I love holding a book in my hands that I just can’t wait to read.
Each chapter, a treasure. Each page, an inspiration.
This is how I feel when I pick up my new copy of “Round the Circle: Doulas Share Their Experiences.” I am particularly joyful as I am one of 23 doulas featured in “Round the Circle” — the first anthology by and for doulas ever to be published.
Below editor Julie Brill, CCCE, CLD reflects upon the crafting and creating of this beautiful anthology. In addition to sharing her words, Julie graciously offers a giveaway copy to a lucky reader of my blog. To enter this giveaway contest, go the the Round the Circle Facebook page and send Julie a message indicating that you’d love to receive a gift copy of her book. A week from now, she will randomly choose a winner. Of course, you can simply order your copy today. It’s well worth it.
I first heard the word doula twenty-three years ago at a midwifery training. I had only recently learned that there were still midwives. (In my defense I was young, childless, there were no organizations that trained and certified doulas, and the internet didn’t yet exist.) I had read A Midwife’s Story for a college course on the Amish, and responding to a mix of curiosity, passion, and fascination that I would later recognize as my professional calling, had later that year signed up for a nine-month midwifery training. I remember what a profound experience it was to be sitting in circle with the other students, women of all ages and varying experience levels, some of whom were pregnant or in class with their nursing babies, and our teachers, all practicing midwives. During introductions I learned what a doula was, someone who provides emotional, physical, and informational support to women and their families during labor, and met women who were already doing the work.
Since the early 1990s the doula profession has grown up. I don’t spend nearly as much time explaining what doulas are, or even spelling the word. Viewers of the tv show About a Boy watch Minnie Driver play a doula, and there have been doulas or doula references on Bones, Mulaney, Jane the Virgin, and others. Doulas might not always like how we are portrayed, but the concept of professional labor support is getting out to the mainstream public. We’ve come a long way.
Last year the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) announced new recommendations for practice that are aimed at lowering our dangerously high cesarean rate. While the World Health Organization (WHO) says that cesarean rates above ten to fifteen percent cause more harm than they prevent, our rates in the U.S. are over thirty-percent. The ACOG recommendations included the use of doulas, saying, “Published data indicate that one of the most effective tools to improve labor and delivery outcomes is the continuous presence of support personnel, such as a doula.”
I want the second generation of doulas who are coming up now to benefit from what we have learned, often the hard way, over the last several decades. My new book, Round the Circle: Doulas Share What They’ve Learned, is the first doula anthology of its kind. It shows what can happen when twenty-three doulas work together to share their expertise and create a mentorship in book format. We’ve created a guide for new and newer doulas, who can benefit from our hard work and experience. It is a unique gift for the birth community, for newbies and those who are experienced.
The title, Round the Circle, comes from my memory of my days as a student midwife sitting in circle with fellow students and our teachers, and from the way I now sit with my students in childbirth classes, and at my doula and childbirth educator workshops. Sitting in circle facilitates the flow of information, and conveys a feeling of informality and sharing in a non-hierarchical setting. The circle is a very female shape, and pregnancy is a time of rounding. Learning occurs not in a linear manner, but in a circular or spiral fashion. We learn a little about a topic, come back at it again now that we have familiarity, and deepen our knowledge. The rounder our knowledge, the more we have to offer perinatal families. This project is intended to help all doulas round their skills.
I’m honored that so many knowledgeable doulas have contributed their time and expertise. They include Amy Wright Glenn, author of Birth, Breath, and Death: Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula, Laurel Wilson and Tracy Wilson Peters, authors of The Attachment Pregnancy, and Rivka Cymbalist, author of The Birth Conspiracy Natural Birth, Hospitals, and Doulas: A Guide. This anthology helps readers learn more about addressing fears mothers may have; encouraging the motherbaby bond; supporting religious and spiritual practices; working with orthodox Jewish families, LGBTQ families, teen mothers, surrogates, immigrants, and incarcerated moms; the pros and cons of attending the births of friends/family members; issues related to becoming personal friends with your clients; the doula’s role in planned and unexpected homebirths and cesarean births; supporting the family after the birth; building and marketing your doula business; and doula self-care.
Ananda Lowe, co-author of The Doula Guide to Birth: Secrets Every Pregnant Woman Should Know, says, “I am so grateful for this circle of wise women’s voices, there to give us the support we deeply need as we support other women. This is the book all doulas should have – right after learning the fundamentals of labor and delivery, and upon bravely entering today’s dramatically-changing landscape of birth.”
The paradox of doula continuing education is that even as experienced doulas, there is always room for us to learn and grow, while newly trained doulas do truly know enough to begin this work. So to beginning doulas everywhere, you are enough to be of service. The most important thing we do as doulas is to show up with our heart and our hands ready to be of service. You’ll learn as you go. And the doulas who have been practicing over this past generation, we’re here to help you.
Julie Brill and baby Ella
In her feature articles, blog posts, and advice column responses, Amy reflects upon yoga, birth, death, motherhood, ethics, and religion/spirituality. She is a regular contributor to PhillyVoice and has blogged for Attachment Parenting International, The Birthing Site, Philly.com, and Holistic Parenting Magazine.
As renowned natural mothering expert Peggy O'Mara notes, "With her triple identity as yoga teacher, doula, and chaplain, Amy Wright Glenn brings a one-of-a-kind tenderness and empathy to her writing and she's not afraid to talk about the difficult parts of life."