Doulas and their Boundaries

My job as a doula is to help you grasp all of this information as best as you can. When you endure a major life event, it affects your ability to remember previous conversations. A doula chimes in and helps you recall your initial expectations, and then gently helps you shift your perspective to the present moment. This is where boundaries play in a doula’s role.

It should go without saying, that a doula’s opinions should not play into any aspect of their client’s birth. As with any boundary, these lines blur depending on the context. I can attest to growing more opinionated as my experience has broadened. My education allows me the ability to offer unique suggestions, but how do we know when to push for a little more effort, or to step aside and allow for the birthing person to make their choice?

I certainly step aside more often than not. Maybe that is where I’m at in my journey, or maybe that is just how birth should be supported. Birth is many things; Strength, vulnerability, shedding of old ways, and transforming into parenthood. Of all those things, I work hard to be empathetic to my client’s needs. I have had moments in which I felt compelled to push. Some clients follow that guidance, while others push back. Either way they are informed of their options. I have even had clients ask me (and partners) to leave. While it may seem like a slight on my skills, it’s truly just what that birthing person needs. The art of “doulaing” requires a person to set aside their pride, and support individuals where they are.

This is definitely a processing point for me as a doula. Was I enough? Could I have advocated more for this? Should I have advised differently? Is this safe for my clients? Just like everyone else caring for these individuals, I have seen birth many times. Our ability to to draw a line can be compromised. Empathetic roles require a high level of self care. When implementing boundaries that allow me a proper amount of self care, I can continue to grow my knowledge, and still be sensitive to my client’s needs.

Like any fiscal position, I have individuals question my value as a caregiver. These boundaries in particular are the groundwork to maintaining my career. This generally takes place in the interviewing process, but sometimes within the early stages of a professional relationship. Questions arise such as, How are you helpful within a planned c-section? What if you aren't available for our birth? These are valid concerns. This is a place where we sort of web all of our boundaries into a safe space, and through contractual agreements. It’s incredibly important that every person involved in this experience feels heard, so that they feel confident in themselves throughout the whole process. This experience will affect every aspect of their parenting relationship, and doulas are very sensitive to that.

Putting it into words almost feels like a juggling act, which is how I imagine most business owners feel, but most especially us empaths.

Boundaries with Friends and Family

This week’s topic is a follow up from last weeks post. For those that missed last weeks submission on placing boundaries in public scroll down!

Okay, so you have finally figured out how to leave the house  and not feel completely like everyone wants to tell you their life story. Whether you are physically concealing your belly, or simply asking people to mind their business, you are setting boundaries. This concept gets a bit hairy at this point. Now we need to think about placing boundaries with family. Just like pregnancy, birth draws people to you. Especially those that love you the most. The joy of a new baby is special, but we must be able to respect the process that takes place prior to baby’s delivery.

Consider your everyday relationships with these individuals. All interactions both negative and positive will play on a grander scale. You need to have the ability to focus on your body, and allow for the surges to carry you into a very vulnerable state of mind. Even the feeling of being watched or waited on can stall labor. So, if your parent had a traumatic birth experience and draws from that while at your birth, that can create a serious road block.  I have supported couples that didn’t tell family until they were home from the hospital, I have also supported couples that allow a fair amount of their family there, and interacting with the birthing person, and in the birthing space. It can be both a positive or a negative influence. It’s up to you to examine those relationships and start dialogue with those individuals, so that your boundaries are respected.

These are tough conversations, plain and simple. Remind them that your need for privacy is strictly for your benefit, and that it’s not personal. Every relationship carries different qualities. You know from the get go how these conversations are going to play out, so don’t dance around any details, just try and be direct.

I often recommend giving tasks to the individuals that want to be a part of it, but will likely stir up some emotions. Have them take care of pets, make sure that you have groceries to come home to, and tidy up the house. There are many things that will include them in the process, be creative!

When it comes down to it, it is imperative that they respect these boundaries. In the case you feel they will likely disrespect the lines you are setting, then you have every right to keep them out of the picture until you feel it’s okay for them to come. When it’s all said and done, that little bundle will be a nice bridge over sour feelings, and now you have all kinds of responsibilities to give them when you return home with baby!

Next week I give my perspectives of setting boundaries in Doula work, and offer some insight to the insecurities we face as care providers.

Setting Boundaries in Public

Boundaries. This is a concept we learn overtime. For me it was through a slough of embarrassing moments in my 20s. No lesson is ever learned without a mess. I say this often when I’m attending births. In my role as a doula, boundaries are a large part of the discussion that I continue to have, even on the day of the birth with my clients. Placing such distinctions for your birth is paramount in delivering your baby. Remember. These preparations will not change any potential curve balls in your expectations of your birth, but having a clear idea of the environment you need to have in order to feel safe and vulnerable will give you a leg up in the process.

On paper, that all sounds pretty doable. Now, we add in your current lifestyle. Whether you planned this for years, or your caught by surprise, this is a major change in your individual lives. The stress of finances, the pressure of responsibilities in your work lives, and managing schedules in the hopes of spending a day or two together. This climate isn’t always cut out for the efforts it takes to really come to terms with expanding your family. Naturally we turn to others that have been through it before. How did they cope? Where did they give birth? How was there experience in comparison to their expectations? Most of the time pregnant individuals don’t even get a chance to ask. Pregnancy tends to draw people near you regardless of how you are feeling in the moment. This is a great place to implement those boundaries. It sounds silly, but I always recommend having a specific statement prepared for the unwelcome interactions. “I respect and appreciate your experience, but have to be on my way” Simple, respectful, and concise. How they take that is on them.

Next week we discuss boundaries in your birthing environment. How to decide who you want in your space, and taking the steps to set those standards ahead of time.