A doula dilemna

I have a dilemna. Or at least I think I have a dilemna. I might just be paranoid.

Here’s the deal:

Remember how I told you that I have my first doula client? The lady who is due in April? Well, I initially met this woman at church. Yes, I know. I don’t go to church. But I did for awhile, last summer. My Dad is a pastor, and while I was on my big search for the ultimate truth, I attended his church regularly. My kids also attended a lot of church sponsored activities. This all came to an end a few months back when I finally made the decision that I am really truly not a Christian.

Once, while talking to this woman, she said something to me about how “the Body Shop supports gays.” At first I thought it was really strange that she would say something like that to me, considering that I have no qualms about homosexuality. But then I realized that she really didn’t know anything about me at all. Just that my father is a pastor and I’ve attended her church.

Last night, I spoke with her on the phone to set up a prenatal appointment. We got off subject for awhile and started discussing my recent move. To understand the conversation, you’ll need to know some facts.

-The island I live on is huge. On the north end, you’ll find a navy base. The majority of the population is conservative, Republican, and religious. There are churches everywhere. However, on the south end of the island, it’s a completely different story. One of the towns there is named “Freeland.” It was named this for a very specific reason. Back in 1889, “three visionaries formed The Free Land Association for the purpose of establishing a utopian culture where their communal socialistic ideals could be promulgated.” In other words, a commune. “Literally, in the eyes of its socialist founders, the land of the town was to be free for all people.” (These are not my words, which is why I have put them in quotes, although I am hesitant to site my source, since this will give away my exact location and hey..there are too many internet stalkers out there for me to be comfortable with that.)

So anyway, the south end of the island has kept up its reputation of being populated with hippies. Which is the EXACT reason I’ve moved here. This is my place. This is exactly where I belong. This is me.

Anyway, I’m on the phone with my client, and she says “You need to be careful over there. I’ve heard so many terrible things about the people, and what goes on in the schools and such.” I asked her what she meant and she said some things about “the area being VERY liberal” and the churches being sparse, empty, and dead.

Also, on her initial paperwork I had given her, she indicated that she felt that prayer during labor would be a great support to her.

I don’t even know how to handle this. I’m not a Christian, I’m not even religious, I’m as liberal as it gets, and I am certainly NOT going to lead her in prayer during labor. I have heard that many women choose their doulas based on their religious affiliations, and feel more comfortable with someone who holds similiar ideals and beliefs. She has obviously got the wrong idea about me, and I am afraid that these assumptions about my faith (or lack thereof) will eventually be revealed as false and she will be disappointed and feel betrayed or misled.

In a way, I feel that my spirituality is my business and it really shouldn’t matter. And yet, the last thing I want to do is upset this woman.

So what do I do? Do I find a way to tell her that I do not subscribe to Christianity? Or do I continue to play along?

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8 Responses to “A doula dilemna”


  1. 1 Jewel January 13, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    Tell her……. You have to. You guys are so different. It is not fair for her to think that she is getting one thing and she gets something different. You know how important it is for her to feels safe and comfortable while she is in labor. If she is understanding at all she will not mind and I would hope that she would be happy to have you there. I know I would. (you have to promise that you will be there for the birth of my third and last child)

  2. 2 Renae January 14, 2007 at 12:39 am

    Here’s my two cents: At the very least let her know that you don’t feel comfortable leading her in prayer, but that you’re *open* to others praying with her, and that you’ll support her in having an environment in which she feels the most comfortable.

    If she agrees to that I say you can call it good — your spirituality is really your own business,and unless you choose to bring it into her labor, it’s not going to affect her.

  3. 3 shan January 14, 2007 at 10:14 am

    I have been with many women who have used prayer to guide them and give them strength in labor. I have doulaed for Christian families and given them tons of support and encouragement without having to pray with them. No one has ever complained that I didn’t pray with them at a birth; it really has never come up. Usually mom is far more focused on things other than who is praying with her. I’ve never been asked to lead prayer in labor. i think that would be a role for someone who is more attached to mom, and I would have to decline. And doesn’t everyone pray a little differently? Wouldn’t her DH or mom or sister know better how to lead her in prayer anyway?

    It is definitely something you could discuss at one of the prenatals, if you think prayer is going to be something she expects during this birth. It’s never been something that’s been discussed at any of my prenatals– other than, “I would like to pray during labor.” To that, I say, “Excellent!” I definitely support prayer, and we never, ever get into what *I* believe. So not the time or place, you know.

    And you don’t need to continue to play along, either. Not being religious is your spirituality. There’s no reason to play along with what she thinks you are, but you don’t need to shove it down her thraot, either. Be respectful to her, and maybe you will teach her to be respectful of others’ beliefs and lifestyles, as a result. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

    How do you feel about doula-ing for someone who has such different social/political opinions?

  4. 4 O January 14, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    My in laws are like the north end of your Island, and I’m having a very hard time knowing that his mom will be hovering over me when I give birth. So much so that Karl is insisting that they come a month after the birth to give us some time, and if they insist on being there, which is in their right, then I’ve already talked with my Doctor and she promised to keep them away, she’s going to tell them they are ‘rules’ that keep them out. My point is, I want to be around people I feel comfortable around and who will not judge me for the things I say under extreme pain and stress. With that said, I think you should tell her why you moved down to the south end and that you have open to homosexuality and ‘hippy living’ etc. And then give her the option of changing doulas. Cause I would think if you play along and then it becomes uncomfortable for her later, she will not enjoy her baby’s birth. April isn’t that far from now and right now she still has time to find a new doula that gets her, and will lead her in a prayer, or hell, sing a hymn while the kid is spit out.

    Plus the island isn’t that big, word will get out if she has a bad experience, especially if it’s over your religious/lifestyle beliefs. Better to get it out now, and who knows, you may get more clients who live down south.

  5. 5 Jewel January 14, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    I think that this is something that you will have to bring up, but how much you feel comfortable saying is up to you. I dont think you need to much more then. “I am not comfortable leading the prayer, but please if that is what you need make sure there is someone there with us that could do this for you.” I dont think the fact that you live on the south side of the island should make a difference. Why are those so judgemental?!?

  6. 6 ladyareto January 14, 2007 at 5:14 pm

    It seems like a question of professionality (is that a word?), and how much involvement you may have with her through your family (since she goes to your dad’s church). If she’s someone you’re going to come in contact with in more intimate settings, e.g. if she’s a friend of your parents, then you might have to share more because you won’t be able to keep it private eventually anyway. But if she’s just someone from church, it does seem like there should be a way to support her in what she wants (since that’s your role) without having to explain to her what your beliefs are, but also without compromising them. That’s just what I think.
    If it were me…I would probably say okay and support them but I would have to deal with how I felt about it and that it annoyed me (if it did).
    That’s tough.
    And this is just my opinion, but it really wasn’t her place to warn you about your part of the island and required a lot of assumptions on her part. If that ever happens again, I would probably reply right then, and say that actually you chose to move down there because you liked the environment there, and you’re not that concerned about it. But thanks for her concern. Then you’re not exactly being argumentative, but it puts it back in her ball court, and doesn’t require you to hold your tongue and wonder how much to share. She gets to choose how she feels about it, and nobody compromises their feelings.
    And if she talks about the prayer thing you can say “Great, I support you in having whatever makes you feel most comfortable and supported during your labor. Just let me know when you’ve found someone and we can connect” (or whatever – maybe you don’t have to connect with them, but the focus is on *her* without compromising *you*).

  7. 7 antropologa January 19, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    I’m not a Christian either but for some reason lie about it to people all the time when I first meet them. I live in the deep south and everybody here, particularly the other mommies my age, go to church. If they ask me what church I go to (and everybody asks that) I say I was raised Presbyterian but don’t attend as my husband is from Sweden and Swedish people don’t attend church. This is all technically true, but often when people ask me directly if I am Christian, I say yes. I don’t want to have a discussion and I do NOT want someone to try to convert me (unfortunately I have already lost a Mormon friend because of this). Anyway then I feel like I can’t be really close to whomever it is because I have lied to them about this topic that is really important to them, and I can’t curse or make fun of the religious right with them.

    All this is to say: it can be hard to be out to people about not being religious, but I think it’s better to be up-front. It’s hard to work around lies. And personally I would be annoyed to work with someone so narrow-minded.

  8. 8 Tim January 20, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    I tend to agree with the bulk of the comments here: Let her know what your beliefs truly are. You may or may not be comfortable with someone else praying with her at that time (I didn’t get a clear understanding from reading your post), but if you are comfortable with that, make it clear to her.

    I’m of the opinion that there are people who are kind and caring, and people who aren’t. Some of these people claim the title “Christian”–some do not. Some of the unkind and uncaring people claim that title–some are not. (This isn’t to say that I believe faith has no value; as a Christian, it would be pretty hypocritical for me to say so.)

    You sound like someone kind and caring, who has the best interest of the family in mind. I would hope that the mother would pick up on this, and want to have you involved, regardless of your belief about God. Ultimately, many people of faith choose not to build social relationships outside of their belief system. This seems to be a situation where you have to allow the mother to make that decision, and it seems the best way to do that is to make it clear that your beliefs aren’t the same as your father’s appear to be. – Tim


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