I asked this to a room full of doctors I was presenting to. Only a few raised their hands, timidly. “Well, I hate birth plans!” I said. The room sighed and the number of hands up multiplied.
But I’m a doula! How can I hate birth plans? Well, because we don’t get to plan birth like we can plan a vacation or a wedding or a work schedule. We don’t get the same kind of control. Typically, Birth Plans seem to bring with them an air of rigidity, inflexibility, and a combative tone.
This is one of the more detrimental things I've heard said to a laboring person. Labor is a very open, receptive state. Laboring people are very susceptible to the suggestions presented to them. I've seen a person, coping well, start to falter and waiver when this idea was planted. It can bring on doubts like, “Am I not doing well?” “Is this not normal?” “Can I do this?”
When I tell people that I'm a doula, I tend to get 3 responses: "Huh?", or "I love doulas!", or "That's like a midwife, right?" The latter might be my favorite response because it provides a chance to talk about the differences in the training and approach of maternity care providers. Midwives are medically-trained professionals, just as are OBs. The difference that midwives are trained in birth as a normal event; doctors are trained in the abnormalities (the level of complications doctors are trained to manage increases from a family physician, to an obstetrician, to a perinatologist). Doulas differ from both midwives and doctors in that they are non-medical caregivers. Below is an FAQ-style overview of a doula's role. Though the focus here is on delineating what a doula does from that of a midwife, this also applies to births with doctors and doulas. You can also check out my corresponding post on Doulas and Homebirth.
A common question I get is whether a doula is redundant at a homebirth. While doulas and midwives tend to overlap in their understanding of continuous care and emotional support as elemental components of birth, our roles are still quite different. Below is an FAQ to explore the complementary care of doulas at homebirths. You can also check out my corresponding post Is a Doula Like a Midwife?