Dear Fuller House, Thank You For Having A Doula…
As a doula, I spend a good portion of my professional life responding to, “Huh, a dooolla? What’s that, what do you do?” This means anytime I hear about a doula on TV or in a movie I get a bit excited. I think that finally, more people are going to understand what I do.
As someone born in the 1980s, I grew up watching Full House and I love getting to share Fuller House with my kids. As we started season five, I couldn’t believe they hired a doula. What a joy to see a doula portrayed on Fuller House. Thank you for including the role of the doula in Stephanie’s special journey home with her little one(I won’t give away the name in case you haven’t seen it yet!) You just made one mistake, probably in the attempt at humor, which, if you aren’t a doula, might have been funny, but to us doulas, it was frustrating.
Fuller House writers, you were so close to shedding light on the amazing work doulas do. Unfortunately, you quickly undid some of the hard work we doulas do to help the community know we exist and what we do by poorly portraying our profession. We understand the storyline, the need for tension, but there are still many people who don’t understand what “doula” means, which made your humor a little harder to understand for some.
Doulas aren’t well known like teachers or doctors. If a viewer sees a terrible teacher on a show, they assume they’re just that, a terrible teacher. Yet for the lesser-known doula profession, we fear many viewers will believe the doula was acting as most doulas would. If this is the first time a viewer heard the word doula, they might easily make a negative association with the profession.
A lot of what was shown is the complete opposite of what a professional postpartum doula does to support families welcoming a new baby. Your doula exhibited every attitude, interaction, and behavior we at the International Doula Institute teach doulas NOT to do!
You see, doulas are there to support parents as they adjust to life with a new addition. Doulas don’t boss parents around. Doulas don’t shush clients. And doulas absolutely do not interfere with parental bonding.
The family called their doula terrible, and that was a great thing to mention regarding the doula care during that episode. So, for that, we doulas thank you. Thank you for pointing out she was terrible. However, we fear your portrayal of a terrible doula will send the message to millions of families that doulas are generally terrible, overbearing and interfering, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. I actually wonder if your writers assumed that the audience is young, hip and well educated on doulas, since humor is often based on something being unexpected, and so the portrayal of an overbearing bossy doula was just your way of surprising the audience with something so unexpected since doulas are known for just the opposite.
Thank you for making doula even more of a household name!
We thought we’d take the time to let you know what a real doula, especially a properly trained doula like one from IDI, does to support families. Here are a few ways that doulas are not the way you portrayed them:
Portrayal #1: Doulas Are Overbearing
The first impression Stephanie’s doula gives is busting in the door, grabbing the baby and walking away. She makes an overbearing relative look like a walk in the park to deal with as she grabs the baby and runs.
Doulas are not bossy, at least not a professional one. Doulas do not take babies from relatives. They do not rush off to another room. And a doula definitely does not bust into a joy-filled family moment and interrupt family bonding.
What doulas really do: #1: Doulas Let Parents Take The Lead
A professional doula’s role is to help parents adjust to life with a new addition. What that looks like is as unique as each family. A doula takes time to learn about your family structure, your goals for support and your preferred parenting style.
Some parents want the support of a doula so they can safely explore their parenting options and styles. They like to discuss their lifestyle and goals with their doula and make informed decisions with her input and guidance.
Other families have specific parenting styles or needs and will tell the doula what support they need. They may have a routine or schedule in mind, they may be following specific postpartum practices associated with their culture or religion and their doula will come alongside to support them.
Regardless of the specifics of each family, the family takes the lead, not the doula. A doula is trained in typical postpartum adjustment, newborn and infant development, sleep patterns, etc. and can offer education and guidance but at no point is a professional doula overbearing.
Portrayal #2: Doulas Take Over Infant Care
Not only does the doula grab the baby from DJ’s arms, she frequently takes over the care Stephanie is trying to do. Doulas do not take over, unless the parents desire that. They provide infant care as a parent wish, but they do not take over when a parent is wanting to learn how to do something, such as swaddling.
Doulas are not infant nannies. Doulas are not babysitters. Doulas are not overbearing, grabby and bossy infant care providers.
What doulas really do: #2: Doulas Support Parents
A doula does not takeover and just swaddle because a parent is taking too long or doing it ‘wrong’. A doula models how to do it, shows how to do it, or if asked she will do it for parents who simply need some rest.
A doula doesn’t tell a parent she’s doing it wrong. A doula models to parents how to do something a bit more efficiently or with more ease. A doula is a patient teacher, guide and support.
A doula may takeover infant care when parents need rest. However, she never takes over when a parent desires to be with their baby. A doula is all about encouraging hands on parenting to help parents build their confidence in caring for their newborn.
Portrayal #3: Doulas Interfere With Family
The Fuller House writers were actually spot on with Stephanie’s reasons for hiring a doula. She desired support as she gained her footing in parenting and she wanted to do it without a slightly overbearing relative (DJ) hovering. She wanted the opportunity to find her own way, but she didn’t want to do it alone. That was a great moment in the show when Stephanie expressed her feelings about it to DJ.
However, how doulas help with that wasn’t exactly illustrated well on this episode.
You see, many first-time parents feel judged, uncomfortable or unable to speak up for themselves in the presence of family. It’s hard to tell your big sister you don’t want her to help too much, that you’d like to come into your own as a parent. It isn’t a myth that people hire doulas for this reason, but it is a myth that a doula will grab babies from relatives’ arms, shush them and be generally rude to your family members.
What doulas really do: #3: Doulas Support The Changing Family Dynamic
A doula is an impartial person without family relationship baggage who can provide unbiased support as you learn to parent. A doula can help you build your confidence so you can say to a relative, “Thanks for offering your help, but I’ve got this.” A doula won’t judge how you feed, swaddle or put your baby to sleep.
A doula can help you explore your options without confusing her opinion with evidence. She can help you understand that you’re not being selfish or rude for setting boundaries with your family. She will remind you that self-care is vital in the early weeks of parenting and bonding and that it’s okay to say no to extra visitors. A professional doula will tell you it’s okay to hold your baby as much as you desire regardless of how many relatives are seeking a baby fix.
A doula doesn’t create extra family tension. She isn’t rude to your family. A doula supports you as you navigate new family dynamics.
So, Fuller House, thank you for bringing a doula into your home and ours, and we do hope you and your viewers know that she was, in fact, a terrible doula who was rightfully fired. If you would like more information about hiring a competent, caring, professional Certified Doula, please visit www.internationaldoulainstitute.com… maybe not from Bonnaroo this time!