Sunday, August 7, 2011

De-Granola-izing the Doula Image

When the average person thinks of a doula, images of earthy crunchy new-agey women with braids come to mind. We are teased in the media and in medical circles, our nurturing, supportive, natural earthy birthy vibe creating depictions of us lighting lavender scented candles and incense, chanting Goddess songs, eschewing all things "intervention".

I like to laugh at myself. There is obviously truth in humour. It is TRUE we do things like "hold space", spritz essential oil laden waters to liven up the energy in the birthing room, "point our toes" towards the place a doula sister may be attending a birth to add our positive vibes to the experience, and get really excited about babies coming out naturally. You're not going to see a doula running around the birthing room in an power suit and heels. You're more likely to see us with wet spots on our t-shirts indicating we have a nursling somewhere, a comfy flowy skirt (who can squat in dress pants?), and perhaps a chunky sweater to keep us warm in the hospital. So sue us. I do assure everyone that I don't eat granola, I don't dig tofu, and I want to smack people who break out into spontaneous sisters-in-the-light-of-Goddess songs during quiet, profound moments in groups. In situations like this you will usually see my MotherWit team and I giving each other sidelong eye rolls and subtle finger-down-throat gestures. As a crew, while we do the normal flaky stuff, we shy from the embarrassing. Our image is already hippie dippie enough without having to add fuel to the fire (around which everyone's arms are linked and are singing Kumbaya).

Given we are already teased to the hilt about our image, I think it's a good idea to keep the rest of our secret flakiness to ourselves. I have seen many doula businesses advertised with names that will never get a doula taken remotely seriously by any average mainstream client (who needs doula support as much as one of the "converted") and will alienate mainstream medical/midwifery professionals. You may not care about this now, preferring to maintain your own personal integrity about your beliefs, and so be it. But if you really want to work at your trade, it will be an important future consideration.

I'm not going to pick out any real names I've seen, but there have been some doula service titles that have made me cringe. I mean, I'm a "do what you will" kind of gal and far be it for me to criticize, but because I sometimes do talks with medical people and hold open houses for strangers to get to know my team and what we do, I'm hyper aware of not coming off as uber flaky so as to fulfill my intent, which is to serve whomever wants doula care. Preaching to the converted who may flock to the wafting lavender mist is easy. I prefer challenges.

So names that sound something like "Gypsy Moon Goddess Red Tent Doulas" or "Sacred Star Dust Doula Care" just don't fly, in my part of town anyway. What else? Join me in the fun! "Little Angel Spirits Manifesting Doula Care"? How about "Blessed Womb Fruit"? "Patchouli Breath and Unicorn Farts" or "Vaginal Way Doula Collective" really sum us right up!

I think we should have some bad ass names just to balance out the granola image. How about "Jesus Built My Hotrod Doula Services"? I like "All Liquored up Roadside Doula Services....and Waffles!" Ah, we could get so creative!

In any case, revel in your granola-tude ladies, but be aware that as an important and growing presence in maternity care, our image is definitely something to consider. Find balance and be accessible...but don't sell out!

Peace, Babies!


  1. I sprayed chicory right out my nose when I read the Unicorn Farts bit. Now I have to knit a new hemp macrame cosy for my laptop! (Too funny, and a great way to start this doula's deeply caffeinated, certified granola-free morning!)

  2. I have to safely say that when I am sitting with a new mommy with bleeding nipples who cannot sit due to stitches, singing rarely comes to mind. Although I have had some funny moments in which I imagine the possibilities in granola-doula world, and these thoughts give me an endless source of not-taking-myself-too-seriously serum. Very healthy in an often tense and fragile work environment. I find a good dose of laughter always makes thing move in a better direction.
    And I do eat granola ... lots of it!

  3. My mother has accused me of being an "ism" person; little does she know that I just go with the a doula, if my pregnant mom is "crunchy", I can be crunchy with her...or if Christian, even though I was reared an Orthodox Jew, I have sung Jesus loves the little children! Funky name? Nahhh, just meet me and you'll know if we're a match. My massage therapist/doula business name? A Doula's Touch. Too corny?

  4. Being a chameleon is definitely part of good doula's bag of tricks. A really connected doula rarely has a client she doesn't feel she "matches" with (and see, I'm definitely flakey, 'cuz I say things like "connected"). I too have held hands and prayed to Jesus with super amazing Christian folks, though I myself was raised to definitely NOT workship a bearded white dude who presently lives in the sky (though I always dug the great Bible stories I would read secretly away from the scrutinizing eyes of my religion-wary family), and felt really honoured to be asked to do so.

    No, "A Doula's Touch" isn't at all corny, because it totally describes what your service is about, quite literally. If you did have a flakey name, sadly no matter what a great doula you were, not many would come to meet you to find out if you were a match.


  5. I think the onus is also on past clients to spread the word of the true impact of choosing to have a doula with your family!

  6. Ha ha ha, I'll admit that my first company name somewhat resembled your "Gypsy Moon Goddess Red Tent Doulas" (a few less words and a couple changes, though). I didn't mind it when practicing in a large city but for small town Cape Breton I had to change it for sure!

    I find that my clients tend to relax in some of my more granola moments (and we've had quite a few laughs). However, one has to be sensitive and know which clients this is appropriate with.

    The things that people tend to believe about me, especially about what I must eat (yes, seriously), can be quite opposite of the way I truly am. They are usually quite surprised that I drink Coke from time to time and enjoy a good steak!

  7. hilarious post. thanks for a late Saturday night laugh :)