For some student doulas, their fantasy of becoming a doula may be based on supporting parents through the sacredness and beauty of home births with soft music and candle light, women labouring in their power and having gentle births that are peaceful and flow perfectly.

The truth of the matter is that some births are anything but peaceful and sacred. Sometimes we have to support parents through births that we are traumatised by and we absolutely cannot show our feelings to the parents. Or we just know that the care-provider perhaps hasn’t been offering the best possible care and that the birth has turned out not at all as the parents would have wanted.

We as doulas, then internalise the way we feel to protect the parents, as our job is play a major role in helping them feel that they have had a good birth experience. And what do we then do with all of these internalised emotions? We either burn out eventually, or we give up attending births, or we find ourselves feeling depressed, guilty, angry or apathetic. We lose track of appropriate boundaries with the parents, or we shut down in order to cope.

What happens is that not only do we sit with our own trauma, but the trauma of the parents as well – we are vicariously traumatised. Doulas tend to be on the upper end of empathetic and so tend to really be in tune with other people’s feelings. This is where self-care is absolutely essential and why it is covered in the Mama Bamba doula training program.

Part of the self-care we need is debriefing. We need to talk through our experience in order to process the event, and also to have our feelings validated and possibly reframed. We need to be heard just as much as the parents do, and part of our postpartum involvement is listening to the parents debrief their birth story. Doulas need that too, doulas need to be seen and heard just as much as the parents do.

As a counsellor as well as a doula, I offer free debriefing to Mama Bamba student doulas. I also recommend that you have an arrangement with, perhaps your backup or a fellow doula, for a post-birth debrief – sometimes even a voice note can suffice to feel complete. Also it may require more than one or two conversations and it doesn’t matter if it’s your first birth or fifty first birth – debriefing is self-care!
Just find a space to be heard and validated. It makes a huge difference to your health and mental state and is absolutely essential for you to be the best possible doula!

Angela +27 73 665 5884

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