Monday, September 26, 2005

Doulas: A Good Centrist Family Idea

Doulas are “wise women of birth” who help pregnant women have a healthier and happier pregnancy, and then advise mothers through their baby’s infancy. High-end doulas work with upper middle class first-time moms for $1,000 per birth. A new movement has started among family helping agencies to employ doulas to assist the poorest and least-prepared mothers.

Centrists should, I think, support the idea of doulas at both ends of the economic spectrum. The high-end doulas are a market solution to the problem of professional-class women who have uprooted themselves from the experienced mothers of their own families. Subsidized doulas help the women and girls who need them most. Mothers benefit, children benefit, and the public benefits, including the long-term economic benefit of healthier babies and children.

A doula service can sensibly be found on both sides of the public/private divide. Government social service agencies could employ them just as readily as private family-support groups can. Tax money could be channeled through faith-based agencies for doulas without having to enter the minefield of church/state issues around contraception and birth control.

Every well-intentioned effort to help solve a problem can, of course, unintentionally create more of that problem. Nonetheless, I think providing help to inexperienced mothers who are already pregnant would not do much to add to the number of poor teens who get pregnant in the first place. It is also likely that a number of doulas, like the ones featured in Jodi Wilgoren’s recent New York Times story and the related PBS documentary, will be former poor teen moms themselves. Creating a doula service would give work to women who need it. Beyond the immediate help that they can give, women who learned the hard way about the difficulties of teen pregnancy may be the most effective counselors to teen mothers to keep them from having their second too-young pregnancy.


Anonymous said...

Doulas are also excellent in cases in which husbands are queasy, indolent, or just plain incompetent. As my wife pointed out, doulas are particularly useful in keeping doctors in line during labor when husbands have inadvertently fallen asleep.

Gruntled said...

Upper middle class professionals, who expect to move far from their natal home in the service of their careers, are as cut off from basic family information as the most parochial slum teen living on her own. Upper middle class men might be a little more helpful because a) they are more likely to be there than slum fathers, and b) they might read about babies. As my wife points out, though, the men she knows aren't all that likely to do the reading, either. Perhaps we need the male equivalent of doulas for new fathers.

Milliner's Dream, a woman of many "hats"... said...

Most of us who are doulas have always worked on a sliding fee scale--and most have a sliding fee that slides to zero $ if necessary to accomodate a client.

I appreciate your promoting the idea of doulas--and remember there are birth and postpartum doulas.

We also support women through the birth they want and work with women who have or are without Dads/Partners.


Gruntled said...

Thank you, multi-hatted doula. What would you think of a government funded doula service, targeted at unmarried teens?

Milliner's Dream, a woman of many "hats"... said...

Just wandering back in here, months later, and realized you had replied to my comment!

I'm enjoying another look at your blog.

I do think that with what you describe, it could become interference.

Amongst some of us have discussed how with insurance coverage of our services, if/when it ever becomes the norm (it sure is not now) would come the inevitable restrictions on how, what, where, when, why.

For now, I am, and my colleagues are, happy to work the way we do, try to match new and certifying doulas with mothers for births for free or low-cost, etc.


Gruntled said...

Are most doulas religiously motivated? Is that why they are wary of governmental restrictions?

Milliner's Dream, a woman of many "hats"... said...

Not at all.

Even though I am a spiritual, church-going, Bible-believing, Christian it isn't why I am a doula. I'm a Christian who happens to be a doula.

There are doulas of every ilk.

The deal, for me, with gov't "restrictions" is that I work for the client, not the government, the hospital, the doctor, the nurse, etc.

And I do understand the benefit to some things--like doula services being covered for clients--however, I think that then puts limits on services and makes it need to meet the insurance guidelines, not necessarily the client's wishes.

In some ways, it also defeats the purpose of having a doula--for physical, emotional, and informational support, as we do nothing medical. We are part of the birth team, however, not in a medical sense.


P.S. Thanks for visiting my blog. I do have other doula links not included in the list, as well.

Anonymous said...

searched your blog after a conversation with friends -- I would love to see a post on the use of birth control by married Christian women. is it wrong to use when there is a slight chance you may "abort" an egg/fetus by taking it? are you telling God you don't trust his plan for the number of children you will have?

Gruntled said...

What kind of birth control do you have in mind that could abort (or "abort") a fetus? Do you just mean the "morning-after pill," or do you think of contraception as abortion?