Why I became a doula

Why did I become a doula? Why did I leave the stable world of accountancy, for the unpredictability of birth work? The short answer, is that I wanted to make a difference.

The long answer? Well, grab a cuppa and let's go back, way back. Back to me being pregnant with my first baby, back in 2012. 


I knew everything about my baby, seriously, I knew every little change and development that was happening each week. I read my pregnancy book religiously. I knew all about the changes going on inside my body as my pregnancy progressed. I knew what size fruit I could compare him to. I deliberated over the pram, the crib, the sweet little outfits. Who would come to visit us after the birth. Who would babysit. 

But can you see what I was missing?

I wasn't prepared for birth.

I mean, I thought I was! I had gone to the NHS antenatal classes so I knew at what stage I should call the hospital and I knew what pain relief options were available. Birth plans though, they just end up going out the window everyone said, so I was just going to go with the flow.

And then, the day after my estimated due date, I had contractions. My waters broke. I got excited! I went to hospital, yes your waters have gone, take your temperature with these, we will call you in for induction tomorrow. My contractions stopped, I went to sleep, but nothing, nothing, nothing. 

I didn't know what I should do. Or could do. Or not do. 

So, I went with the flow. But it wasn't my flow.

And eventually, two days after those first contractions, my baby was born. A caesarean birth. After an induction and no food and no sleep and bright lights and doctors and crying and fear, so much fear, and more doctors and beeping and an incision and a push and a pull and another incision he was born.

That's not why I became a doula though. 

My baby was born and he was in SCBU on the floor below me. I couldn't walk. I couldn't even sit up. I was weak and hungry and sick and in pain and I didn't know why he was on the floor below me. On a ward where every other mother had their baby, I didn't have mine. I didn't know what was going on, my entire body hurt, my heart ached, I couldn't stop being sick and I filled all the sick bowls and I buzzed for help and NO ONE CARED. This isn't the whole story. But it's enough for you to know it felt inhumane.

That's still not why I became a doula. 

I had a VBAC at the hospital with my second baby. This time you bet I was prepared for birth. I read and I read and I read. I met with the birth planning midwife. I realised I had choices. I learned that I could say, no I don't want to do that or what else can I do? or what happens if I do nothing? It was a "textbook birth". And I began to reflect on my previous birth. 

What if I had done this instead... what if I had waited... what if I had known more about the physiology of birth... what if... what if... what if...

I had a home birth with my third baby. And this time I had what I truly felt was informed and individualised care. From a midwife who supported me, not just clinically and physically, but emotionally. Who told me all of my choices and would never tell me what she would have done if she were me, no matter how many times I asked her. Who told me about all of my options including the option to do nothing, but insisted that the decision was mine. And that she would support whatever that decision was. Midwives that took their time and stroked my back and ran me a bath and used gentle words and made sure I was fed and watered and didn't leave until I was ready.

I have replayed my first baby's birth so many times in my mind; imagining different outcomes if I had done things differently, if I had known more about my choices, if I had understood what was going on. How I would have felt if I had been treated with humanity and compassion and dignity and respect. How different things might have been if I knew then what I know now, and if I had just been nurtured. 

How different things could be for other people.

And that is why I became a doula.