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Doulas – the art of being more, by doing less

By January 23, 2019News


As the new year gets underway it is commonly a time to reflect on how we can ‘improve’ ourselves, both personally and professionally. As doulas, we may look at ways to create more work/life balance; to increase our fitness levels; to sign-up for training courses and to be more successful in our career. All valid things to do, yet it would undoubtedly benefit us further in birth to focus on ‘doing’  less.

“Doing is limited; Being is unlimited” 

Before jumping into anything new, why not try being more present with yourself. In a world where being busy is often viewed as a mark of success, it’s good to remember that doing more does not generate more self-worth. Being more connected does create a richer sense of self. Deeper connection with yourself also allows you to respond, not react, in stressful situations – which birth spaces can often be!

When we support a woman through labour we may draw on a range of comfort measures for labour, however, the act of simply ‘Being Present’ with the birthing mother can be the most powerful support skill. Learning how to be still and ‘listen’ to the progress of labour is a profound gift.

Practice being present when you listen to others, this is called active listening, ask yourself “Am I listening to respond or to understand?” Trying to ‘fix it’, or giving advice, takes us out of our own centre. Practice staying grounded and centred when listening to become more present.

As doulas, it’s helpful to remember we don’t need to have all the answers. While it is beneficial to gain knowledge and experience of the birthing process, when a mother is faced with a decision about birth choices remember to ask – “What would help you to feel more confident in your decision making?” Giving advice is not part of the doula role, however, being present, actively listening and supporting the decision-making process are all aspects of the position.

Before I became a doula (or birth support person, as we were called 30 years ago!) I began my birth career as a pre-natal yoga teacher. Teaching yoga I quickly learnt that a great teacher is ‘simply the vessel through which the teachings flow’ . I happily accepted that students may never share their inner wisdom with me. To my surprise, often months later, a new mother would reveal a personal insight she had gained during the yoga class which gave her strength or guidance on the birthing path.

Being an exceptional doula requires the awareness of being more present, becoming ‘the vessel’ and creating a safe space for the pregnant or post-partum mother to discover, and trust in, her own inner wisdom.

Anna Watts is the founder of Celebration of Birth Doula Academy. She is a Sacred Birth Educator, Doula Trainer, Counsellor and Spiritual Healer. The Academy offers Sacred Birth Doula  and Post-natal Doula trainings for both new and experienced doulas to explore birth as a journey of transformation and healing.  Please visit the website for training dates and information about her personal sessions,  in person or via Skype anywhere in the world –

You may also enjoy the practical tips for supporting birth shared here ‘Doula Tips for Comfort in Birth & Beyond’.