Remember the nonsense riddle from Alice in Wonderland – “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” There was no answer to the question of course, but since I love analogies and tend to understand my world from drawing parallels, I ask the question, “How is a doula like glee club member?”
I have a very talented son-in-law. He is talented in many ways (like loving “my girls” and being perpetually “outdaughtered” day-in and day-out,) but one of the first things I knew about him was that he was a singer and performer. My sweet daughter connected with him around these talents in college, but now it translates mainly into some pretty incredible bedtime performances for the kiddos.
However, I recently watched him in a men’s vocal ensemble during a talent show for my daughter’s performing arts studio in Raleigh (check out Field of Dreams Performing Arts!)
The other two singers were without a doubt talented, but three talented guys on stage with three different vocal qualities (and not much time for preparation) can sometimes go terribly wrong with a three male egos involved. They were great, but I noticed something that I hadn’t thought much about before (full disclaimer – I can’t carry a note in a tin bucket.) I noticed my SIL was not the standout in the vocal trio. Rather than singing louder and stronger than the others, he allowed his voice to sink into the gap between the other two and somehow the entire trio was suddenly working as one. Everyone sounded better because he could skillfully harmonize and wrap around their voices. I could not pick his voice out of the mix, but the entire performance was so much better! He easily could have been the front-and-center star, but instead of asserting himself as the standout, he made the trio a star!
A good doula should be just like that. You should not think of them first when you remember your birth experience. You should remember your partner, think fondly about your whole powerful birth team, and most importantly – the parents should remember themselves as the “stars” in the beginning of this epic story of their family. A good doula does not sing louder than everyone else. A skillful doula creates harmony in the experience and does not shine the light on herself. Without her, perhaps the team would not function as fluidly. She should offer alternatives, help mom and dad communicate with caregivers, and support their decisions – both physically and emotionally (and maybe spiritually.)
Personally, I consider it a small victory when there are no pictures of myself from the birth. Your doula should provide a healthy snack and lip balm that appears out of nowhere, stop the partner from throwing their back out with the wrong position, and encourage the family to meet their goals in the best way they can within the circumstances at the time. She doesn’t hold your baby without a need, and the pool takedown and cleanup will happen without fanfare. She makes the birth team shine and facilitates the epic beginning of this family.
And that is how a doula is like a glee club member!. They are that one person who chooses to create and enhance harmony, rather than becoming the standout. And like any good glee club, you should hold some careful auditions! Ask your doula about the role that she plays and the skills she brings to the ensemble (does she carry a TENS machine? Is she trained in acupressure or aromatherapy?) Make sure you find the right fit that will enhance the harmony in your ensemble. When that important day comes, you will make beautiful music together!