Tradition - the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way.
Innovation - new methods, idea or product. Change, revolution, transformation, or a breakthrough.
Traditions involving childbirth and the celebration of new motherhood are rich and varied. Women helping women through the process of birth is one of the most steadfast traditions through time and across the globle . Doulas in one form or another have always been a part of that tradition.
For most of history, women simply supported each other as neighbors, sisters and other close family members. Birth was "woman's work" and helping each other was done as a matter of safety, practicality and love. When birth entered a more medical sphere and as societies became more self reliant and families more spread out - the role of the supportive woman during labor became more specialized and the term "doula" made its debut.
At this time, women who wished to serve as doulas primarily learned through apprenticeship and they spent time with other women as they supported expecting families. As both doula work and doula training become more sophisticated, the idea that a certain number of certification births (ie births attended by the doula that were "supervised" by another doula or midwife) became an established rule of becoming a doula.
But the rules have changed. In fact, almost everything about doula training has changed. Doulas are not supervising each other at certification births. Their trainer is rarely there with them (in fact, thanks to the internet, the doula trainer may be a thousand of miles away and may have never met the new doula). Today's doulas also need training in marketing, website design and a solid understanding of liability on top of all the doula skills they will need as they serve families. At BEST Doula we recognize that doula training has changed and so our policies reflect that modern reality - and we don’t require certification births.
Obviously in the past, certification births did play a valuable role in doula training. However, as the profession and society have evolved, we feel there are a few ways that the tradition of certification births hold back our profession.
- Certification Births are often done for little or no cost.
- Certification Births may require the doula to show proof that she was with her client at a certain time as defined by a clinical marker such as dilation.
- Certification Birth may require that the doula be with her client a certain amount of time or that the birth occurred in a certain way (typically vaginally).
- Certification Births don’t offer any info into the doula's relational support outside of the actual labor and birth.
- Certification Births often required the doula to get an evaluation from hospital staff, OBs or other care providers.
At BEST, we do not ever want our doulas to feel compelled to work for free in order to be certified. We teach sustainability and believe that encouraging new doulas to provide free births/low cost births in order to gain certification not only undervalues the work doulas do and their training, it makes sustainability challenging. Limiting someone’s ability to earn money drastically limits those who can be a doula and also makes it more difficult for all doulas to charge an adequate amount to make a living wage. Doulas are still a predominately female workforce and encouraging anything less than sustainable wages also inadvertently encourages a culture where services provided by women to women are once again undervalued by society and by women themselves.
Birth happens, and measuring how it happens is not the doula's role. We also know that doulas support all births and that birth unfolds in many ways. To say that a birth has to happen in a certain way at a certain time is not how BEST believes birth or families are best respected. We want families to have their best birth and our doulas to support them in their choices. We never want to tell a new doula that she cannot become certified because her clients had a Cesarean birth or because they chose not to call her until late in labor (in fact this may be a sign that she provided excellent prenatal support !).
We love OBs and nurses, but asking a care provider to fill out a form presents more than one issue. The care provider may or may not know what doulas do beyond the short snippets of time they spend in the room. They are not qualified to say how well a doula is doing her job, but more importantly since most of a doula's time with her clients is done outside of labor, the care provider has not witnessed any of that interaction. Secondly, care providers are busy and when they are on shift - they have a lot to do with other patients. A doula's certification should not hang in the balance of the good fortune of having a care provider who has time to fill out an evaluation.
There's so much more to the job of being a doula than what happens at a birth and even with clients. Certification births place all the emphasis on what happens during labor but they do not evaluate doulas as they start their business. Are the doulas marketing effectively, ethically and collaboratively? Each of these is a big deal – every bit as important what happens when a doula is with a client. In fact without these things, a doula is unlikely to have many clients or the respect of her community and her colleagues.
The BEST Way
The solution to the problems of certification birth is not only to get rid of certification births, but also to provide awesome training and ongoing mentorship. BEST Doulas attend our intense, comprehensive workshop only after completing their coursework. Our doulas take their exam on the last day of training and when they pass they are certified doulas ready to support an expecting family and to start an ethical and collaborative business. We do not need further proof that they are ready - we know our curriculum and we know what we teach - and we know the doulas are ready!
However BEST Training does not stop there. Our mentorship continues to develop each of our BEST doulas as they work and grow their business. At BEST we created a doula training focused on supporting each doula in her goals. With a strong focus on business skills, ethics, sustainability and working together we have a unique doula training that leads to success.
Have we broken with tradition? Sure, a little bit. But that is a good thing. Want to join us at BEST Doula training as we help doulas change the world? Find a training near you!