The Defeated Doula: 3 Things You Can Do to Conquer Self-Doubt

It’s a common occurrence that, after Doula training, the energy of the last few days is excitedly stirring. Your mind is racing a mile a minute and all of the tasks you want to achieve are running circles through your thoughts.

You set a plan of action and tell yourself, this week I am going to do this. But the week goes by.  Then another. And another. After a few posts in search of clients on social media pages and various groups, there is little response. All you want are leads to your first client, but they just have not appeared.

You feel frustrated, lost and unsure.

This seems harder than you anticipated.

You feel downright defeated.

With any new venture, this is a normal stage in your growth and development as a Doula.

There will be times when you may be challenged and feel you can’t make it over the obstacles in front of you. It is similar to labouring individuals when they reach a similar stage during the tribulations of birth. We remind them of their strength. Of their determination. To trust in the process. There will be many times throughout your career as a doula when you need to remind yourself that you can and will achieve what you hope to achieve.

It will require action and networking, perseverance and determination. Networking. A sense of trust—faith in the process—and encouragement when things aren’t going as hoped and planned.

Taking those first steps can be overwhelming and may initiate the freeze response in your body. The feeling of helplessness and fear can stop us in our tracks and prevent us from moving forward. But there are ways to push past this.

Here are three small, but impactful steps to help you move forward and in the direction you desire.

Planning and Preparing

Your Doula education is an investment for yourself, your family and your community. It will take planning to make the time you need to work through your certification requirements, network and make a name for yourself in your community. Ask yourself what barriers stand in the way of investing this time and list them according to priority and need. Brainstorm solutions to the barriers and start implementing them slowly into your daily routine. Acknowledge what works best for you and your situation—if you work better in the morning, arrange childcare and spend an hour a week in a local café. If evenings are more productive, arrange an uninterrupted time in your schedule to dedicate to just taking one small step.


Arrange an accountability buddy—perhaps someone from your doula training, or a friend who will keep you motivated and accountable to achieve all that you have set out for yourself. Write an achievable goal for each week or month and take the steps to march towards it. Acknowledge past, negative behaviour and make a conscious change before you head down the same rabbit hole. It is easy to slip into old habits but keeping yourself accountable (and being accountable to those cheering you on from afar) will be a great motivation to not fail them or yourself. Your success depends on you.

Taking Small Steps Towards Achievements

When a task feels gargantuan, it can be overwhelming, and taking those first steps may seem too formidable to put your first foot forward. There is one simple solution: take smaller steps.

One task at a time. Break them down. What is the one thing I can do today? This week? This month?

Find your support network—the individuals who will celebrate your achievements and keep you on task.

When discussing the potentially daunting task of one’s length of labour and how important it is to think of the journey and not the destination, I use an analogy with my clients. I compare labour with long-distance running.  Runners may focus on getting from one place to the next, taking one step at a time towards their destination, focusing on the steps or landmarks ahead, rather than the entire distance. This shift in perception of the task at hand may make it more manageable and less daunting.

Our minds are incredible at dictating how we approach things and impact our motivating factors. These factors have the power to propel you towards productivity or freeze you from moving forward. Recognizing within yourself these dynamics and shifting out of past habits, is the first step towards obtaining what we feel is unobtainable.

As a Doula trainer, we want our students to succeed and carry on our mission of supporting families through one of their largest life-altering events. The impact that our contribution makes will greatly affect our self, our community and, of course, the lives of others as we move forward with them.

Just as Doulas celebrate every person who conquers childbirth, we see the sense of achievement when their baby is born. You are learning, growing and birthing a new project, which will take hard work, lots of energy, plenty of time and fistfuls of determination. Don’t forget to celebrate each step, goal and achievement, no matter how big or small they areOne of my own favourite quotes when feeling defeated that uplifts me and helps me press on is by Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles “:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.”

Sonya Duffee


Sonya Duffee’s journey towards supporting and empowering families through birth began shortly after the birth of her own children. With more than 16 years’ experience in a variety of birth settings including home births, hospital and birth center providing prenatal, birth and postnatal care to expectant families in the community. Sonya is a currently certified with CAPPA as a Labor Doula and Postpartum Doula, on the board of the Doula Association of Edmonton and proprietor of Full Circle Birth Collective in Edmonton, Alberta. As a Certified Labour Doula Faculty member and Certified Doula, she has been sharing her passion for birth with others, instructing Birth Attendants, Doulas and Community Health workers in supportive care, continuing education and Doula training since 2005. These experiences have been instrumental in her work in the implementing and advocacy of family-centered care.

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