Doulas: The Antidote To Fear?

If Sex Sells, then Fear Sells in birth.

Fear is a powerful emotion. Humans are hard-wired to feel fear. Whenever we sense danger, our bodies have a biophysical “fight or flight” reaction producing adrenaline. But we also have a strong emotional reaction – many people will do whatever it takes to avoid fear-inducing situations.Fear creates a strong call to action, a call to take emergency measures to protect yourself and the people you love.

When you push the “fear” button, scared parents will almost automatically buy a product or agree to a procedure they don’t actually need to protect their baby.

Many new mommas buy formula milk because they’re scared their babies aren’t getting enough breastmilk. Or they fear they’re not doing breastfeeding right and give up. Or fooled by the clever marketing of formula milk companies (plump smiling babies with very careful wording), parents may fear their baby won’t receive all its essential nutrients unless its bottle-fed (for a blogpost on Baby Formula CLICK HERE)

Many expectant and new parents buy million copy selling prescriptive instructive “manuals” to guide them through pregnancy and birth and early parenthood – because they are too scared to trust their own instincts. Many parents would rather follow a line by line guide than to make their own amazing discoveries about what works. To me, these guides breed fear, with the scary implication: “if you don’t do it exactly as I say then your baby will suffer”.

Many birth products explicitly trade on fear – a recent blogpost by Science and Sensibility talks about the marketing of fear to new parents to persuade them to buy The Exmobaby – a product that supposedly “knows how your baby feels”. As the blog-post says: “They aren’t telling parents to do their due diligence and vet their babysitters or daycare centers.  They are saying that parents should distrust and fear their child’s babysitter.  Instead of reassuring parents of the SIDS guidelines, they prey on parents’ fears to sell their product.

As a huge fan of home-birth, I know that many parents have to listen to noisy resistance from well-meaning friends and family who voice their own fears “but what if something goes wrong?”   In fact, other people’s projected fears could easily push someone into hospital when actually they would prefer to birth at home.

Then when it comes to birth itself, playing on fears is the quickest way  to persuade a parent to agree to medical intervention and c-section. If a doctor or health professional mentions “increased risk” then mothers will sign on the dotted line to give authorisation for a procedure, often without question. I know I did in that situation.

So what is the antidote?

If you Google “antidote to fear”, you’ll come up with many suggestions.

Self-help guru’s would say “to love more, to fear less”.

Or to “stay in the present” (as fears are often projections of terrible things that could happen in the future).

Or to “arm yourself with information”.

Or to “rationalise risks”.

All of those are right – they all do help to alleviate fear.

I would say the antidote to fear when it comes to pregnancy, birth and the first few weeks of parenthood is simple; hire a doula. Not just any doula mind – the doula that is right for you.

A doula is a bastion of knowledge, wisdom, encouragement, a great listener and comforter, offering suggestions but never advice, always without judgement.

A doula never promotes a product or service unless she truly believes that it is right for the parent. She never uses fear to “sell” her own services. She tries to work through a mother’s own fears surrounding the birth. And when fears start to rise, she’ll try to alleviate those fears through practical and emotional support, sage words and encouragement.

And sure enough, with the right doula, those fears magically disappear. And yes, then you really can start to love more and fear less.

If only doulas were available every time you have any kind of fear throughout your life. Wouldn’t it be great if you could hire a doula to take with you to see a scary movie? To hold your hand on a roller-coaster ride? Or when you go for a job interview? Or when you have to speak in public? Or when you launch a new business?

That would make life much less scary. But then again, having fears and conquering those fears is all part of the complex amazing journey of life.Don’t you think?

So be afraid. Be very afraid. Then go hire a doula!

***If you want to see how doulas can help with overcoming fears, then why not watch the DOULA! film.  You can see it either at one of the hundreds of public screenings around the world for World Doula Week March 22-28 (to view the map and screenings list CLICK HERE) – or to buy a copy of the DOULA! film –CLICK HERE ***

click here for Doula DVDWritten by Toni Harman, Producer / Director, DOULA! Film