. I was recently in the line of fire in one of these groups after I mentioned my doula work being purely volunteer/low-cost through a program that my state's doula association offers for low-income and single mothers. I was attacked and belittled. I was called a "hobby doula" and was told I am not a professional, simply because I want to provide what was provided to me --- I was a young, uninsured, single mother when I gave birth to my daughter 7 years ago. My doulas were volunteer doulas, and without their support, my birth would have gone much differently. I am now a volunteer doula because I am able to volunteer (my income is based on my massage therapy career, and I'm a student midwife). So, WHY was I being attacked? I absolutely value the profession. I have worked long and hard to get to where I am, and I believe every woman should have a doula if she desires one. Having a positive support person at your birth is NOT a luxury, it is incredibly beneficial - this is an issue of socioeconomic status. CLASSISM AT ITS FINEST.

Jasmine Krapf said...

Seeing the behavior of some of these doulas makes me concerned about the quality of care they provide. If they are comfortable with the mistreatment of others within the doula community, what makes us believe they'd otherwise be respectful and compassionate toward those they serve?

Regina Lynn said...

Ugh, I was in this group awhile back and left after seeing this kind of really ridiculous and immature behavior (and it wasn't even directed towards me). I'm sure the owner would have something snarky to say about it, but she definitely lost me as a potential trainee in her workshop. I had considered it, until the true colors came out. There are much better, much more kind-spirited doula business mentors out there to have to put up with that kind of bullying.


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