I recently spoke with some pregnant women from the community. Extolling the virtues of being a doula, and waxing ecstatic about how wonderful it is to provide one-to-one help, I did notice that some members of the birth circle were less than thrilled. Breaking out of my cocoon of happiness, I stopped my presentation and enquired as to what was wrong.
May I say that I was blown out of my shoes when one individual spoke out loudly and said, "You can save your breath. I ain't getting no doula. My mom didn't have one and her mom didn't have one, I am going right to the hospital, they can give me an epidural cocktail, I won't feel nothing!" There was general laughing and agreement, with some members volunteering that they didn't know that women needed help during labour, other women who are "weaker" needed doulas to hold their hands, the nurses and doctors would take care of everything for them.
Faced with this outpouring of sentiment, I asked them for a few moments of quiet. I thanked them for sharing their views with me. I then asked them to do a visualization with me: imagine that you have to carry a heavy box, up a steep hill full of potholes, and over slippery slopes. It is 95 degrees. There is no shade. It is humid, the goal is far and getting farther. You thirst, there is no water. You must go on; your feet are blistered, every bone aches.
Now, imagine the same scenario: a heavy box, a steep hill. Halfway up the hill, you meet a stranger, who wipes your face and hands with a cool cloth, and pours out a tall glass of iced lemonade. The stranger smiles at you, and holds the box while you stretch and refresh yourself. There is even a green tree to sit under; you plop, thankfully underneath the verdant shade and lean against a root and close your eyes. After a time, the stranger bids you to rise, and continue your journey. To your surprise, the stranger takes the box and walks with you. When you stop again, you are surprised to see how far you have come...
I concluded the imagery by saying that doulas have been around since after Eve, that slaves in Egypt and in America both used experienced older women to give birth(see the story of Moses), that every culture on earth uses woman-centered care, that it is the exception for "women to give birth alone in the rice fields and keep on going". I then reminded them, the child that they carried along in their wombs, needed them, needed them to be strong, and that the strong and the clever are always the first to ask for help.
I will not boast of success or of failure; the important thing is that those women had a new perspective to contemplate.