Doulas – Necessities or Luxuries?

I’ve been hosting an internal debate recently with two opposing sides of my mind doing their best to confound me. One side says, “Yes, definitely get a doula for your upcoming birth!” and the other side says, “What are you, a wuss? What do you need a doula for?”

For those unfamiliar with the wonderful world of pregnancy, doulas are people who are trained to help women while they’re giving birth. They’re not medical professionals, more like, professional supporters. They encourage you, massage you if necessary, help relay your needs to the hospital staff, etc.

For my first pregnancy, I had a doula – I was terrified, and didn’t know if my mom would be able to fly in from the States, so there was no question about it. (Even though I have many kind family members living in Israel who offered to be with me during the birth, I knew I’d only feel comfortable with my mom. Or a vague stranger, like a doula. It’s just the way I am.) My doula was great – she calmed me, helped me breathe through the contractions and followed up post-partum to see how I was doing.

Unfortunately, she’s unavailable for my second birth.

(Actually, I had booked her for the birth, but she called me three days ago with a family emergency that necessitated her flying to the States. So I found myself, only days before my due date, doula-less.)

If she was available, I wouldn’t be holding this debate, but starting from scratch has caused me to rethink things and ask the million dollar question – is a doula something I really need?

The part of me that says yes does so because even though it’s my second birth, each time is different, plus my mom definitely won’t be here, plus it’s just better to be safe than sorry at a time of extreme vulnerability.

The other part of me feels like “better safe than sorry” is not a good enough reason to spend over 1000 NIS (yes, doulas cost between 1000-2000 NIS a pop, no pun intended). This other part of me feels like my confidence has been under-minded by a society that tells me that I’m not capable of giving birth without a thousand people cheering me on (my husband will be by my side plus nurses plus midwives). It feels that I’ve been sold the MasterCard Mentality – the idea that the only way I can attain my goal is to spend money.

I call this the MasterCard Mentality because of those commercials, you know, the ones in which an all-knowing narrator lists prices for different items, then ends with some sappy cliché like, “Peace of mind? Priceless.” (And then hits you with, “There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard.”)

(I chose this commercial only because there’s a baby in it)

Yes, Peace of Mind is certainly priceless.

But will a doula guarantee that?

Who knows??? There are a thousand and one factors that affect a birth, all contributing or detracting from a woman’s Peace of Mind. And therefore, maybe I don’t need a doula. Maybe my confidence has been stripped because doulas are in-style, so I’ve been made to feel like they must be necessary. Maybe I’m just being a spoiled American who has confused luxury with necessity. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

This is how the debate has been raging, sometimes calmer, sometimes stormier, depending on the time of night I lay awake in bed thinking about it. (I have the same debate about epidurals, but that’s for another post.)

And as the debate raged on (for all of the three days that I’ve found myself in this predicament), I had a sudden thought –

What’s wrong with me?

Giving birth is probably THE most important experience in a woman’s life. EACH birth is important – and I’m debating having extra additional support because I’m afraid of acting spoiled? Because I don’t want to spend money? Because I want to be superwoman?

That can’t be right.

The gemara says that if a blind woman is giving birth on Shabbat, and she asks you to turn on the light on because it will make her feel better, you do it. Gasp. Yes, you violate Shabbat even though, practically, it makes no difference to the laboring woman, because in her head it does make a difference. And we do everything we can to ease a laboring woman’s situation. (Disclaimer: Talk to your rabbi before actually doing this.)

So I need to get over this lump sum of money that a doula will cost, this idea that I’m pampering myself and being sold something because, hey – maybe I am being sold something – something very expensive – but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. Giving birth is hard! So if I can get extra support, I should. And hey – I have the gemara to back me up.

Postscript: Between the time I began writing this article and the time I posted it, I hired a doula, an absolutely lovely woman who I will feel privileged to have at my birth.

But even though I’ve made my decision, I am still suspicious of myself that I am using the gemara as validation for being spoiled. Even though my doula’s price is at the lower end of the spectrum. Even though my husband has told me multiple times that Peace of Mind is worth it, and I shouldn’t worry about it. But I do worry, since that’s just what I do, but I ease my conscience by telling myself that for the third birth, I’ll be an expert, and surely I won’t want/need a doula then.


Filed under Pregnancy

8 responses to “Doulas – Necessities or Luxuries?

  1. I would say doulas are both! My first birth I had a doula free of charge and I am now looking for a free doula again because, honestly, I simply cannot afford one otherwise. There are so many doulas who either are obtaining their certification or have a sliding fee scale based on income. There’s always a way if you really want something sI bad, right? 😉

  2. Definitely! I also looked for a student doula – beggars can’t be choosers, right? Unfortunately, I’m a choosey beggar. I didn’t want a student who was younger than me, an excitable, squeaky young girl who would use my birth as a learning experience. While there were other, more mature women that responded to my online ad, I was surprised to learn that many do charge, even though they are not licensed! Would you believe one student responded to me saying she charges 900 NIS?! I politely declined. I found a comfortable compromise – a newly- licensed doula – who charges less than standard because she is newly-licensed, but still doesn’t have that fresh, newbie feel. Again, maybe this is spoiled of me, but I’d rather not have a doula than have one who I’m uncomfortable with. Doulas are like dates – you need to click! Otherwise, what could be a wonderful, calm experience can turn into a big awkward mess.

    • i definitely think that if having a doula will give you peace of mind then it is a necessity. I had an excellent doula when I gave birth to my twins and it gave me a much greater peace of mind having her there. If you are giving birth in a hospital, there are so many nurses changing shifts throughout the labour, that you constantly feel like you’re being abandoned. And let’s face it, although husbands can be wonderful, they are useless at times like these. Having the doula there gives you someone to count on and support you throughout the entire process, helping you make decisions when you have lost your good judgement and informing you of everything that is happening throughout the labour. Good for you for hiring a doula, may the birth of your second child be fast and easy!

  3. Happy to report that my doula was great, and I gave birth to a healthy baby girl six weeks ago.

  4. Congratulations on your birth!! I want to offer this idea to the Mastercard-buy-more-to-be-happy-consumerist problem we all live with in the First World. One of the problems with consumerist culture is that we mistakenly believe that the THING we buy is what gives us pleasure. In fact, often, the thing we buy is something that real humans made, transported, sold. It is their WORK that gives us pleasure. When we remember that it is human’s work that we are paying for, we can make wholly different choices about spending money. We can spend money and stop being a “consumer” if that makes sense. We can USE money to connect with other humans. As a doula and as a woman, I value so-called women’s work — no matter who does it, men or women. A more accurate term I learned in graduate school is “reproductive work” — which is all the work that is (usually) unpaid if it happens within a family. It is the work that is necessary to reproduce ourselves everyday (taking a shower, mending clothes, cooking, doing dishes, gardening, etc.) and to reproduce another generation (childcare, etc.) Because of larger cultural and global forces outside of my control, we are not able to do all the reproductive work inside families anymore. In my case, a big factor is that my parents, my husband’s parents, and all our siblings (eight in all) live far, far away from us. The closest is a ten-hour drive. Many of my friends rely on their extended family for SOOO much help. My best friend here sends her two kids to her in-laws overnight every Saturday. I can’t imagine having a night off of children to spend with my husband free of charge every week. When we do hire a babysitter, we have to go out of the house. I would love to stay at home and sleep at home with my husband with no kids in the house! Just because I would prefer to have much of this reproductive work done inside my family networks doesn’t mean that is the best way to do it. In general, I try hard to be thoughtful about using money and when I pay for reproductive tasks I find I am even more thoughtful than plain-old commercial activities like buying new running shoes. Because when I pay for reproductive work (cooking, cleaning, childcare, doula work) I am asking someone to step into the shoes of my relatives. I am asking someone to care for me/my loved ones. Money is just the vehicle that allows someone else to have the time to do this work that I do wish my sister, my mother, my grandmother could do for me. But they can’t. So I am using money as a tool — not a substitute — for connecting to real humans. Now that I’ve written a LONG reply, I think I am going to post it as a blog post on my blog! 🙂

  5. Pingback: Doulas- Necessities or Luxuries? OR What is Money For? « The birthmuse's Blog

  6. I was just a doula for a mom having her 8th baby. Each birth is unique and a mom who wants additional support should have it at each birth she wants it.

    I am glad your birth went well and your doula worked out!

  7. I didn’t take a doula; it never even occurred to me. On the other hand, my cousin took one for her first birth, and the doula ended up standing around doing nothing, because she needed a C-section. For the second birth, she tried again, she went into labor and had the baby on Shabbat. For the fourth, the doula didn’t make it fast enough, because of traffic. And she was fine without her, anyways. In the end, no one can know what will happen. So I figure, do your research, find out all you can, and take someone you know and trust with you. (My mom is in Canada, not that I’d want her with me; my MIL, who I did want, is in the U.S., so that wasn’t an option. I took two other people.) For the record: MIL wanted us to do a birth course, but it didn’t work out, so I ended up without a course, either. You know what? I don’t regret it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s