I am a reverend and a doula. I am an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ (UCC). I currently work as a part-time chaplain at a hospital in Austin. I’m also a DONA -certified birth and postpartum doula.
I’m really interested in the ways these two roles intersect—I’m developing a theology of birth (what I call birtheology). I blog on this occasionally, if you’re interested in reading more. One of my goals with birtheology is to give families some tools to reflect on the process of pregnancy and birth as a spiritual experience. I write specifically from a Christian perspective, as that is my own faith tradition.
It may be that because I have reverend in my business name, you might be wondering whether if I am your doula, am I going to go all Jesus-y on you? And the answer is no. That is, unless Jesus is a meaningful part of your own practice of spirituality. In my doula work and even in my chaplain work, I don’t bring up God unless the person I am working with does so first. Just because my faith informs who I am, that doesn’t mean I expect faith to be a part of who you are. I do my best to meet people where they are, and provide emotional and spiritual support that is responsive to who they are as individuals.
Obviously, I have my own religious beliefs. But a huge part of my chaplain training involved learning how to put my own beliefs aside to be able to be fully present and responsive to the person I am serving. The same skill is necessary in doula work. Of course, I have my own preferences and beliefs about birth. I have twice given birth myself, so I have personal experience with the process! But my birth is not your birth. My choices may or may not coincide with your choices. I strive to put my own beliefs aside to be able to be fully present and responsive to the person I am serving, whether I do so as a chaplain or as a doula.
Really, what I do as a doula and what I do as a chaplain have a lot in common. Obviously, the situations will differ, but the care I provide for families facing major transition moments in life together involves:
listening carefully to their hopes and their fears,
naming and helping them to address the fears that are keeping them from finding hope,
and helping them to embrace the moment they are in, whatever that may be.