Leslie Lucien is a Hypnobirthing educator, Postnatal Doula, and Birth Doula in Paris France.
How did you answer the calling to work with birth?
It started with my second daughter, I felt like my first birth was not normal, too medicalised.. and I felt I could do it on my own.
I wanted my next birth to be different. I ended up having a free birth because I waited too long to go to the maternity. But I proved my point-- I didn't need anyone except myself and my daughter.
How did you become familiar with doula work?
One day while working at NICU a midwife asked that I sit with a birthing woman because she did not want the epidural and was afraid she couldn't handle it. I accompanied her birth and the mom gave birth in the water.
After, the midwife told me what I had just done was a 'job.' She said that was being a doula.
I researched more about it, and said yes, I want to do that. I trained at Doulas de France.
Is being a doula in France sustainable?
I think for now, being a doula is not sustainable. When I did my training in 2017, the trainers would tell us that they have been running their program for 20 years in France and they know it is not sustainable, the only money you could make would be around 1000 euros a month maximum.
The prices we offer in Paris for doula support are too low and we have taxes to pay after, if we want a living wage we need to raise standard costs. You don't choose to be a doula, and money is not the motivation, but we want to be respected for our time and offerings.
What are the benefits of Hypnobirthing, doula, and postnatal support?
The average number of kids a French household will have in their lifetime is 2.5 kids. We don't really ever have time to be listened to and be heard. The mom is like a sister, but she isn't your sister she doesn't know your life and is not emotionally invested in your life. If you have a birth doula you lowered your rate of c-section, and the partner will be empowered to live the birth they want. They can start their life with their baby with knowing they can do it and learn along the way.
We are training in breastfeeding, and it's better to get our advice because you can have so many people giving you advice; your grandma, mother, friends, etc--
although there are not many people breastfeeding in France, but it's changing. It is also easier to call your doula at 1 or 2 in the morning rather than your midwife. We give constant support.
What is your experience with the French birth care system?
I think the system in France is all about risk. We are always thinking that giving birth could be dangerous and risky for moms. When we talk about where moms will give birth, maternities never talk about or give them the choice to birth at home or (maison de naissance) birth center. I support the work of midwives, yet the midwives are trained for risks, not the physiology of birth.
We automatically give our trust to the doctors, whom we feel know more than we do, making us inferior. I work on this perspective with families. Women don't have this information so they don't have the choice... Many women find doulas during their second birth because they don't want their first experience again.
Everything is coming from the mother. They want emotional support.
Women in France can only have one person in the hospital room, how does that affect your work as a doula?
The maternity ward in France is different, when I am called into a birth it's usually for home birth. But when they call me to a maternity it's difficult to have both the dad and doula in the same delivery room. You can only have one person in the room with the laboring mother.
The dads sometimes don't go so that I can go for the whole labor, and when the baby is about to to arrive, we switch so the dad can come back into the room and take my spot.
It is changing in some maternities like NanneTerre where dads and doulas are welcomed, so I think doulas are being viewed as important. Sometimes they see us as witches, or unqualified women who don't know what we are doing or always suggesting free births. We are helping to make what we do clear.