Labour with Dignity: Why I Became a Doula

Caitlin Shields

When you’re a doula, you inevitably get asked about why you became one. We all have our stories explaining why, and sometimes it gets very personal.

My husband and I now live in Mississauga, but I grew up in Nova Scotia. In Halifax, we have one hospital where all the babies are born. I think I could count on one hand the number of doulas in the city. That number is growing, which I am very happy to see, as well as the number of midwives that are available. For me, the access to choices in healthcare, and specifically prenatal care, is so important, and part of why I do this work. People deserve to know what their options are, and to have answers to their questions.

When my friends started having children, it was exciting. I was overjoyed to meet the little people they were creating. I watched as they posted their bellies growing on Facebook, shared in their happiness during baby showers, and sympathized when their feet were too swollen for their shoes. But, the further they got in their pregnancies, the more frustrated I felt for them. Although they all ended up with healthy babies, their experiences were less than ideal; and for many, they felt let down and disappointed. We didn’t know things could be any different.

Looking so pretty after a 28-hour birth.

This led me to learn what a doula was. I don’t remember how I came across the concept, but when I read about this role: of someone to coach them through their labour, to be uninterrupted support, someone they could talk to and explain how they were feeling, and get advice on what to do next; I thought, “Yes. This is awesome. This is for me.”

My first time attending a birth as a doula was for a wonderful couple at Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga. That was the day I knew I had made the right choice. They may not know how much I appreciated the fact they let me be there for them. But since then, the feeling I get from attending a birth is a feeling that keeps me going for days.

Full disclosure, I am a childless doula, so I don’t have my own childbirth experience that pushed me into this role. My husband and I have had our own fertility challenges, so we may never have that opportunity; but that makes me want to support people in labour even more. If I can’t experience this, then I want to make sure you have all the support you need. Bringing a baby into the world requires being at your most vulnerable, and I believe families deserve the very best support, and to be treated with dignity while doing so.

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