A few nights ago, as I turned on the TV to spend my Saturday night relaxing, I caught an old episode of one of my favorite shows, Bones. As the theme song faded out and the story started, I was pleasantly surprised and excited to see that a character, who was visibly pregnant, was seeing a doula.
I remembered watching this episode for the first time a year ago, before I really knew what a doula was, and how they can really help an expecting mother. I was eager to see how the show would involve her. But as the episode played on, I had less and less enthusiasm as I watched the doula character be ridiculed. This “new age” doula was painted as an outdated, outlandish clown.
The Bones doula was presented as an obstinate woman who was a little more crazy than helpful. She seemed to care more about practicing her personal beliefs than the health and safety of the mother and child. In the end, the main characters had to banish her from the soon-to-be mother as she went into labor. Although the episode ended with the baby being safely delivered and a heartfelt moment, But as the credits rolled I had a bad taste in my mouth. Strangely, even though the episode was about a murder, it was the representation of the doula that really bothered me.
Before working at Healthy Start Brooklyn, I had no idea what a doula was. If I had been pregnant and seen Bones before my time here, I would have probably laughed at the idea of having some crystal wielding nut job at the birth of my child.
But now, understanding what a doula is or should be, I feel the exact opposite. A doula is, at her simplest, a helper for a family soon to be expanding. She is not a medical professional and does not replace a doctor or midwife, but she is a trained wealth of information and emotional support.
Many are mothers themselves and have a true appreciation and respect for the process of childbirth. They have the experience and knowledge that many new expecting mothers don’t have, to support and guide them with before, during and after childbirth. In my time in Healthy Start, I never saw or heard of any doula acting the way the one in Bones did. All of the mothers I have spoken to, who were helped by the By My Side Birth Support Program, have described an experience where the doula consistently respected the wishes of the family, regardless of their birthing choices.
The doulas I got the chance to talk to would never block a doctor from helping a distressed mother, or try to isolate her from her support network. They are guides, who help pregnant women sort through conflicting messages they receive about their changing bodies, unlike the ones on TV. It seems a shame that Bones would contribute to those mixed messages which could prevent pregnant women from getting help they can benefit from.
However, while the argument could be made for a more informative view of pregnancy being shown in the media, the TV industry really has no obligation to portray reality, just entertainment. That is why it is so important to seek accurate information for everything, especially for a pregnancy, from the experts and perhaps even a doula.
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