Advocacy in the doula world is an ever-evolving conversation. Do you believe that advocacy is part of your role as a doula? What does that look like when you’re faced with busy care providers that are rushing through options and not really hearing what your client wants or needs? Or when your client comes back from a prenatal appointment not feeling heard or understood. Maybe you know that advocacy is important as a doula, but you just don’t know where to start or how to apply this idea in real life.
What if I told you the key to becoming a more impactful doula is understanding the difference between attitudes and beliefs? Learning how to recognize where you are on this journey and how to incorporate advocacy into your belief system will ensure you can confidently advocate for and empower your clients to step into and keep their power.
The difference between beliefs and attitudesThe definitions of belief and attitude are nuanced and overlapping, but a close look at the language highlights important differences worth examining as a birth worker.
According to Merriam-Webster attitude is defined as:
“a position assumed for a specific purpose; a feeling or emotion toward a fact or state”
And belief is defined as:
“a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing; conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence”
I like to think of attitude as a sweater — something you put on and take off depending on the environment. The attitude you choose is in response to your surroundings, how you feel, your own preferences, and the situation you are in at the time.
You might be attached to a specific sweater, but it doesn’t actually help define and build who you are as a person. It can be changed without much drama and isn’t guiding your choices on a deep level. It might help influence certain choices like what shoes you wear to match (how you behave or what you talk about when certain people are around) but it doesn’t create lasting change when you don’t feel like you need it.
Beliefs, on the other hand, are more like your skin. Yes, there are things you can do to change aspects and the appearance of your skin (tanning, moisturizing, covering with clothing, shaving, waxing…), but it is a much more involved process and can even be painful. Characteristics of your skin are inherited and help shape your experiences. Integrated into your identity.
Attitudes are often dictated by feelings and emotions. Beliefs run deeper and are not so easily abandoned or changed. Beliefs are habitual where attitudes are situational.
Do you have an attitude of or a belief in advocacy (and why does it matter?)Let’s be honest – advocacy is NOT easy. Maybe your local birth community has strong feelings about how doulas are “allowed” to advocate. Maybe you were raised to think that being good is the same as always being “nice.” Quiet and never upsetting or inconveniencing anyone around you.
This stuff runs right up against what advocacy might ask of you. And guess what? Putting on your advocacy attitude sweater isn’t going to be enough to overcome these barriers. Looking the part isn’t going to be enough when your client is in the middle of a contraction and being emotionally coerced into something they made clear to you and the providers that they don’t want to do.
Identifying where you fall on the attitude-belief spectrum is the first step in fully integrating advocacy into your belief system and truly empowering your clients.
How can you make advocacy part of your belief system? Here are some steps you can take to start integrating advocacy into your belief system:
- Define what advocacy means for you as a person and a doula. This needs to really resonate with you for it to work. What does an advocate doula mean to you?
- Examine any limiting or negative beliefs that come up (for example: doula’s don’t speak for their clients, or they aren’t allowed to speak to medical staff, etc.)
- Determine if these are helpful – do they help you to support your client? Do they help you empower your client?
- Journal or meditate about these beliefs. Create space to really feel the emotions attached to these beliefs.
- Now rewrite those limiting beliefs with new ones. These should be aligned with your definition of advocacy
The last step is to commit to developing advocacy skill. This essential in overcoming those limiting beliefs and serving your clients with power. Role-play, get a mentor, take a course – do the work.
We invest in things we believe in. We have to step up and take advocacy seriously. Whether it should be this way or not – birthing people’s lives are at stake when we as doulas are not fully in our power. When we don’t have the skills and beliefs in place to have difficult conversations. To truly hold space and protect safe environments for our birthing families.
I am passionate about this and have developed different tools., to meet you where you’re at so you can start examining your biases and beliefs and develop the tools you need to be an effective advocate for your clients.