Mindfulness meditation is one of the fastest-growing health trends in the United States, according to the CDC. But what is mindfulness, and why might it be helpful for your work as a professional doula?
Mindfulness is “The awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, in Purser, 2015). As doula’s we know that having a loving and non-judgmental mindset is key to connecting skillfully with our clients, their family members, and the other professionals we are working with for each client case.
When we pay attention on purpose, we are attending to the situation right in front of us by dropping any assumptions we might have about what we think should be happening, and instead, showing up for what is before us. Because of the continually changing nature of birth and parenting, mindfulness practice can be a key to navigating the challenges that arise with change. For example, when we get attached to having a specific outcome for our clients birth, we can create more suffering for ourselves and even for our clients. We can control our attitude, but we cannot control our environment. I’ll say that again, we can control our attitude, but we cannot control our environment. Mindfulness practice teaches us how to respond rather than react. Can you think of a situation when you might need to do this while supporting a client?
You don’t have to become a yogi to practice mindfulness, but you can apply the foundational attitudes of mindfulness to your doula practice as a way to check yourself and stay centered.
Treating each moment as if it is the first time you have ever encountered it. It doesn’t matter how many clients you have worked with; you’ve never been to this birth. Having an attitude of curiosity for the moment in front of you.
A non-judging mindset is a cornerstone to CAPPA, so you already know how to practice this one. There is no one way to do anything, every option, practice, experience is valid, and it is our job as doulas to help our clients figure out what might be the best path for them. We might have preferences, but when it comes to supporting our clients, their choices are what matters at that moment.
Acceptance can be a hard one to practice, especially when things are unfolding in a way that makes us uncomfortable. One way to work with this is first to acknowledge the reality and then move towards acceptance. Acknowledgment might look like having to miss your kids birthday party because your client’s labor has stalled and you don’t have a back up available. Acceptance might become feeling grateful and at peace with missing the party, knowing that you were where you needed to be.
I prefer letting be; to me, this means having the capacity to hold all possible client outcomes in our awareness, without getting attached to a certain kind of birth, or taking responsibility for our client’s experience. Letting go could also mean giving our full heart in client consultation and not getting hired, accepting this, moving on, and not resenting our colleague who got the job.
Your self-reliance, and your ability to support the person in front of you. You don’t need to know everything; in fact, you can’t know everything but trust that what you do know is enough at this moment. You are enough, just as you are.
For yourself and the process. Just like birth, building a career takes time. Learning takes time. You will get there (where ever there may be!) just so long as you keep showing up for yourself and your clients. Non-Striving (Non-doing)
Just like forcing the labor process along with unnecessary interventions can cause problems, we also need to be mindful that forcing ourselves can be harmful as well. Holding an intention for what we want and where we want to go, alongside a gentleness for where we are in life, can be one of the kindness and most helpful things we can do for ourselves.
The human brain tends to swing towards negativity, which causes a whole bunch of unnecessary stress and pain. When we regularly practice gratitude, we can change the brain to experience more happiness, connection, and well-being, which can help us to avoid burnout and depression. I practice each morning when I wake up, instead of cursing my alarm clock, I think about how soft my sheets feel against my skin, and how soft my pillow is. I thank the sun for shining or the rain for watering the earth and give myself a few moments to soak it all in before getting on with my day.
A generous spirit may be the key to having a successful doula practice. Generosity means giving with your full heart. It does not mean you need to impoverish yourself to be in service of others; you still need to charge a fair fee so you can feed your family. Having generous, healthy boundaries–sometimes means you have to be generous to yourself first, and that is okay too. Culturally we are taught to give when we think we will get something in return, this mentally is transactional and breeds disconnection. Being generous can look like spending an extra minute on the phone with a pregnant woman who will likely never hire you. Or helping a person in need to find a volunteer doula, you help two people in this scenario! Let your partner eat the last cookie. Holding a generous spirit tells the universe that there is enough for everyone, which breeds abundance and connection.
CLD, CPD, CAPPA FACULTY
Kristy, a doula and faculty member for the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA), is now mentoring the next generation of doulas in New York City. For the past 9 years, she has dedicated Expecting NYC, her private practice, to supporting women and their families throughout the childbearing year. Kristy began her career as a massage therapist, specializing in prenatal and postnatal massage therapy. In fact, it was her clients who first brought her into the work of a labor doula. Many of them asked her to attend their births–radically changing the direction of her path. Her passion for supporting pregnant women quickly grew. Within a week of doula training, she attended her first birth and has supported hundreds of women and their families ever since. As a seasoned certified lactation counselor and massage therapist, Kristy’s compendium of skills have proved invaluable to women throughout their pregnancies and labor. She is an advocate for a woman’s right to have a healthy, positive birth experience in the environment of her choice. Her support methods include mindfulness, evidence-based education, and an open heart.