Emotional intelligence

The attribute of emotional intelligence refers to the ability to monitor one’s own emotions as well as the emotions of others, to distinguish between, and label, different emotions correctly, and to use emotional information to guide their thinking and behaviour and influence that of others.

Doulas who have developed emotional intelligence are aware of their own emotions and how to harness and regulate them. Additionally, they have an awareness of how they might impact other people’s emotions.

Emotionally intelligent doulas display curiosity and seek to examine thoughts, words and actions with a sense of exploration while withholding judgement. This includes their own, those of their clients and any other people they interact with throughout their work as a doula. They hold thoughts lightly and are mindful to be able to separate their thoughts and feelings from their actions and responses.

Curiousness extends to troubleshooting and problem solving. This is the tool at hand when presented with difficult, unexpected or challenging circumstances and doulas are unsure how to proceed. Doulas who are curious seek to ask “what if”, without the presence of stress or adrenaline impacting on their ability to seek new possibilities.

Empathetic Doulas use emotional intelligence to attempt to understand the experience of another person. Empathy is often confused with sympathy, however doulas who portray the attribute of empathy actively sit ‘alongside’ the person they are empathising with, compared to sympathy, which comes from a place of separation, and lends itself to pity.

Empathetic doulas value the entire spectrum of emotions and never attempt to stifle or suppress the emotional experience of people or families they are working alongside but aim to offer recognition and acknowledgement of the experience of others.

Doulas work joyfully alongside couples, women and babies. This is a truly transformative time in each person’s life journey – joy is a crucial value to bring as there can be tremendous fear and uncertainty during this time. Joy is the antidote and joy is contagious.

Graciousness allows for other people’s experiences and opinions, even when confronting or at odds with their own perception or beliefs. Doulas who are gracious are thoughtful and respectful, display friendliness and an inquisitive nature.

Doulas who are gracious are able to maintain focus while working with their clients towards their individual goals and purpose, even under adversarial conditions. They are able to balance their ideals with the need to provide a calm and safe environment for their client to thrive.  

Emotionally intelligent doulas are resilient and do not let adversary or negative situations define them. They cultivate self-awareness and respond to their own emotional needs. Resilient doulas seek and cultivate relationships where they can safely process, grieve and work through emotions.

Resilient doulas value self-care and know when and where to reach out for help. They acknowledge gaps and respond by actively developing their knowledge, skills, actions and interactions. They value asking for help and support and believe it is ok to make mistakes. They utilise near misses as opportunities to learn and improve.

Doulas with resilient attributes are willing to sit with their discomfort and accept this as a part of life, which doesn’t define them as a person. They allow for the unknown or unanswerable in some situations and are comfortable taking pause.

Cultural competence

Cultural competence is the ability to understand, communicate and effectively interact with people across cultures. Essential components of cultural competence include:

·      Being aware of our own world view/ culture.

·      Developing positive attitudes towards differences in culture.

·      Increasing knowledge about different cultural practices and world views.

·      Developing skills for communication and interaction across cultures.

Our own cultures, values, beliefs, history, are each different and individual. Doulas who are culturally competent are aware of their own individual biases and beliefs and are able to work with others without placing judgement based on their own experience.

Doulas with this attribute are aware of the nuances of culture. That all people, regardless of apparent similarities in history, background, beliefs, ethos, race, culture, religion, experience, gender, sexuality or experience/s embody a culture that is unique to them, and therefore never assume or generalise.

Having a sensitivity and intention on supporting women to flourish within her unique culture and belief system, these doulas seek to validate the experiences and decisions of women, understanding the multifaceted, complex and unique needs of each individual woman.

Mindful Communication

The attribute of Mindful Communication refers to conscious use of both verbal and non-verbal communication. Doulas possessing this attribute continue to learn and bring their awareness to their words, tone, body language, and other non-verbal cues including the use of pause and silence. These doulas are aware of the impact their words have within their doula-client relationships, and the impact it has on the experiences and decisions of their clients.

Doulas who communicate mindfully, put actionable steps into reviewing and reflecting on their practice, seeking gaps in their knowledge, skills and awareness of their actions.

These reflective doulas actively seek honest and constructive feedback from experienced doulas, clients and colleagues with the aim of continual improvement and growth. They are open and vulnerable with trusted mentors and colleagues, and able to sit with their own discomfort in addition to recognising and celebrating their achievements.

Furthermore these doulas demonstrate selflessness. This refers to the unique position of a doula in creating space for clients to exist, process and experience their own transformative and reflective experience.

Doulas possessing the attribute of selflessness have developed a deep awareness of their own history, bias, experiences, and prejudices and view their own person, thoughts and actions as separate to the experience of clients.

Doulas possessing this attribute are mindful of their words and actions. They are conscious of the inherent imbalance of power between families and those providing care for them, including themselves. Where possible they use their own self-awareness to redistribute the power and process back to their clients. They know that even well-intended words and actions can impact the experience and decisions of their clients in an indeterminate way.

Doulas possessing this quality are cautious about sharing their own personal experiences, observations, thoughts or opinions. Instead, they provide opportunities for their clients to reflect and explore their own unique needs, beliefs and instincts.

Doulas with this attribute emphasise the need for transcending one’s self in a client’s journey. They do not work from ego and are aware of the importance of ‘not being the ‘hero’..

Integrity

Doulas who display integrity have clearly defined values, make conscious decisions and reflect on the choices they make. They recognise that at times they may be under intense pressure from outside sources, therefore, they have a strong sense of self and develop their self esteem and self confidence.

An integrous doula strives to be reliable and takes responsibility for the consequences of their decisions. They are accountable for their actions and congruent in their behaviour.

Integrous doulas who display the attribute of honesty are transparent with clients regarding skills, experience, boundaries and reasonable expectations. They value openness and seek honest and open interactions with clients, families, doula colleagues and other professionals they interact with. Honest doulas strive to portray reasonable expectations of the care they can provide and share any relevant changes in a timely manner.

Professionalism

Doulas with the attribute of professionalism are aware of the boundaries of doula work and the positioning of doula work as a lay-profession. These doulas are aware of how their actions impact on the reputation of doulas in general. Although their relationship with clients are friendly and familiar, they remain a therapeutic relationship focused on the needs of the client. In their role as a doula, they interact with a wide range of health professionals and members of the multidisciplinary team, during these interactions these doulas maintain professionalism.

As lifelong learners, these doulas value education, skills, and continued development and seek opportunities to increase and continually improve their knowledge and skills. They are aware of changes in trends and current events, in addition to relevant research and evidence-based care. They are able to recognise the difference between their own learning needs and those of their clients and seek appropriate learning opportunities through reflection.

Professional doulas have a panoramic mindset. They aim to observe and understand the wide range and far reaching needs of their individual clients, and the topography of childbirth. They have an awareness of the needs of their clients both wide – looking at the holistic needs of the family, as well as far – which includes the future hopes and plans of the client/s. Doulas with a panoramic mindset practice and value a sound relationship between holistic and medical care, they also see the need to draw on collaborative connections.

These doulas act with kindness and respect towards individuals and families and approach their work with an open heart. They also act with kindness towards other doulas, health professionals and community members. As they work with kindness, they know that care and compassion are key elements of quality care. They aim to cultivate communities and cultures in and around birthing, parturition and the transition to parenthood where compassion and kindness thrive.

Being professional also means having a collaborative mindset. As a doula they view situations with other doulas, medical professionals, care providers and auxiliary staff as opportunities to work together with your client at the centre of care. They seek community with other doulas and actively seek out opportunities to add value and improve the experiences of other doulas and the community at large. Where possible they also seek out productive, working relationships with health professionals who are providing care for their clients and provide care within their communities.

The importance of self care and self nurture to be able to do all of the above work. If self care and healing is not viewed with equal importance to client support,  burn out is almost unavoidable. A We Birth doula has high self-care practices which means they can maintain a high level of professionalism.