Today I changed the description for my job on Facebook from “Professional Doula” to “Birth Attendant”. Yeah, I know, what is so earth-shattering about that, right?? I don’t know exactly. It’s not earth-shattering, I guess, but it does provide a source of confusion (for me).

What am I?

I don’t like calling myself a professional doula. I guess it’s appropriate, since being a doula is considered a profession and that’s part of what I do with women and families. And yet, I feel myself moving away from that. It doesn’t feel right anymore, on multiple levels. I’m not sure I can adequately explain, but I’m going to try anyway.

Technically, a doula could encompass a lot of the things I do.  In the literal sense of the word, it means (in Greek) “female slave”, although it’s come to be lightened up a bit by being referred to as “woman who serves”. While I certainly don’t consider myself a slave to anyone, I absolutely identify with the “servant” aspect of the meaning. I feel strongly that my role is to serve women and their families (by serve, I mean whatever she defines as serve and by family, I mean whatever she defines as family). Thinking about this led me to consider the term “woman’s servant”, but I’m not sure that quite covers it either. I’m specifically called to and am studying the childbearing years, so a general term as servant doesn’t really convey those attributes.

While all doulas, in theory, have a defined scope of practice, this is particularly true of certified doulas. I originally chose the term “professional” to escape the “certified”, both because I am not now, nor do I ever plan to be, certified and also because I have an ethical problem with the idea of certification. Scope of practice is a great idea, as it helps us understand where certain boundaries are (both as consumers and as service providers). But what happens when those boundaries start blurring?  And should they?  If I know something that may help, yet is outside my “scope of practice”, what is the ethical thing to do?  Ahh!  In those instances, black and white becomes very, very grey.

I never intended to teach childbirth classes.  I am not a teacher!  However, this is where my path is leading me right now.  This is where the need is for my community, at this moment, that I am capable of filling.  And that is where I find the definition of what I am….

Where they go, I will follow

They are the leaders, I am the servant

The women define me.