If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Monday, June 13, 2011

On Doulas and Dissertations

Many before me have made the analogy between completing your dissertation and giving birth.  I think the analogy has a lot of merit but recently I've made the connection between being a doula and being a dissertation advisor.

  • Supporting someone in labor, whether it be a with a baby or a dissertation, is grueling and rewarding work.
  • Before true labor begins, neither the pregnant woman nor the doctoral candidate can really fathom what the process will be like.  As doula/advisor you try and describe it but you know that half your words are falling on deaf ears.
  • During labor both the pregnant woman and the doctoral candidate want it to be over.  It is your job to hold their hand while helping them forward.
  • Both declare they will never do this again.  The pregnant woman may swear off sex.  The doctoral candidate usually develops elaborate fantasies about the non-intellectual career (mine was living on a mountain top, stockpiling arms and teaching martial arts to the local children) they will start as soon as it is all over.  It is your job to take these declarations seriously and not laugh in their face.  
  • There is much effort but the glory is not yours.  Luckily neither is the pain.

There are, of course, significant differences. The most important one is:
  • The pregnant woman has the choice of using drugs or not.  As a doula it is your job to support a woman regardless of her choice.  As a doctoral advisor it is best to keep the student sober, at least until it is all over.


Annie said...

Hi Brigindo, I appreciate the humor in this article. Thanks!

Fawn said...

Ahahahaha! Just read this today! That's hilariously brilliant!