In my last post, I suggested that if you know a doctor, nurse, or midwife who has supported a woman well in birth that you send her/him a thank you note. EnjoyBirth commented that she always writes thank you notes when she is a doula and points out the positive things that hospital staff have done during the birth.
That is one of my secrets as a doula that should probably not be secret. I ALWAYS carry a pack of ten thank you notes in my doula bag. I write at least two myself and leave the rest for my client in case she wants to write some thank you notes t before she leaves the hospital. I usually bring some small gifts she can leave with the notes: chocolates or small lavender mist bottles (which are easy and cheap to make at home).
Thanking birth professionals for their work is good for everyone. Of course, we all know how wonderful it feels to be noticed and appreciated. 🙂 I believe it helps improve doula-hospital staff relationships, too. Many doctors, nurses, and midwives are happy to welcome doulas to birth teams and they know we have a lot to contribute. Some, as you may know, wish we weren’t there and go out of their way to make us feel unwelcome. I try to assume that they have had a bad experience in the past. Though my first responsibility is to the laboring woman who has hired me, I always strive to make allies out of the hospital staff if at all possible. I’d like to leave them with a positive impression of doulas. Thank you notes and gifts seem important in this regard.
Finally, no matter how a birth goes, I remember that hospital staff members have all dedicated years of their life to learning their craft, often at considerable personal sacrifice. Obstetricians have to spend a minimum of eight years, eight INTENSE years of more than full-time work (sleepless nights, on-call weekends, etc.) to become doctors. Because of the intensity of training, they have less successful marriages, fewer children (and often no children, ironically!), higher suicide rates, higher rates of depression and substance abuse. They also start being an independent practitioner with an average $157,000 of debt and must pay exorbitant medical malpractice insurance fees ($150,000/year on average and in some areas more than $300,000/year. Obstetricians are the most sued doctors in America.
I think of all they have given up — and yet how happy I am that they are there to back up normal birth in our country. I understand that it is hard for many obstetricians to support a natural labor without intervention. That is frustrating for all of us who love natural birth and believe that birth is usually safe. Yet even those of us who love natural birth know that there are some women and some babies who must have access to life-saving medications or procedures or face dire consequences. It is rare, I know. But I find that carrying gratitude in my heart for ALL obstetricians is good for me.
Those hospital staff members are there for us in our hour of need and for that I am grateful. It doesn’t mean that I intend to use their skills unless I really need them. As a doula, I help most of my clients learn how to say “no” to many, many common interventions. Still, it works better when we say “no” with humility and gratitude.
Thank you notes are just always helpful and never hurtful. I recommend thank you notes as a hospital “intervention.”