Fuller House Doula vs. Reality
I recently watched the episode of Fuller House where Stephanie and Jimmy hire a postpartum doula. I’ve given myself a bit of time to process because my first reaction was to write an angry letter to the developers and writers. That would defeat the purpose of educating people on what a postpartum doula is and does. So, instead I’ll write a blog post to share with all of you.
First, I’d like to thank the writers for bringing the idea of a doula to the show. I understand that the portrayal may have been meant as a backwards take on doulas to add to the tension of the episode. (Episode arcs and all that jazz) However they really missed the mark. As a profession, doulas are just getting into the mainstream knowledge banks of expecting and new parents. Portraying us the way we were very well may be a huge step back. People who have never heard of a doula are going to think that that is how doulas operate. I promise it isn’t. At least not a professional doula.
Doulas aren’t as well-known as a nurse or midwife. If a nurse or midwife had been portrayed in such a light people would have shrugged it off. They would assume it was just a terrible act for humor. But where doulas aren’t a known resource in many areas, viewers may assume all doulas are like that and not look into hiring one when they are expecting or overwhelmed.
Stephanie did mention that their doula was terrible, and I want to thank the writers for giving us that. She was terrible. My jaw hit the floor when I saw her burst into the house and say “I’m here for the baby. Give me the child.” She takes baby Tanner-Gibbler and walks out of the room. During the rest of the episode she did a lot of shushing of Stephanie, DJ and the rest of the household. She was short, clipped, rude and overbearing. Let’s walk through the differences.
Difference #1: Entering the home
Doula Melissa walks into the house, unannounced. Her voice is harsh, her manners clipped. She goes straight to DJ takes baby from her and walks out of the room with out so much as a how do you do.
A professional doula would knock on the door or ring a doorbell unless given express permission to enter the home unannounced. They would then check in with parents and see what they need and how they are doing. Typically, this can take anywhere from 5 minutes to a half hour. In that time the doula may get coffee or tea going for everyone. A good doula will leave baby with whomever is holding them when they arrived. The baby is not going to be taken from anyone unless given to the doula.
Difference #2: The faces
Doula Melissa is standing downstairs while Stephanie is changing and swaddling her baby. Jimmy is taking photos of them all. Melissa gives him a look that says you smell and shouldn’t be anywhere near me. Why are you taking so many photo? Leave us all alone.
A real doula wouldn’t stand there with her hands folded stick straight staring at Mama and baby like a vulture waiting for dinner. They would be folding laundry, giving both parents tricks and tips on how to make changing a baby easier and safer. Chances are they will casually mention that one hand should always remain on baby when they are laying on a high surface. It’s rare but a newborn can roll over and off a changing table, couch, bed or other high surface.
Difference #3: Let me fix what you’ve done
In the same scene Stephanie is telling Melissa that she loves DJ but wants to do things her way. She barely finishes the sentiment when Melissa says “Now, let me fix what you’ve done.” This causes Steph to be self-deprecating. You can see Melissa getting agitated with Steph talking and she eventually tells her to “shush.” When Steph says that she and Jimmy have chosen to use cloth diapers Melissa dismisses her with a short “No you’re not.” And leaves it at that. Steph reasonably asks, “Is there a reason for that?” In response she gets a snooty “Yes” you can see her prepare to hear the reason why, but none comes. Poor Jimmy says, “Wow we are learning so much.” You can tell he is disappointed, and his camera goes down. The rest of the scene is Steph burping the baby, Melissa taking baby from her because she isn’t successful in the first ten seconds and she disappears, with the baby, upstairs.
A doula wouldn’t shush you no matter how loud you were being. Unless she felt that it was a safety issue for the baby. Rather than telling you they were going to fix what you’ve done; a doula would have been giving small tips throughout the changing and swaddling process so that you would be comfortable doing it on your own. The only time a doula would do it is if you asked them to show you or you asked them to do it. A doula wouldn’t naysay your choices, cloth or disposable diapers, breastfeeding or formula, co-sleeping or bassinet. They would be sure you are well educated on the use, mode or safety of that choice and answer any questions you may have. If they don’t have the answer they will, more than likely, have a resource you could investigate. And again, a doula will never take your baby from you and walk out of the room. Unless you’ve asked to lay down and take a nap or shower and you don’t want to worry about whether baby is safe.
Difference #4: No empathy
Doula Melissa is shown re-swaddling Steph’s baby, as of yet unnamed, and Steph is telling her a story about a distant relative that wore the same gown her baby is in now. When shushed she goes on to say that the naming ceremony is happening soon and had been hoping to spend time with her baby so that she could choose a good name for her. Melissa completely ignores this, picks up the baby and walks upstairs. Steph is flustered and upset trying to get her to come back with HER baby. You can tell she is hurt, angry, disappointed and sad as she starts to viciously fold the baby’s laundry.
A doula would have been folding the laundry while Steph changed and swaddled her baby. Her doula should have been listening to the story about Heckakiah and encouraged Steph to talk more about the family line of the gown. Steph never would have had to say that she was hoping to spend time with her baby so she could come up with a name. Because the baby would have been her the entire time unless she needed to eat, sleep, shower or accomplish something else that required two hands. She would have been the one to carry her baby girl upstairs and chances are she would have already chosen a name for her.
I’ve rewatched the episode in writing this because I wanted to get as much down as possible. As thankful as I am that Steph and Dj sorted things out, Jimmy said Melissa wasn’t what he had expected, and Melissa was fired. I’m disappointed that this is the route the writers decided to take.
A doula is so much to an expanding family. They are truly supposed to, as Steph put it, “help me find my sea-legs.” They do this by being supportive, educational, empathetic and present in the needs of both parents and their baby. If you want to hire a doula look into them, look a their reviews and testimonials and be sure to have a prenatal meeting with them to discuss expectations and philosophies. I hope you don’t get turned off of a postpartum doula because of this episode. Be sure to do your research and meet with a couple of doulas to find the perfect match for your family!