Heart of the Doula: Essentials for Practice and Life

The heart of doulaing is the relationship between the laboring person, their intimate family, and the doula who serves them. Through her clear use of language and vivid metaphors, Gilliland’s writing lingers long after you’ve finished reading her words. She outlines the true power in being a doula – to serve clients in a way that they are encouraged to become more empowered and authentic versions of themselves. Culling wisdom from over sixty birth doulas in Dr. Gilliland’s landmark research study, she promises to transform your relationship with clients and medical care providers alike.

Anyone wanting to understand the complexity of the modern maternity care system and how to navigate the power structure in hospitals more effectively will gain from reading this book. Heart of the Doula delves into the nitty-gritty reality of birth doula work in North American hospitals and the personal price many doulas pay to fill this highly important and beneficial role in people’s lives. In her triple roles as researcher, doula, and world class doula trainer, Gilliland’s insight is unparalleled.

A must for anyone doing empowerment work, especially with people frequently disempowered in our care system.

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Look inside! Click for the TOC and a sample read!  

Advance Praise for The Heart of the Doula

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“Amy’s essays left me with a warm, tender, deep, and purposeful feeling – the kind of renewal every doula (and every human) needs once in a while...Her illustration of the complexity and variety of doula work is astounding, and she shows deep understanding of the way doula skills develop and complement existing supports.”  Molly Mendota, AdvCD/BDT(DONA), DONA International Birth Doula Trainer, Health Connect One Birth Equity Leadership Faculty

"Amy Gilliland is uniquely qualified to trace, explore, analyze, evaluate, and clarify the role of the doula in maternity care today. As a veteran doula and doula trainer she earned a master's degree and doctorate by interviewing doulas and parents over a period of 16 years, and documenting their impressions, challenges and concerns.  The findings are sorted into 4 basic themes that reflect issues of great importance to doulas, parents, and those who work with them.  Here is a sampling of the book's topics:  competition and cooperation among doulas; relationships among doulas and nurses; difficult clients; sticky questions like whether to ask a client about  history of sexual assault, or about fears or issues; what to do if the client seems to be making a bad decision or one that is contrary to what she had said she wanted; why doulas love their work despite its unpredictability and great demands; what qualities and services doulas bring to the birth that no one else brings; and MUCH more.

Amy's skill in deconstructing the issues and analyzing the many opinions and interpretations that were expressed by interviewees helps readers broaden their thinking.  After openly weighing the issues, Amy summarizes her conclusions and provides her reasoning.  All doulas will not agree with all of Amy's perspectives, but will clarify their own understanding, and increase their confidence in performing their role.

We are fortunate that Amy chose to study the relatively young doula  profession.  As we grow, this work provides clarity and guidance on what doulas really do and really should do!

All doulas will benefit from this book.  I can even picture it being used as a discussion guide for groups of doulas."

Penny Simkin, PT (ret.); CD(DONA); Certified Childbirth Educator; Co-Founder of DONA International; Author on Toics Relating to Birth & Parenting 

“This is a great book for student doulas, new doulas, and those already in the field that can help them understand some of the professional boundaries that they will encounter as we work to define what it really means to do our job...I would love to recommend this to my own students.”  Rachel Leavitt, RN, BSN, CD, New Beginnings Doula Trainings

“I'm reading it with lots of smiles and nods and some tears, as your words speak the truth about this amazing calling/career/vocation.  I'm so glad you've written this and I can't wait to add it to my Steps for Success for new doulas, and to recommend it as a keeper for their entire journey!”  Ana M. Hill, IBCLC, CLD, CLE, CCCE, Rocky Mountain Doula Training

“The Heart of a Doula should be a prerequisite for all doula training programs. Amy accurately captures the intricacies and nuances of what it means to be a doula and her insights will help the reader to not only be a better doula but a better human as well...It is a must read for new and seasoned doulas alike.”  Caity Ann Mehl, Columbus Birth & Parenting; Birth/Postpartum Doula Trainer (DONA International & ProDoula, retired)

“She has answered the questions the majority of new doulas have on their minds. This book can serve the purpose of an experienced mentor, helping doulas to think more critically and expansively about the nuances of this privileged role they are fulfilling, thereby bolstering their self-confidence...Most of all, I felt that I had just had a very in-depth conversation with a wise and trusted colleague.”  Sunday Tortelli, LCCE, AdvCD/BDT(DONA), DONA International Birth Doula Trainer

“Being a doula can in some ways be a lonely job...when we can, doulas gravitate towards each other to talk shop, compare notes, share what we've learned, and process the good, the bad, and the ugly about what we have experienced supporting others in labor...Amy embodies that cooperative spirit with this new work, a gift to the doula community.”  Julie Brill, IBCLC, CLD, CCCE, CAPPA Labor Doula Faculty, author of Round the Circle: Doulas Share Their Experiences

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