Strengthening Midwife/Doula Relationships

Midwifery Today E-News, October 25, 2017 • Volume 19, Issue 22
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“Collaboration is the essence of life. The wind, bees and flowers work together, to spread the pollen.”
―Amit Ray, in Mindfulness: Living in the Moment

Strengthening the Midwife and Doula Relationship

Women supporting women, whether as midwives or doulas, has a long history globally. Midwives and doulas have always been together in one form or another during birth, but in recent history a gap occurred, which sees us practicing less together in partnership for the common goal of supporting women during the childbearing years.

Midwifery Today acknowledges the need to recognize doulas alongside midwives in a new way that shows our support for bridging gaps between these two communities. It is time for doulas and midwives to come together to create strong partnerships. This does not always mean actively practicing together—but coming together in a shared goal of creating and supporting empowering, positive, healthful birth and early parenting experiences for all women. This is critical to birth reform; we are stronger together than apart. Midwives and doulas working collaboratively on this level, we believe, is imperative to creating and supporting a safety net for women and families during pregnancy, birth, and beyond—especially when women give birth in a hospital setting.

With knowledge of the important role doulas play across the spectrum of birth, Midwifery Today is pleased to announce the launch of a new section of the magazine and our website dedicated to our doula sisters—who contribute positively to the birthing community. “The Doula Corner” is part of a multi-pronged approach to incorporate doulas into our organization in an even more meaningful way.

Midwifery Today intends to become a hub for doulas—as it has been for midwives—regardless of their path or practice. In addition to dedicated sections of the magazine and web site, we will explore ways to incorporate doulas in an even greater capacity into our conferences, both nationally and internationally.

Please visit our new website and “The Doula Corner”.

“The Doula Corner” appeared for the first time in Issue 123, Autumn 2017.

—Shea Hardy Baker, Conference Coordinator

Attend a mini-conference in Troutdale, Oregon, on November 10!

You will learn from classes such as “Shoulder Dystocia” with Gail Hart, “Our Eyes and Non-verbal Communication” with Eneyda Spradlin-Ramos and “When the Healer Is Healing, Too” with Maryl Smith. Lunch is included in the price. Plus, you will have the option to save $10 on a one-year Midwifery Today subscription or renewal. You’ll find more information here.

Photo by Shea Hardy Baker

Great teachers and inspiring classes are in store for you in 2018!

Plan now to attend our conference in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, next April. Choose from a variety of classes, including Midwifery Skills, Mexican Traditions and Techniques, Releasing the Pelvis, and Microbiome: Good Bugs for Babies. You’ll learn from teachers such as Elizabeth Davis, Elaine Stillerman, Nancy Wainer, and Eneyda Spradlin-Ramos. Go here to learn more.

Photo by Monet Moutrie—

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Midwife/Doula Q&A

If you are a midwife, were you a doula first and then decided to be a midwife? If you are a doula, do you plan to someday become a midwife? If you are a midwife and plan to become a doula instead, tell us about that, too.

I’m a doula planning to become a CNM.
—Ashley Bennett Procacci

I am currently a doula but plan on becoming a midwife.
—Phoenix Rupp

I know, first, that I’m called to be a midwife. I am in the early stages of my apprenticeship and study. With the encouragement of my preceptor, I’m also working as a doula. In part, it gives me more experience with birth and, in part, it gives me a way to make money to fund my midwifery studies and/or help the family.
—Heather Barrett

I was a doula for a long time and denied wanting to be a midwife because I didn’t want the responsibility. It was a combination of God’s hand opening the right doors and being totally fed up with the hospital system that finally convinced me to pursue midwifery. I think doula work has a tremendous value for midwives, even those who know they are called to be a midwife and don’t feel the need to do doula work. Doula work teaches so much and it gives you the knowledge of what goes on in a hospital, what many of your clients are fleeing from, and what you may have in store when you transfer.
—Camarell Anderson

I trained as a doula with the goal of becoming a midwife. I love serving women in the hospital but my heart is to be a homebirth midwife.
—Shannon Postell

I have been a midwife many years. I think next I just might take some training to be a doula with women who know their baby doesn’t get to live and stay on the planet. I may have learned enough to be able to support that as a service and devotion.
—Barbara Covington

I knew before I started training that I would be a doula for a while, until I felt ready. Then I would begin midwifery school.
—Goldie Boyd

Yes, a doula first. Then I became a midwife out of frustration with what I saw.
—Desiree Daniels LeFave

I am a doula and I plan to become a midwife eventually. I’ve always wanted to catch babies but, in my limited knowledge, I grew up believing that meant OB. I actually hoped I could deliver babies without doing c-sections (I was in my teens then). In 2003/2004, I withdrew my applications from medical school because something didn’t feel right. Long story short, I discovered birth work while in seminary. I became a doula and CBE. I can now explore and learn. I’ll walk into my calling when I have a little more knowledge and some more maturity under my belt.
—Lakeisha Dennis

I went into midwifery as a birth assistant then completed an apprenticeship. I did a few doula births. That wasn’t my calling and there are plenty of doulas in my area.
—Michelle Sanders

I am a doula planning on becoming a midwife.
—Shilo Anderson

I was a doula first. The midwife who attended the first birth where I was a doula told me midwifery was my “calling.” I was young and didn’t even know I was being a doula, just supporting my friends. I am an apprenticing midwife now and feeling that she was right. I am still being a doula at births and would like to transition from doula to midwife. Any suggestions? I feel I am missing out on certain midwife observations as I support couples.
—Kara Crawford

I was a childbirth educator for many years, then a childbirth education trainer, attending a few births here and there before “doula” was a word. I caught my first baby in 1978. I thought about “someday” being a midwife. Then I found out doulas existed and could actually get paid! (What a concept.) I did official doula work and apprenticed to get my IBCLC. Then, only by the grace of God, I went into midwifery school and became officially a midwife in 2005. I will be a midwife until I die.
—Pamela Golliet

I am a nurse midwife and I want to be a doula as well.
—Randa Beydoun

I was a massage therapist and doula and am now a nurse-midwifery student. I knew I wanted to be a midwife shortly after becoming a massage therapist and became a doula to get experience with laboring women. I loved being a doula—it was magical, and will definitely enhance my future practice as a midwife. I will likely do more doula work as a student and a new midwife, and can’t wait to work in tandem with doulas. Looking back, though: It really was massage therapy that opened the door to midwifery for me.
—Erin Graham

Always a doula, 17 years on, and in more recent years I have been facilitating training courses for doulas. I’ve noticed many more midwives coming to the course than women planning to go on to become midwives, but I do see a fair amount of both.
—Kate Woods

I started as a doula for hospital births and year or so later knew that I wanted to study homebirth midwifery. I am still a student midwife.
—Alli Popowich

I have always wanted to become a midwife and became a doula as a step toward that. Now that I have been doing this for about nine years, I would still like to be a midwife, but if it never happens (it is difficult to access midwifery education here). Being a doula is a close second.
—Bodicea Milljour

Hopefully as a midwife I can give doula-style care as well. I think doulas are becoming more common because midwives are becoming further removed—by the avalanche of regulation and paperwork (especially in the hospital system)—from their original calling to serve women in any way possible. Sometimes I think it would be easier just to let go of my registration, together with all the responsibility and personal risk that goes with it, and just be with women—all care and no responsibility. The other day I was at a gathering where someone defined a midwife as being someone who could “do” and who had the practical skills and a doula as someone who was more emotionally supportive … that hurt!
—Alison Reid

Fledgling doula with thoughts of becoming a CPM, because I worry for our HBAC mamas when my midwife retires. But I also worry for my freedom if I do go down that road since I’d operate illegally.
—Sarah Roeder

I am a doula in Brazil, applying to a University in order to become a midwife.
—Priscila Cavalcanti de Albuquerque

Doula and childbirth educator. I have no intentions of becoming a midwife, although I am scared of the calling. I get it often. Scared….
—Jenny Hernandez Thompson

I was a doula first and then apprenticed with a midwife. Through my apprenticeship, I realized that being a midwife shifted my focus in a way that was not where my heart was leading me. Serving women to help them through their labor and witnessing that achievement as a doula was where I belonged.
—Cyndi Gross

I feel pretty content doing doula work right now. I thought I was headed down the path to CPM, but left my apprenticeship to “just be a doula.”
—Kate Donahue

I’m reasonably young (28) and have always wanted to be a midwife but recently started my journey as a student doula and am very much enjoying the work: waiting to see where it takes me. I haven’t ruled out the possibility of studying to be a midwife—maybe when I’m finished having my own children.
—Sophie Merchant

I finished my doula training six years ago and am pretty happy with that choice, the only downside being that it’s impossible to make a living from it here in Iceland. In years to come, I would like to get educated further in the field of childbirth, but am currently in a career-wise existential crisis. I wonder if I should remain as “only” a doula, add some holistic training (herbs, etc.), psychotherapy, nursing, midwifery, psychology.… The possibilities are so endless that I am currently hardly practicing and have a 9–5 office job.
—Eydis Hentze Petursdottir

I’ve been a L&D nurse for 11 years and recently became a birth doula. I would love to be a LM one day!
—Tanishia Roberts Huff

I’m a doula planning to become a midwife—not a CNM though—through apprenticeship. My ultimate plan is doula by day, ninja midwife by night. I feel safer having midwifery knowledge to back up my doula work. If I’m responsible for a laboring mom at home, I want the knowledge and experience to take care of her and baby in every way. I am still working out exactly how to officially get there though. Being a doula is in my soul and I’d never give that up, but catching a baby now and then would be cool, too. It seems that having the word “midwife” behind your name puts a target on your back in many states now. “Doula” is much less threatening to the establishment, so my plan is some sort of secret agent doula apprentice-midwife hybrid.
—Teresa Fox Magri

I felt called to midwifery, but went to massage school first. During my undergrad (in women’s studies) the director of the CNM program suggested I become a doula to get some experience, which I have loved. I’m now in my last year of nursing school, and plan to become a CNM after having some babies of my own.
—Johanna Macaulay

I was a doula and thought I would progress to becoming a midwife. It seemed like a natural progression. I became a Dr. of psychology instead, focusing on marriage and childbirth issues—in particular the trauma surrounding our current obstetrical practices.
—Pauline Dillard

I am a doula and will be a midwife someday. I have always wanted to be a midwife.
—Krystina Thomas

I had always planned to become a midwife but love being a doula. I think I can make more of a difference as a doula not being controlled by governing bodies.
—Gayle Eckey

I’ve been a doula for five years and began my calling into midwifery less than a year ago.
—Brianna Jensen

Doula and childbirth educator … then midwife for years … still teaching prenatal classes … then hypnotist and sometimes doula. I am still teaching prenatal classes, but with a hypnosis twist.
—Shawn Gallagher

I am a doula. I was a midwife for five plus years, and now a doula and doula trainer. It just makes better sense for me. I loved being a midwife, but I feel I can make a greater birth impact as a doula and doula trainer.
—Demetria Clark

I know in my heart I’m a midwife. I’ve been a doula for the past six years and taught yoga and relaxation for pre/postnatal mums for 16 years. I hope to get accepted [to study for a bachelor’s in midwifery in Sydney].
—Jen Ishta Daya

Doula for 20 years, then midwife.
—Treesa McLean

I’m a doula, and admittedly a wannabe CPM in theory, but not in practice. There is no CPM model in the country where I live, and I do doula work only occasionally because we have four small children. For me to be a homebirth midwife only occasionally doesn’t justify what would be six or seven years of training and working to qualify to be a homebirth midwife here. For now I’m really grateful to have “doulaship” in my life, and to be able to be with women and help them have their preferred birth.
—Chaya Kasse Valier

I am a birth doula and midwife’s assistant working toward becoming a midwife. I have always wanted to be a midwife, but I chose this path of “stair-stepping” my way into birth work because I know being a midwife is a big responsibility and I wanted the chance to ease into the work.
—Nikki Rott Imes

I am a certified doula who is now apprenticing under a CPM to become a midwife.
—Lynette Kendall

I was a certified doula first but just submitted my CPM application to NARM and am finally nearing my licensure as a midwife!
—Kristen Gibson

I am a doula and plan to stay a doula. If I were to ever go any further, it might be as a midwife’s assistant, but I don’t think I’d ever become a midwife. I like supporting the mom, but I really have no desire to be the one to make medical decisions or have the whole of care on my shoulders. I love my job as a doula and educator!
—Cindy Jenkins Beard

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Website Highlight

The Midwife and the Doula: A Tale of Two Sisters
by Vicki Penwell


For 12 months and more than 100 births, this midwife and doula sister-team have worked together at births. But it was not the first time we attended births together, and it was not the first time we raced to beat each other out the door when a labor call came. Read more.


Opportunities in El Paso. Premier Birth Center seeking: 1) Experienced midwives to join our team of independent providers; 2) Student midwives for clinical placement. For more information contact David: The Retreat

What is a doula?

Learn about doulas, what they do and why they are important in Doulas, an e-book from Midwifery Today. Articles include “The Doula Phenomenon and Authentic Midwifery: Protection as a Keyword” by Michel Odent, “A Birth Doula for Every Mother” by Allie Chee, and “A Doula’s Bag-of-Tricks: What’s in It for You?” by Debra Pascali-Bonaro. Available on Amazon or on Smashwords in a variety of formats.

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