Entitlement and Luxury

There is an old concept in the doula community that simply won't die... this concept is that, just because a woman deserves a doula, that implies that every woman is entitled to a doula.

And this simply isn't true.

Let's go back to some of my earlier posts...

Much Ado About Gratis
History of Birth Workers

Doulas/godsibs, were always servants and loved ones. Historically they were women who weren't paid for their expertise and assistance during your labor and birth, and historically they had all had birth experience themselves so that they could be considered competent help for the midwife and mama.

Fast forward to today - a doula is now a profession. A profession means that we need to get paid so that we can continue to offer this service to women and don't need to go get a 9-5. We no longer live in an age of indentured servants and a strong local community of women who have experienced normal, natural, physiological labor and birth. So we who have embraced the profession and calling of a doula have had to learn the art of doula work. See here for more information .

I receive around 4 requests a month of women looking for free or reduced cost doula services. Most of them are not because a woman truly cannot afford our services; most of the time it's because they believe that, just because every woman deserves a doula, she is entitled to a doula. That, m'dear, is simply not true.

You're not entitled to a doula any more than you are entitled to a mechanic, or a chiropractor, or a college education. You deserve all of these things, but you are not entitled to them.

Entitlement is to have a right or claim to something, either by virtue of who you are within a certain social or professional network, by law within a given society or organization, or simply being human (i.e. basic human rights).
Deserving is to do something or have or show qualities worthy of a thing deserved. To be worthy of. 
Yes, every woman is worthy of deserving a doula. And every doula is worthy of getting paid for her work.

Now there's also a new concept going around the doula community recently. This concept irks me to no end just as much as the entitlement concept does... it's that our profession is a luxury. This concept stems from the ProDoula campaign to 'elevate the profession of the doula'.

Now, while I commend their vim, and agree that we are professionals and should treat ourselves as such (see earlier posts), we cannot lose sight of what our profession is historically and in terms of the current childbirth climate.

Let's break this bad baby down, shall we?
Luxury is the state of great comfort and extravagant living. Opulence or extravagance. Lavishness.
Profession is a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification.
To Elevate is to raise something to a higher position. To make it more important or impressive. 
We need to be careful of our words - because our words will exclude or include, promote or reject the heart of our profession and the women we serve...

Yes, a doula is a profession. By merit, so that we can provide this service, it is a paid one, and rightly so. Times have changed and it is a necessity.

No, it was never meant to be elevated. Being a doula isn't about how important and impressive I am... It's about how important and impressive the women we serve are. 

And finally, I am damned well not a luxury item. 

Doulas are a safety measure. It's helpful to look at doulas in terms of value, rather than cost. They put in many hours with each client, doing their best to help them have the healthiest and most positive birth experience possible--keeping you out of surgery and your baby out of special care. It's hard to put a price on that kind of experience. - Improving Birth

As I pointed out in prior posts, and specifically in the history of birth partners, doulas 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.

I love how Doula Speak puts this:
Well...Depending on what camp you sit in, either could be true. If you narrow your opic to the individual business level you may experience confirmation bias and for your own purposes define doula support as a luxury. With this perspective it makes it easier to be more "hard nosed" about your business model and putting earning before anything philanthropic. After all luxuries should be paid for. But this falls apart when you widen the optic and look at birth outside of your own business goals. The research is clear. Continuous Labour Support is vital to achieving better outcomes for mothers and babies.
Vital. Necessary. Not a luxury. 

So what can we come away with from all of this?

FACT: every woman is not entitled to a doula
FACT: every woman deserves a doula
FACT: the role of a doula is a profession worthy of compensation
FACT: our profession is vital and necessary to achieving better outcomes for health of moms and babies

I love Cassandra Jiminez' response below:
" I think it's a deeper issue of women appreciating their intrinsic value as human beings and we deserve to be taken care of and safe. My safety & well being are worth the cost of a doula and vice versa, my work as a doula is both necessary and valuable and I deserve to be compensated for my services."

What camp do you fall into? Do you consider yourself a Jaguar or a Louis Vuitton handbag; awesome but totally unnecessary?  Do you see your business as something that should be put on a pedestal for women to fawn over because of how great your role is? Or do you feel your work is worthy of compensation, completely important, relevant, and necessary, and have a heart of servitude for the women that you are given the honor of attending?


kylie said...

I have never had a problem with the idea of women deserving a doula, we all deserve to be treated with respect and nurtured through birth.

Having said that, I so do not believe that everybody is entitled to a doula, a sense of entitlement is always a dangerous thing and certainly no-one is entitled to a doula without some kind of reciprocal benefit. Usually that benefit would be money but there might be cases where the doula consents to work for warm fuzzies, eggs or graphic design services.

If we are going to compare doulas to designer bags, well having a doula is like having any kind of bag: a whole lot more manageable than carrying everything in pockets. I'm not a Luis Viutton type doula, more your reasonably attractive, practical, mid priced favourite bag from the local department store

KerstenKolacheProject said...

A good read. We live in a society that demands that we have what others have regardless of need. When this happens, people lose sight of value. I see this in my own business as well. But mine truly is a luxury item, but people feel entitled to have my product because of something they see on pinterest, and they don't value the work. Entitlement often devalues the worker involved

Heidi Thaden-Pierce said...

I love that distinction - every woman deserves a doula, but that does not mean every woman is entitled to a (free) doula. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

Unknown said...

I couldn't agree more! Thank you for sharing :)

Casandra Jimenez said...

I think this is a difficult topic in the profession because our culture puts a high value on materialism & productivity. We put less value on self care & culture, which are what doulas do. Many see self care (massage, chiropractic care, physical fitness) as a luxury and so doulas fall into this category. I think it's a deeper issue of women appreciating their intrinsic value as human beings and we deserve to be taken care of and safe. My safety & well being are worth the cost of a doula and vice versa, my work as a doula is both necessary and valuable and I deserve to be compensated for my services. Thank you for sharing! This is an topic that's needs voice & clarity.


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