My Philosophy: Empowerment

Photo by  Allie Smith  on  Unsplash

Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

Today I’d like to reflect a little bit on the final core value of my practice: empowerment.

A big part of the work that I do involves advocacy, but maybe not in the way you would think. As a doula, I can’t (and shouldn’t ) speak for the families I support. I can (and should), however, help them advocate for themselves. I always tell my childbirth education students that if they don’t remember anything else from class, I want them to remember the section on decision-making. I want them to remember that it is their legal right to ask questions and have all their concerns addressed before agreeing to anything. I walk all my students and all my families through the decision-making process. I use the acronym BRAIN.

“B” stands for “benefits.” What are the benefits of this decision? What are you hoping to get from this decision?

“R” stands for “risks.” What are the things listed on the consent form? What could go wrong? What might be a drawback that’s personal to you?

“A” stand for “alternatives.” What could you do instead? You might suggest an alternative or your provider or support person may have some options. Alternatives are usually less risky, but objectively less effective. That doesn’t mean that they’re not a good choice for you, however!

“I” stands for “instincts” or “intuition.” What does your gut tell you? What do you know about yourself that might have an impact on this decision? What do your support people observe?

“N” stands for “no” or “not now.” What happens if you wait? Do you have time to talk or think about this decision? Is this an emergency?

I always remind people that they go through this process every day, but the stakes are a little bit higher during birth, so it’s nice to have the steps broken down.

As I talked about in this post, people give birth within a broken system every day. And I can’t fix the system, but I can do my best to empower my families to know their options, ask questions and be clear in their values. I can help create a space for them where they have agency and a voice.

I’m not much one for quotes, but I saw this on Facebook the other day and it resonated with me: “Doulas don’t fly in with their super hero capes on; they come in and help you tighten your own.” Cheesy? Maybe. True? Definitely.

Maggie Mehr