For as long as I've lived in Okinawa I should be fluent in Japanese now. Sadly, I am not. Over the years I've learned to understand and pick up on what most conversations are about. But don't ask me to speak it back. So far I have been able to maintain with my version of "Janglish", a terrible combination of broken English mixed with small phrases in Japanese.
I began teaching my HypnoBirthing classes ; and letting people know that this class was not about ‘hypnotizing people’ but a method that taught women how to relax and trust their body for birth. We soon began holding monthly meetings called Birth Talk.
In Birth Talk classes, we would discuss a range of topics from comfort measures to women making informed decisions about their birth. I really began to see women being empowered during their pregnancies; asking questions to their providers, and they started taking in birth plans into their birth. These same women began to spread the word.
Our community was growing, and there was starting to be more of a need for birth doulas on Okinawa. I was desperate for help as the need began to grow and I wasn’t able to fill all the requests for birth doula work. This compelled me to reach out to Geri my trainer from California, and she wholeheartedly agreed to come over and host the first ever DONA birth training in Okinawa. At first, I did not think too many people were open to doula work.
I was overwhelmed at the response. We had two women join us from Iwakuni and about 14 women on Okinawa join the training. All I can say it was a huge learning experience. With all the change and the doulas from Iwakuni wanting to expand their resources the Japan Birth Resource Network was established as a Private Organization. Birthing in Okinawa was reinvented and with the help of dedicated women wanting to grow the birth community. This not only have us a platform to reach families on a bigger level but create an accountability program for the birth doulas on Okinawa. There was a lot of learning curves and growth for myself. I had to learn that not everyone will see eye to eye with one another. I learned that in order to have a healthy doula community, there needed to be structure and continued training for those new doulas on island. I felt in my heart of hearts, that no matter how hard I attempted to build bridges within the hospital that they were not ready for that door to be opened. Yet with much frustration, I kept pushing through. I had to let the chips fall where they may. I continued to go forth with supporting and educating families in hopes one day the rumors, miscommunication and division would soon come to an end and we could go forth working together building a safe place for women to deliver their babes.
During this season, a couple of expecting friends began to explore options off base. This led to the finding of Yui Clinic. I cannot express enough the willingness on their part to open the doors to the English speaking community on Okinawa. This was a much needed resource for women looking to birth their baby’s in a more homebirth/birth center setting. Over the course of a year I was able to establish a very good relationship with Dr.Fumi and her team of midwives. They would sit down and listen to what my hopes and goals were and establishing more resources for families on Okinawa. I began to see more options becoming available and resources that perhaps not many knew were here. Also during this time, many of the doulas from the previous training were PCS’ing or having baby’s of their own. We were back down to square one and began to explore having another doula trainer join us for another workshop.
Sarah Harre, a certified DONA doula, had contacted me and said she was moving to Okinawa. I was excited but not sure how involved she wanted to be in our growing birth network. Thank God she was willing and open to help. I basically told her where I needed the help and she jumped right in. I also got her going very quickly with doula work and before she probably was expecting it, gaining clientele and got voted in as Vice President of JBRN.
Sarah Harre has been quite an asset to this community. Not only as a sounding board for me but someone who I could confide in through some of my struggles as a birth doula. I have watched God strategically place people on my path that help this grow. Our board now consists of women who share the same faith and vision of making this network grow. Sarah has been a great business partner in keeping the network flowing. Little did we know that we shared the same vision of opening a facility where we could provide resources to the military families?
We were in the making of holding another birth doula workshop. Linda Herrick agreed to join us. This was another pivotal point in the Okinawa birth community. This training allowed for 23 women to become trained as birth doulas on Okinawa. Linda was also able to travel to Yokosuka where she trained 5 more women.
The doors from this point on continued to open. The hospital had gone through some transitions and relationships started to be created within. We have a doula photo album placed up on the labor and delivery floor where families and staff could see the doulas within JBRN.
For a while God had been placing the thought in my spirit about opening a facility where women and families could come to find all around support. Throughout my work here, I kept seeing women fall through the cracks when it comes to not only education for birth but breastfeeding. There are over 100 baby’s born each month at our base hospital. At this time I had done a handful of births off base. I began to see the difference of needing that continual support that our American culture doesn’t always provide for families. I was seeing women leaving the hospital 2-3 days after delivery and having breastfeeding issues. I increasingly became more and more frustrated. One, I was beginning to see huge gaps in what our current options were. From having to qualify to be seen through certain places to current limited support for education and breastfeeding in others. God always has a plan, Sarah had briefly said something about how great it would be to have a one-stop facility where women could come and receive that continual support. To fill those gaps where it was needed. This was all an idea in Dec of 2014. Within a month God began to open the doors and it was amazing to watch everything fall into place. The connection I’d had with Yui, grew into their support in opening The Birth Education Center. Kyoko, a good friend of mine and has helped with so much with translating and our birth adventures off base became a business partner and she invested into our dream of opening a storefront.
Within two weeks we found a building. We started building our resource team. Two very important women that joined us were Christy Googe and Maria Alexander. Both very knowledgeable with breastfeeding and have provided amazing support to women on Okinawa wholeheartedly joined our vision. Having done a lot of work with families on Okinawa already, it was a perfect fit. Since then, we've had people come and go. But someone has always stepped up to take the spot. Everything has come together beautifully. A previous client of mine had a business of creating logos. She said to me that she wanted to share her talents with helping a business that God was establishing. I was so humbled at her offer.
Here we are. A year into being open. It’s a huge faith walk. This is simply another chapter of a new season in my life. It’s teaching me to grow and trust in God at a whole new level. He has a plan for us and it’s been very humbling to look back to see how everything was building to point me in this direction. I am excited for what the future holds.
Japan Birth Resource Network Doulas.
My message to you: We grow up in a culture where pregnancy and birth isn’t always valued. Many women feel left to their own devices to just figure it out. There is not a good support system in place to help families navigate through one of the most exciting and possibly stressful events in their life. Women leave the hospital and go home to a husband who returns to work not long after the birth. A woman’s family cannot always be present to help after, even more so here in Okinawa. I want our facility to be a safe place for parents to come and not find good education but quality care from others who can assist you through those milestones in life. We don’t have all the answers but we can listen and help to provide resources if needed.
I am excited to share with you about my trip to Washington D.C., adding more into my blog and what brought me to this point.
The past few months have moved forward in high gear. I was nominated for the 2016 Military Spouse of the Year and won the Marine Corps Base Camp SD Butler here in Okinawa. Providing me the opportunity to go Townhall and MSOY Ceremony this past week. What an honor to be around so many amazing men and women with so a mission and organizaitions to support our military communities.
This was an eye opening experience and has really motivated me to push forward even more with bringing this resource to the states. Not only myself but several other women have worked hard the last 4 years to bring awareness and continuity for our military families and those living overseas. My purpose has been set and I am driven to see this fulfilled. Networks are being established and connections are being made.
Not many understand the lifestyle laid at our feet. Not to say other's don't have their struggles and obstacles to overcome. Having been a military spouse for 18 years, there have been times I've wanted to throw in the towel. Between long deployments, 30-60 days trips, holidays, birthdays and big events missed, I'd have to remind myself to stay strong. Fortunately, my husband didn't miss the birth of our kids, but I know many who have. I know many families who've had spouses barely make it home for the birth of their baby. I known women to experience the loss of their husband, not ever meeting their newborn. I've watched families get uprooted from our overseas location because of medical issues with her or baby, never to return to Okinawa. Literally leaving their house in someone else's hands to pack up and close the doors.
I've witnessed the victories and heard the stories of families who've received help from myself and other doulas in our network. We've impacted only a small percentage of our island but there is so much more to do. To help fill the gaps where when the Active Duty Service Member goes back to work, a postpartum doula can be there. To provide guidance and support for a single active duty expectant woman, a mother of a deployed spouse, the birth experience where both parents can be there. This is a critical stage in a new families life and to have the support of a birth doula, postpartum doula, lactation counselor, etc., should be available to our military families no matter what duty station they end up at.
My mission has and always will be to provide resources and a continuity of care for families in the military through the use of birth & postpartum doulas and other birth professionals who contribute their life to this amazing work.
The journey of becoming a doula begins with my purpose.
A purpose that I was not fully aware of or even the smallest interest in.
The scripture above speaks to so many areas of my life. It reminds me to on a daily basis to not jump into things God hasn't put into place but wait at my guard post for the next steps to take.
As I look back on those times when I tried to rush things or do things my way, I would always have to bring myself back down to reality and remind myself that God has a plan. EVERY time He would show up. He has always shown up.
In the past months I have felt every sermon I've listened too refers right back to this scripture. It's like God says: "Hello Amanda, I know what I am doing", "Are you going to be patient and trust Me?"
My journey to building this birth community in Okinawa began back in the summer of 2008 where God began with a foundation of being placed in the right place at the right time. Even though my flesh was fighting the current situation and circumstances; opportunities were arising. A dear friend of mine was doing some doula work and would share some of her experiences.
We were an active duty Marine Corps family and stationed in Texas at the time with orders to move to California. I was against the move as I had my heart set on moving back to Okinawa where we were stationed before, for 7 years. I wanted to return to Okinawa the first time because it was a safe place for my family and I. Okinawa was our first duty station as a married couple. I was only 18 at the time and my husband had just gone Active Duty from being in the reserves for 6 years. This is where both of my oldest children were born and lived the first years of their lives. This is where Scott came to build a relationship with the Lord. We had grown to love our local village and had fond memories there. When we had to leave and return stateside, it was a culture shock for us. We desperately wanted to return. We quickly found out it wasn't our time and season for this. God surely have other plans and we found ourselves begrudgingly headed to Camp Pendleton.
We were able to get settled and I found myself revisiting the idea of becoming a birth doula. I didn't know much more about that work other than what my friend had shared with me. I decided to take the plunge and enroll into a DONA Birth Doula Workshop with Gerri Ryan. Which by the way is an amazing midwife and has become a much-needed mentor in my life. There were several people God placed in my life as connections along the way.
I was definitely on the fence about all of this birth stuff during and after the workshop. I had a hard time absorbing a lot of the information and how I could even see myself fitting into that community. I've not ever been familiar with a sisterhood type of bond. It was a little strange being around women who were very connected with one another and just seamlessly fit into that mold. I felt like an outsider, but deep down inside all this sparked my curiosity and definitely gave me some things to think about.
After my training, I guess it wasn't quite a season to begin working towards the certification. In 2009, I really felt a tugging on my heart to get back into the swing of things. I was able to reconnect with Geri and take her workshop again. This as the pivoting point and God strategically placing that particular group of women in that workshop as connections and future growth in my doula career but become a childbirth educator. Care Messer just so happened to be one of those women who were planted in my life for that season. I joined the Operation Special Delivery, as a volunteer back in 2010 and before I knew it, I was initiated into the work as a birth doula.
Family circumstances came up which moved our family back to Texas while my husband was in a school for 9 months. During that time, I didn't do much but survive with my family and all the transitions taking place. Doula work kind of got put on the back burner.
After my husbands schooling was over, we packed up and headed back to California and the connections began! Care Messer became a strong component in my growth as an educator and understanding the work as a birth doula. Care had trained to become a HypnoBirthing Instructor and with her very direct, loving support basically told me I needed to become an instructor as well. I decided to go forth with the motion because at the time I was doing doula work for her HypnoBirthing students. I was seeing the difference between families who would go into labor/birth educated and informed than with those who didn’t. I’d like to say the rest is history but in actuality it was just the beginning of something greater. I had no idea I’d be where I am at today. I don’t dare compare myself to some of the greats in the birthing world like Ina Mays, Henci Goer, Rebekkah Dekker, Penny Simpkin, the list goes on. I do often wonder what they must have felt like when they saw a need for a change and against the odds, pushed and fought to speak up and make a difference. I feel like I am on uncharted territory. I’m not going to lie, it’s been daunting and there have been times when I've wanted to throw in the towel and give up.
HypnoBirthing is one of those topics that some families are familiar with and some simply have no idea what it is, how it’s done, and if it even works. HypnoBirthing is a gentle and relaxing way to give birth. We focus on breathing, relaxation, visualization and how fear can be associated with birth. We understand there are a lot of fears that surround birth, and believe those fears should not hold you back from having an amazing birth experience. You and your body work together through your labor, easing pain and discomfort. In Hypnobirthing, you are totally conscious and in a strong state of relaxation and engagement with your body. Your mind is still functioning normally so you’re aware of what is going on around you.
Birth partners also play an important role in HypnoBirthing. Fathers will learn many tools to help the expectant mother and education on how the birthing body works. The method teaches you that, in the absence of fear and tension, or special medical circumstances, severe pain does not have to be an accompaniment of labor. You will gain an understanding of how the birthing muscles work in perfect harmony--as they were designed to--when your body is sufficiently relaxed and you trust birth. You will learn how to achieve this kind of relaxation, free of the resistance that fear creates, and you will learn to use your natural birthing instincts for a calm, serene and comfortable birth.
This is where I truly feel like my story really begins. We got orders to come back to Okinawa. Yay! After spending seven years before on this island and having my oldest two be born here, it was like our second home. I was excited! I had some experience under my belt with doula work and ready to begin providing services on Okinawa.
It didn’t take me long after arriving to realize there was not much in place for doula services. I met a woman who was doing some work here as a birth doula and had a small group where those interested in this birth work would meet. Here, I met a couple of ladies who would become a piece of the puzzle in creating foundation for information and support to families.
It didn’t take me long to start acquiring clientele. Three months after being after landing in Okinawa, I had my first doula client. I was excited to not only start this journey here but I also had high hopes of reaching out to the hospital where my kids were born 15 and 12 years ago. I think I may have taken the hospital off guard when I began taking information up there and leaving it at the nurses station and sharing more about what a doula does. Work began to pick up to the point where I was taking 2-4 clients a month. I know God was looking out for me because not once did any of my births overlap. This was interesting because at the time there were only 3 birth doulas on island including myself.
One of the women became a dear friend of mine and she ended up shadowing me at a couple of births for training. The other doula worked full time and did some volunteer work. She helped where and when she could. But really it was us three actively working in Okinawa. There were a couple of times where the other two had to take time off and travel. I was the only actively working doula on Okinawa for what seemed about 9 months. During this time us; a couple of other women who loved birth and a postpartum doula really began to see a need to bring information and education to the local community. We decided to bring everyone who'd be interested in sharing their brith stories together and start our little group called Birthing in Okinawa. This was an opportunity to educate and inform families about options and provide resources here.
To be continued....
Maybe you’ve heard of a doula. Maybe not. When I first meet a woman and begin to explain what my role as a doula is, I usually get the comments of, “So you’re like a midwife.” Or “My friend had a doula and she left because she got an epidural.” (Insert tounge in cheek and continue to kindly smile as I pull together my thoughts and prepare for a more in depth discussion of the do’s and don’ts of doula services).
After a delightful debrief on what my service entails, mom is now on a doula high, ready to whip out a pen and sign my contract.
But wait. Here it comes. The response that usually leaves me hanging in the valance wondering if I will ever speak to this individual again. “This sounds great! I’ll need to talk to my husband and get back to you soon.” I agree wholeheartedly! I believe 100% both parents need to be on board with hiring a doula. The majority of the time I won’t sign a contract unless I’ve sat down with them making sure they understand and agree to my role. I may or may not ever hear back at this point. If I have the contact information I will follow up. Often times we don't hear back.
So let's address this here and now. Yes, I’m speaking right to you Dad, Birth Partner, or whoever is chosen to fill that role. I want to use this opportunity to help you think outside the box after reading this.
*Disclaimer. I understand every situation and personality is different. Not everyone may need a doula at their birth.*
Imagine you’ve taken all the childbirth classes and feel relatively prepared. Relaxation techniques have been rehearsed, bags are packed and your contraction app ready to go. Kind of like all the training done to prepare for a big basketball game. It’s 2:00 am in the morning and let say you've had a rough day at work. Let’s throw in a couple of visits to the hospital a few days prior for practice labor. It wasn’t progressing and they sent you home. Now she's waking you up saying it’s real deal. Reluctantly, you roll out of bed and start getting stuff together. Now momma is telling you to hurry! You’re trying to remember if her purse has been packed and if there are kids, they still need to wake up, get dressed and ready for the sitters. Out the door everyone goes. Finally making it to the hospital. Time to check into Triage. The questions start to ensue.
“Has her water broken?”
“How long are the contractions?”
“When did labor start?”
"When was the last time she went to the bathroom?" Dad is thinking,"What? Wait. You mean taking a crap? Is that even supposed to happen?"
"Have you seen any bloody show?" Bloody what! There's so much stuff! I don't remember being told about this.
*Insert- deer in the headlights look.*
Of course momma is able to answer theses questions. More than likely though she's not in the mood to be thinking about her last bowel movement. Labor is progressively getting more uncomfortable.
"Ma'am, we need you to stay laying down so we can get a good read on the monitors."
She's having a hard time staying in the bed. Now mom is asking to get something to drink or go to the bathroom. You’re still trying to wipe the sleep out of your eyes but high on an adrenaline rush. So much coming at once.
Mom gets admitted and depending on where baby is at delivery could be imminent or it may be hours. We will say in this case mama has some time to go. You get over to the delivery room and try to get settled but now paperwork to be filled out. (Yes some places parents have to fill out admission paperwork at the time of delivery.) Momma is working hard. She may be asking for medication at this point. You haven’t even had a chance to give anyone the Birthing Preferences aka Birth Plan. People have left the room and you were able to get the lights dimmed and review the plan with your staff. Things seem to be back on track. But now you, the dad or birth partner, has to go to the bathroom! Momma is begging you to stay to hold the counter pressure on her back. She starts getting to a point where she’s saying she can’t do it anymore. Asks for medication. Starts crying and saying she doesn’t know what to do. There’s some staff in the room and they are saying she can have the epidural but it was stated she didn’t want one. Your head is spinning. Trying to remember everything taught in class. Mom is tired. You’re tired. This didn’t happen how we planned.
If I run into mom again or I follow up with her about hiring a doula, often times the answer is, “We decided to not hire a doula because my husband didn’t want one.”
Deep down inside I was truly hoping that they would have at least entertained the idea of a interview. After all, it's free with no obligations. I feel like once I can sit down and have dad ask me those difficult questions, we can now address those concerns. Then I hope they feel well informed about whether or not a doula would still be a good fit for their birth.
These reasons listed are legitimate concerns and great questions to ask. Partly why I insists on speaking with both parents at some point. If dad is unable to be present for an interview, I will be sure to let the mother know I do expect dad/birth partner to be on board. whether he wants to be really involved or not before moving forward. I want him to understand I value his presence, participation and thoughts too.
Let's review those reasons why a doula may not be hired.
I want to reiterate. I am not there to take the other parents place or anyone else for that matter. The in-law, family member or friend. I am hired as a trained birth professional in the room. To help provide you with information to make informed decision about your care. Assist in comfort measures, emotional support, or encourager to just name a few. I feel like it takes the pressure off of dad feeling like he has to be the one stop shop for everything. I give him the space to take that much needed bathroom break while mom gets continual support. If he’s a really hands on kind of person, sometimes he needs to be reminded to rub moms back like a wave. We aren't sanding a block of wood. Let's be real. You can be just as nervous and scared. You might need someone to tell you this is normal and help talk you through some of the progress. .I feel a doula can help dad fit in where he is most comfortable.
The inevitable money topic. A lot goes into a doulas fee. Prenatal meetings that last 2-3 hours, presence at the birth from start to finish, follow up care. My longest labor was over 72 hours. This didn’t include the time spent with the family before the birth and after. You can learn more about what goes into a doula’s fee HERE. So much knowledge and resources are shared. Giving the parents everything they need to feel prepared. From assitance in preparing and discussing birth preferences to how to proactively address the hospital staff if situations should arise that parents would need to have more information on. Sometimes the medical staff can say things parents don’t understand. We can break it down to the basics. Dad also needs to know he’s doing a good job and that what the mother is experiencing is completely normal. Words of encouragement really do pay off with a dad and birth partner. Fees for doulas vary and so do personalities. It’s important to have that good fit. Like birth, one size doesn’t fit all.
Heard about a bad experience? Unfortunately the stories are out there.. Just as with any other profession in life. I don’t always know the full story and do my best to guarantee to parents I will remain professional and uphold my end of the contract. Follow your gut on a person's intergrity. It's ok to ask for referrals. Keep in mind there are doulas starting off who won't have a list of people to put you in touch with. I think good business practices and a positive representation of their services speak volumes about an individual.
We are on baby number 4. I don't think she needs to have a doula. I’ve worked for several families who’ve never had a doula for the first couple children then decide to hire one for their 3rd, 4th or 6th baby. Maybe the experience from the mother’s prespective was traumatic or not fulfilling. Perhaps she didn’t feel like she had a voice or wasn’t able to have the birth she wanted and desired the extra support. Whatever the reason may be, many families have sought out doula support with subsequent children.
Now let’s visualize the scenario from earlier again.
You’ve hired a doula, taken all the childbirth classes and feel relatively prepared. You’ve got all the relaxation techniques down pat, bags packed and your contraction app ready to go. It’s 2:00 am in the morning and you’ve just had a long day at work. You’ve been in communication with your doula about the days prior. She’s given you and mom suggestions to relax at home and different suggestions for positions if warm up labor has been off and on. Mom wakes dad up saying it’s real deal. Dad collects himself and gauges what’s going on. He calls the doula and she comes to your home as agreed upon earlier. Your doula is now with the momma and you are able to get the bags packed, sitter called, while the doula is helping her through those contractions. It’s time to go! At the hospital everyone’s asking questions,
“Has there been any leaking water?” “
"How long are the contractions?”
“When did labor start?”
"When was her last bowel movement?" Oh yes, she has been pooping all night. Because you know that it's a normal part of labor as the doula reminded you of earlier. Your doula has been keeping tabs on what has taken place and can give you that information to tell the staff if you’ve forgotten.
You’re calm and excitedly standing by her bed and helping her breath through contractions. She’s admitted. The mood in the room is filled with commotion and more questions, but now the lights have been dimmed, mom is relaxing and breathing. Dad was able to answer questions from the staff and discuss the birthing preferences. You take a quick bathroom break while the doula stayed in the room with momma. Everyone has left. Mom is asking to get something to drink and go to the bathroom. You and the doula can help mom move to the bathroom. You’re still trying to wipe the sleep out of your eyes but feel confident and at ease having that extra support. Things start to intensify. She may be asking for medication at this point. Your doula looks at you and tells you this is normal and suggests moving off the toilet, applies counter pressure while she leans into you. She starts getting to a point where she’s saying she can’t do it anymore. Starts crying and saying she doesn’t know what to do. Your doula reminds you to tell her what a good job she’s doing, where to massage her and continues to provide that emotional and phsycial support for the momma. The staff was mentioning an epidural earlier, you are able to politely refer back to your birth plan. Not too long after she start involuntarily pushing. The staff is notified. Baby is close to being born. You are in a daze and can't believe this is happening. You are about to meet you baby! Your doula asks you if you still wanted to help deliver the baby if the provider agrees. The provider says yes it's fine. You get into position and feel your new little baby greet your hands for the first time. Your doula is at the top of the bed taking pictures and helping mom through that last little moment. Deep breath. You did it! You both did it! You both are on cloud nine!
If there's anything to take away from this post. I don't want any parent to think they are just going to be spectators on the sidelines of the birthing experience. I meet a lot of dad's who really want to be involved. Initially it feels like when their wife tells them she would like to have a doula, they think this person is going to take the place of that emotional bond between them. Trust me. I'm not there to fill that spot. I know you want to be the one momma relys on during labor if that what best suites you. If it's a money issue, then let's talk. I do value what I offer and I know it's important for a family to value my services as well.
Want more information about doulas?
Visit www.japanbirthresourcenetwork.com to set up an interview with some of those amazing doulas. You're in good hands.
Being a birth doula and entrepreneur was a very lonesome journey in the beginning while overseas. The first few years were hard to work on establishing a continuum of care and awareness in a place where people move all the time. While I had peers who worked in the birth community here, I felt like I kept hitting brick walls as growth was ever impending on this island. There were times I felt like no one understood the dynamics of our birth community. I am lucky to have a great, supportive birth community in San Diego, but sometimes when you need someone to talk too, calling on the phone with the time difference makes it more difficult. Many times, I found myself relying on my husband to lend a listening ear and mentorship. I am proud that, even through the rough patches and learning curves, I held on to what I believed and did my best to hold up integrity.
Hindsight is always 20/20. As I reflect on the past 5 years, I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for being consistent, dedicated, and good old fashion hard work. Even through all the frustrations, ups and downs, just the sheer roller coaster ride of emotions in learning how to establish an organization and a good working relationship with others. I am happy to see what we’ve become today and how this network has grown.
I want to take a few moments to talk about how getting frustrated and integrity pertains to our profession as a doula.
Let’s look at what happens when frustrations mount with a doula trying to get her business started and gaining cliental might not be working out for her as easily as hoped for. A choice can be made. Operate with integrity or give into being upset.
What is integrity? By definition: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.
Giving into those frustrations begins the slippery slope of what I would call The Cascade of Interventions for Doulas. When frustration develops, a doula might start throwing oneself at the foot of any expectant woman who walks by. Whether at the store, gas station or soliciting services for free. In some cases, a doula may begin pleading with the mother to have her come to the birth even when the birth partner doesn’t want a doula. If that route doesn’t work, jealousy and anger may start to rear its ugly head. The individuals may start acting out of emotion when they see other doulas working. These negative emotions often lead to hurt feelings and ultimately relationships destroyed.
For a doula that is starting to grow a business, I have found that integrity does play an important role. When confronted with situations requiring integrity, I will take a step back and reflect on what the pros and cons of my choices will be and how it could affect what I represent in the community.
Let's ask ourselves, “How can any of this benefit our expectant families?”
I want to share with you some tips that as a doula and businesswoman have worked for me and I hope can work for you.
· Be consistent. This does take time to establish when you are first starting up a business. Remember in everything you say and do, consistency leaves a good reputation with the people you serve. The external impression of your business shouldn’t differ much from the internal.
Bottom line- be consistent in what you believe about being a doula, pricing, and services you offer. Don’t be a butterfly floating from one flower to the next.
· Be a likeable and reliable. I do understand we will not jive with everyone who crosses are path, but we should respect the other person for whom they are. If we are always being negative and gossiping with a down right bad attitude about everything, people will notice and probably will get tired of being around you. Being reliable is crucial to someone being able to trust you.
Bottom line- Our reputation and relationships are all we have and it takes time to establish a good rapport within your community. I wished it were easy to say building strong relationships happen overnight. It just doesn’t. I often run into skeptics or those who’ve had bad experiences with doulas before. So their guard is up. Build bridges. Don’t burn them.
· Online Presence. *DING *DING! This is a HUGE factor in the growth of a business. With social media dominating the Internet, it’s imperative to keep integrity. I recently read an article about companies starting to research potential employees through social media. In a 2014 Social Recruiting Survey, data shows 93% of hiring managers will review a candidate’s social profile before taking on that person.
Bottom line- I can’t say it enough, people are always watching. Be mindful of mixing online friendships and business. Do you want potential clients seeing your personal profile and what’s being posted daily?
· Learn your area and audience. Every area is going to have unique differences and a diverse audience. Think about who your audience will be. Maybe you want to keep things low key and take on limited cliental. Perhaps you want to reach out and go big. What if you desire to volunteer?
Bottom line- There are plenty of pregnant women to go around. We can’t serve everyone. We each have something to contribute to our community and if it hasn’t been done yet, then connect with those who can help and get something going. Some areas will have next to nothing. It takes a lot of time and dedication to establish even the understanding of what a doulas role is. You may find yourself walking into a well established community. There’s a place for you too if we treat one another with courtesy and respect.
I hope that something can be taken away from this. I remember being that new doula and wanting to take on the world. I was willing to help anyone. I was ready to hit the ground running. Therefore, I understand what it is like to want to at least have more than one woman on the books. Integrity plays a big role in how not only how the community views a business but how long term people can trust. Be honest. Be genuine. Be humble. Treat others with respect and be courteous. Maintain healthy relationships that lift you up and get rid of the negativity.
My mission has and always will be to provide resources and a continuity of care for families in the military through the use of birth & postpartum doulas and other birth professionals who contribute their life to this amazing work.