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!