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  • Writer's pictureKatie McCarthy

How Doula Training Changed Me

My doula training was a life-changing experience. I walked in on the first day with my notebook and birth ball, excited and eager to learn. I expected to learn the role of a doula, how to comfort a mother during labor, and a little about the on-call lifestyle. But what actually happened was that a fire was lit inside me. A fire fueled by a desire for advocacy and change.

Childbirth is an intimate experience. And in order to support someone during this time, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. As a bit of an introvert, opening up to a room full of strangers was a challenge. 

But I did. 

I saw videos of women becoming mothers. I heard stories from those around me of personal trauma and loss. I heard stories of postpartum depression so raw that you could feel it in the room. And I cried for all of them.

You could feel the power of the femininity in that space, of the shared experiences and common goals. The desire to initiate change was palpable. Women from all walks of life were in attendance - different ages, races and backgrounds. But we were all there for the same reason. We wanted to support other women during one of the most impactful times of their lives. And we wanted to be part of the change.

Let me tell you. Before my training I didn't even know that any change was needed. I didn’t realize how broken the system was. Did you know that Erie County has one of New York State's highest maternal and infant mortality rates? And that for African American mothers, the rate is three times higher? There's something wrong with this. 

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that doctors or midwifes have bad intentions when it comes to care. Just that individualized care is not the norm. Pregnancy and childbirth are usually approached in a cookie-cutter manner where every woman is expected to have the same experience. But ask any three women about their births, and you will hear three very different stories. 

Ask ten women. Twenty even. They are all unique. 

Because each woman is unique.

Childbirth is a life-changing experience. The way a woman is treated during her birth impacts the way she will perceive the experience. It will define who she is from that day on. I was inspired by the stories I heard of doulas helping families achieve better birth experiences. And by the power of kind words and positive affirmations. I was empowered by the research that proved the positive effect a doula can have on someone's labor (check out the evidence here). From education and advocacy to physical and emotional support, doulas provide continuous support during labor. Sometimes it just takes a kind presence in your birth space to change a potentially negative experience into a positive one.

I left that training a new person. I began to notice things in the world I’d overlooked in the past. I became more sensitive to the experiences of others. I understood that trauma looks different to everyone, and that a traumatic experience can impact all aspects of someone’s life.  I left knowing that birth is beautiful and empowering. 

I left that training a better person. 

I was a doula.

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