the wise woman tradition in the doula role

Jun 14, 2024

When I first became a doula I had no idea what world birth would open up for me. I was under the impression birth only involved the hospital and epidurals as this is what had been etched into my mind. Little did I know I would uncover a truth that these processes that bring us into motherhood are sacred rites of passage that don’t have to look like what society wants us to believe. There is a different narrative that diminishes the idea of pregnancy being a sickness, birth being a disaster, and a doctor knowing what is best. Instead I see that these experiences are transformative, our bodies were made to birth, and women have an innate knowing of what is true for them. I see that with nourishing support, deep inner work, and real prenatal care, women can have a more meaningful journey.


The wise woman tradition is the oldest and most powerful model of care. Influenced by Susan Weed in her book Healing Wise, Maryn Green brought this way of being with women to light. This model of care focuses on the midwife and mother being at the center of their own spirals. The spiral being the ancient way of describing the different aspects of our life and spiritual paths, always leading back ourselves. Each equal on their journeys of the midwife nurturing and the mother receiving. In the wise woman tradition the place of power is self. As for in the technocratic model the power is found in tests/machines/drugs and the humanistic model it is found within the midwife/doctor. In the wise woman model of care women are encouraged to look inward and find their place of decision making within. The midwife, though at the center of her own spiral, is invisible. This is the only model where women must take full responsibility and will be the right care for those seeking to be fully in their power.


What does it look like to practice the wise woman tradition in the doula role? It starts with guiding women back to the center of their spiral. This can look like reflecting back to her as a mirror when things come up in pregnancy, rather than focusing on solutions. Practicing nourishment of my mind, body, and soul while guiding her through deeply nourishing herself. Rituals that can be carried throughout her entire motherhood. Real prenatal care through self practices that are centered around nutrition, mindfulness, and caring for her life bearing body. Reminding her that the power of decision making lies within. Growing in connection to better support her in love.


One of my favorite ways to carry out the wise woman tradition as a doula is through ceremony. We as women have lost the tradition of honoring practices. This is especially true during the life altering event of pregnancy. I remember seeing ceremony for the first time in my midwifery apprenticeship—the beauty of sitting in circle, holding space for any fears, listening to what a woman may envision for her birth, and honoring her in it all. With every mama I serve we sit down together for an herbal blessing during our last visit before birth. Each of us taking turns to say a blessing and prayer over her before pouring gentle healing herbs into a bowl that will be used for postpartum baths. How special it is to hear what beautiful things families share during this blessing, and so sweet for her to have loving-warm herbs for her postpartum.


It is the greatest honor to walk with women in sisterhood as they prepare for birth and to witness this transformation take place in real time. What an even greater honor it is to practice the wise woman tradition that has been within us since the beginning of time.


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