I attended my first doula training four years ago. I enjoyed my time at that training, and I remember feeling very inspired by the end of it. I always meant to blog about my experiences at that training, but I never got around to it. Now it is hard to remember exactly how I felt during and after that training.
What I remember vividly is how I felt after attending my first birth. I'll never forget it. I can sum up how I felt with one word.
I was unprepared for how strong the hospital system is. I was unprepared about routine procedures. I was unprepared for the local birthing culture. I was unprepared for hostile, suspicious, and sarcastic nurses. I was unprepared for unsupportive care providers. I was unprepared for intrusive family members. I was unprepared for what I saw in that birthing room that day. All I really knew about at that time was natural birth with supportive care providers, and what I saw was far from that.
Far. Far. Far. From that.
I was unprepared for the complete disregard of this sacred event by the hospital staff while a new person was entering the world. While a woman was becoming a mother, and a human being was being born, they were talking with each other about running. They weren't even acknowledging the fact that there was a woman in front of them, giving birth! They weren't even paying attention to her. They were doing things to her, but it didn't include respecting her or honoring the birth in any way. It was just all in a day's work for them.
I was completely unprepared for that.
I blamed myself, the hospital staff, and my training. I felt like I just wasn't prepared enough. Since then, I've been on a quest. There were so many gaps in my knowledge, and I have been on a quest to fill those gaps. I've come to learn, that with birth, it will be a lifelong journey. Much of my training has come simply by gaining more experience supporting birthing women. But much of my training has come from attending other workshops. I attended a Spinning Babies workshop not too long after my first training and thought, "This is what I wish I'd had in my doula training. This stuff makes sense."
Even so, there were still gaps. I was still searching for...something... I wasn't sure what, but I knew I needed something.
Eventually I was able to take my Birth Boot Camp Instructor training. Preparing for that training was intense to say the least. There was a lot of work, but I soaked it all in. Even though I was preparing to teach natural chilbirth classes, I felt like all of that work was making me a better doula. During my training, several of us who were doulas, were discussing how we wished our doula training had been like this. It was revealed that Birth Boot Camp was developing a doula training! I knew I had to find a way to take this training. I didn't think the opportunity would come so quickly, but I'm glad it did.
What exactly do I love about the Birth Boot Camp DOULA Program?
1. All of the coursework must be completed before the training. This includes all of the reading, the study guide, attendance at local support groups, a list of community resources, and attendance at a childbirth class. Since the first training group were all Birth Boot Camp Instructors already, we didn't have to do that. Those who aren't instructors will have access to the online version of the Birth Boot Camp classes. No asking to sit in on someone else's class. No trying to find one that qualifies. No attending an extra day at training. Everyone at the training will have completed all of the paperwork, so everyone there is on the same page. No one asking questions about things that were covered in the prerequisite "required reading."
2. We HAD to read the books. With my first training, it wasn't required to have read all of the books in order to attend. We were "required" to read The Birth Partner, but nothing else. In order to complete certification, we had to sign a piece of paper saying that we read the books. Because I'm the type of person who can't even take unused gloves home from the hospital that would just be thrown in the garbage anyway (inside joke from my Birth Boot Camp DOULA training), I indeed read the books before signing the page. But there's really no way to know that. Really. I could be lying.
Now having spent many years as a student and writing book reports and whatnot, I'm sure even with us having to write book reports for the Birth Boot Camp DOULA training, I could have fudged things. There's really no way to know if someone read every single word. But what I do know, is we had to know something out of all of those books in order to attend the training.
3. We had to complete a study guide. Again, we had to read something out of all of the books to answer the questions. Or, at least we needed to know where to find the answers, which is good for helping clients later. Completing the study guide helped me to know what I needed to know as a doula.
4. We had to take an exam at the end of training. This was another way to make sure that were were paying attention during training and that we did the work. Admittedly, my exam after my Birth Boot Camp Instructor training was way more in-depth and intense than the one at the doula training, but I still think it is a good way to make sure that doulas are prepared to enter the field.
5. The Supporting Arms booklet. It's gorgeous! All of the marketing material available to me as a Birth Boot Camp DOULA is gorgeous!
6. Community. I keep in touch with other Birth Boot Camp DOULAS regularly. I don't think a day goes by that I don't have contact with at least one of them. If I have questions, need to vent, or even need to share some joy, they are there for me.
7. Business training. There was a lot of information on how to run a sustainable business and how that looks different for everyone. I didn't keep count of how many times the words sustainable or sustainability were said at training, but they were probably said more than any other word. They helped me to realize that I am still a legit and worthwhile doula even though I may not be able to attend nearly as many births as some of the busier doulas around me. I still have something to offer. I am doing exactly what I need to do in order to run a sustainable business. I am exactly where I want to be right now.
8. Relational support. This training put a name to the thing that separates one doula from another and makes a couple want to hire one doula over another. This is really what couples are seeking. How do they feel when they are around me? Am I someone they want to have around during their birthing time? I had been looking for "that thing" for a long time, and they finally gave it a name and made it make sense to me.
9. Continuing support from my trainers. They are there ready to answer questions and share in triumphs. They are willing to help me fill in more gaps as I learn and grow during this doula journey. Most recently, I had a question about how to develop my intuition, and my trainer recommended a book that I immediately checked out from the library. I have been reading it the past week or so, and it has really helped me. This was probably a small thing to her, and it probably took her two seconds to answer my question, but for me, it was amazing. I've already had the opportunity to use what I've learned from this book at a birth, and it made such an incredible difference.