Sometimes it seems to me that much of the world has firmly grasped the wrong end of the stick about doulas. I suppose us humans have quite a propensity to over-complicate and over-think things but in reality, this doula thing isn’t so weird when you look at us in the same light as you would when faced with any other new adventure – you look for your guide, your companion and your source of comfort as you negotiate your journey.
Imagine for a minute you were planning a trip to the mountains. Some of you, I have no doubt, would relish the challenge of striking out alone. You’d do your research, purchase your maps and head off towards adventure wearing your sturdy new boots.
In contrast, some of you would buy a package tour, place yourselves in the expert hands of the tour guides and holiday company and enjoy being swept along with the rest of the group.
Still others enjoy being independent travellers, but with someone there, just for them, who might know the routes and who would make time to get to know your preferences and ambitions.
I see myself as a sherpa. I’m not better in any way than those I guide, but I have been this way before.
I know how experienced my walking companions are and I can see the loads you carry and whether they are heavy, or light.
Maybe I point out the different paths as we go along. I might have a feel for which paths may suit you, but my role is just to describe the paths – not to promote or dissuade.
Some people take a path because they think it’s quicker, or easier, more beautiful or because they can be carried along it by others, but others may hate it, or fear its narrow ledges or have heard terrible things about the dangers it presents to the weary traveller.
Some might believe there is an ‘access forbidden’ sign at the entrance to a certain path, or others might know someone who walked that path and fallen.
Another path might be well trodden and look inviting and full of travelling companions. Expert mountaineers might believe this way is safest.
But if the mountaineers don’t know anything about the travellers, how can they work out what paths they might like, what paths would be safest and most satisfying and what baggage they carry on their journey?
Your sherpa will get to know you: your sherpa cares about you, and doesn’t have to worry about the other travellers on the path.
If we don’t know someone well, we need to be careful about how we describe the ways. We might put them off the journey all together, or the result might be a journey alone, with no loving companion.
Ultimately, I don’t think everyone needs or would benefit from a doula, just as I don’t think everyone should have the same kind of holiday – what a boring world that would be! But not understanding and accepting that others might benefit from a companion on the path? Well that just seems a bit shortsighted to me.
I’m off to break in my new walking boots.