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Genevieve Paiemont-Jacobson’s piece in Salon trashing both her birth and post-partum doula has gotten a lot of attention.  Most of the comments following the article seem to blame Paiemont-Jacobson for the negative experience she had.  I agree in part but I think the bigger issue are the assumptions she had about her doulas-

First, most birth and post-partum doulas (because {smile} there are two kinds) are independent contractors.  They work for themselves which means that they do all their own marketing, vet their own clients, are themselves on hand for the job that they were hired for.  Except, of course, when they’re not.  Like other professionals, doulas have clients other than us.  And while I do think that many birth doulas tend to overbook themselves, it’s important to remember that there is still a customer and a provider here.  If Paiemont-Jacobson wasn’t comfortable with the possibility that her birth doula may be at another birth when you go into labor, she shouldn’t have booked that doula!

Secondly, birth doulas aren’t angels who, if on hand at your birth, ensure “smooth sailing and rainbows and unicorns”.  They are real people without magical powers. Yes, having a birth doula can reduce your chance of a C-section.  But it’s no guarantee against unexpected complications, such as the ones that arose at Paiemont-Jacobson’s birth.  Same for post-partum doulas.  shutterstock_55511725It seems to me that, expectations, (especially with her post-partum doula who should have provided a clear list of how she would and would not be of service) were not set.  That’s disappointing.  I can see why Paiemont-Jacobson feels she was “ripped off” but, honestly, some of the blame does rest with her for not getting the information she needed by asking the right questions. Pro tip: Both kinds of doulas are providers, like any other.  Interview carefully in advance to make sure you are hearing what you need to.

Thirdly, it sounds as if Paiemont-Jacobson assumed her birth doula was also a childbirth education expert. Whether she was misled by the birth doula or if she just connected these disparate dots doesn’t matter.  What’s disturbing is that Paiemont-Jacobson still remains misinformed about the role of a birth doula in childbirth.  My own birth doula recommended a wonderful CD to help with relaxation and visualization but my husband and I took childbirth classes with-you guessed it!- someone trained as a childbirth educator. Birth doulas are real people.  Pro tip: If a resource is recommended to you by your birth doula, check it out. But taking any recommendation as insurance isn’t smart.

Rachel Gurevich over at Womb Warrior made a good point in our Twitter exchange about this article: “more time to process would have helped,”  I appreciated hearing this from her because I didn’t think of it!  A natural place for processing your birth experience is with your post-partum doula.  But Paiemont-Jacobson’s experience with hers was so completely lacking that I imagine the processing piece was absent too. Which is a shame.  It is essential for women to process their birth experience (I wish I’d done this!) no matter what kind of birth they have.  And often that’s difficult to do, whether it is because of preconceived ideas about childbirth or because we lack someone with whom to speak frankly and emotionally about our birth experience.  {This is one of the reasons that I’ll offer a service with this idea in mind when my new business, Outside The Mom Box, debuts later this Fall.}

A lessons learned piece from Genevieve Piedmont-Jacobson instead of this cathartic purge would have not only served other pregnant women and informed the general public but gained her more sympathy for her experience and perhaps even greater respect for her writing.  Her anger isn’t the problem; her assumptions are.

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