I see my main job not as a doula, but as a public advocate whose mission is to mainstream natural birth. That doesn’t mean that I PREACH about natural birth (unless I am preaching to the choir at a doula or midwifery conference). I’ve found that preaching doesn’t get me very far when I am talking to the uninformed, underinformed, or people who actually disagree with me. But I do try to take advantage of situations in which it makes sense to tell positive birth stories and bring up my profession as a doula. Just saying the word can be a powerful catalyst in a room of people who’ve never heard it.
I watched it happen today, except it was not me who said the word. It was a college student, just explaining to other students in a class why he had missed class the day before.
His wife is a doula. She had been attending a birth for twenty-four hours. He had to stay home and watch their toddler.
I teach anthropology at a working-class state university in Michigan. My students are a DIVERSE group, though they are usually poorer and come from more disadvantaged backgrounds than the students at the fancy state university (University of Michigan). That tiny spark — a man saying the word “doula” to fellow students — resulted in several conversations right there in front of my eyes. I didn’t start the conversation. I just stood there, basking in the glow of people talking about birth and realizing that there are more options than they knew. Ripples. Seeds planted.