Doulas & Freebirth

Updated: Nov 24, 2019

I respect and appreciate the modern day doula. I also clearly see that what a doula does is a fractured piece of what holistic, traditional birth keeping and midwifery truly are.

The space that exists for doulas to practice was created by the medicalization of birth, which is a byproduct of male supremacy.

The concept of professional doulas serving women who choose to have unassisted births does not make sense to me. Hear me out, this is probably not going where you think it is. I'm not concerned about the legality and liability aspects at play here, especially living in Minnesota where there are no restrictions on who can serve a birthing woman in her home. And I’m not going to get into the semantics of what qualifies as Freebirth, or unassisted childbirth, and what doesn’t. Frankly, I’m over that.

I don't deny that emotional and physical support for a woman choosing to birth autonomously outside the system is requested by lots of mamas. What I'm suggesting is that women who are truly committed to unassisted birth don’t invite paid witnesses. And if for some reason they do, a doula should be concerned about the level of ownership and responsibility a woman is accepting over her birth experience.

What is mama actually paying for? What are her expectations from a doula should something deviate from the norm?

The vast majority of the time, when a woman who wants an unassisted birth hires a Doula, she really should have hired a midwife instead. And there’s no shame in this choice. There’s no shame in inviting a trusted female friend to support and witness an autonomous birth either. In a perfect scenario, all a midwife does is witness, hold space, and provide emotional and physical support to a laboring woman.

In this way, midwives ARE doulas and so much more. The division between the role of a midwife and the role of a doula when it comes to "support" in a home setting is ridiculous, and it serves the patriarchal world which aims to divide us.

If a birthing mother thinks her homebirth midwife (and any assistants or apprentices she might bring with her) is not enough, I question the model of midwifery care she is receiving. I also question the idealizations she has about birth. A whole team of people observing, monitoring and supporting a mother isn’t going to change the fact that she has to do the work of birth herself, and this work is often a very internal process.

I will never call myself a doula. I have no qualms with witnessing and supporting women in their autonomous birthing spaces, but my calling is not doula work. I don’t think what the world needs is more doulas willing to attend freebirths.

What the world needs is more midwives whose offerings reflect the needs of the mamas currently choosing unassisted births.

That means hands off and hands out. That means trusting the mama, baby and physiology of birth. That means refusing to submit to licensing control and certification parameters which coerce consent and limit refusal. What it means is repairing the rift between Midwife and Doula and smashing the patriarchal oppression that separated them in the first place.

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