“I am still in high school and I really want to be a doula.”
I received an email with this sentence recently and my first thoughts, truthfully, were that this is a good stepping stone place for teenagers to a) learn about their bodies; b) learn about pregnancy and birth; c) become midwives.
After a conversation with this young woman, though, I realized that being a doula was exactly what she wanted to be and do. Sure, it could change over the next decade, but most things do this over time. Could you imagine knowing what you wanted to do for the next ten years after high school and going after it with a very clear intent and a progressive plan? While some of you will answer a definitive and resounding “no”, still many of you will answer positively. Think of this: Fifteen years ago – heck, even 10 years ago, becoming a professional doula was not a career one aspired to straight out of high school. The tides are changing and not only are women demanding better care in their pregnancies, labour and births, more people want to be the person offering that care.
There is something to be said for younger doulas supporting high school, and/or teen moms, through labour and birth. Many older people come into their training wanting to work with teen pregnancy associations like Jessie’s Centre. Sometimes, it is because they were a teen mother and had little support and want to make a difference for another young woman. Often, too, those doulas in the workshop want to support young people because of the perception (or reality) of the lack of continuous care, good service, options and ongoing support for the young family and they feel that they can do this.
There is also something to be said for younger doulas helping young mothers but would you hire a teenage doula if you were well into your 30’s? I believe the answer is ‘yes’ in a lot of cases. It is all about connection, isn’t it? If the teen doula is well educated, well spoken, professional and you really click, will her age really matter? It is the same question doulas ponder when they have not experienced labour (no children, cesareans with no labour, male, etc.) and it all comes down to how you feel about the person. Is the doula who is over sixty jaded by her life experiences and professional work in a way that the younger doula is not? Is she up for long labours and the rigourous work of physical support? “Who will hire me?” is a question that many of these doulas ask themselves for a variety of reasons. The key is fairly simple and applies to most careers: believe in yourself; be confident in your knowledge and experience; and show your enthusiasm for your work.