Why Tully is Not a Doula

[Disclaimer - I have not yet seen Tully. This post is written in response to spoilers I have heard/read about. If you don't want spoilers, please stop reading]


Tully, you’ve broken my heart.


If you haven’t heard about this movie yet, it’s the story of a motherhood journey. Marlo, played by Charlize Theron, is in the thick of motherhood having just given birth to her third baby. The nights are sleepless. The household chores pile up. The family is unimpressed with prepackaged dinners. And days become a blur of feedings, cleanings and diaper changes.


Enter Tully, the wrapped-up-with-a-bow night nanny hired for Marlo by Marlo’s brother. Tully is the answer to all of Marlo’s difficulties.


My postpartum doula heart swelled with pride at the trailer. “Yes! That’s what we do!”, I thought. “Finally, a movie that shines a light on how we support new moms!”.


To be fair, I should have suspected something from the start. The movie’s producers, the same ones who brought us “Juno” and “Young Adult”, wouldn’t have created a movie without some dramatic twist. As long as it wasn’t all “Hand that Rocks the Cradle”, I had convinced myself to be ok with the movie.


But then the spoilers came out, and my heart broke on a bizarre professional level. 


[Stop here if you don’t want spoilers. You’ve been warned]


Postpartum doulas walk a fine line between supporting a family and becoming a family friend. Yes, we are here to support you without judgment or agenda. But we maintain a professional approach in all that we do. So when Tully volunteered to sleep with Marlo’s husband, my jaw hit the floor. 


Um, no. 


I can say without any hesitation, postpartum doulas DON’T do that. We give you a safe space to process all of the emotions and difficulties that come with having a baby. We give referrals to other professionals as needed. We help with household tasks, like laundry, meal prep, or tidying up. We can help you and your partner communicate your needs to each other, but never in a way that is unprofessional.




Later, as Tully and Marlo go on a whirlwind of nighttime excursions, Tully’s support for Marlo goes more toward uncomfortably physical “hands-on care” than the professional level of care doulas provide. 


So no, while a postpartum doula will go with you and your baby to run errands, we’re not going out drinking with you while your baby sleeps. And if we do go out, we’re certainly a) bringing the baby, and b) planning around nursing times so you don’t find yourself in an uncomfortable, awkward engorgement predicament. 


Double ugh.


And without giving away too much I’ll just say that the plot gets more twisted.


You can’t make a movie without plot twists. I get it. It just would be nice to have a movie about the postpartum experience that didn’t portray doulas in a hippie, sexy, or uncomfortable light. We’re real people, professionals with real education, scopes of practice, and certifications.


On the plus side - it’s important for the entertainment industry to show motherhood in a realistic way, and to show that becoming a new parent is full of challenges. We don’t need to hide these struggles from the world. Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders are real. And sometimes we need to put our pride and stubbornness aside and ask for help. 


Help does exist. It’s not made up. It’s not fantasy. It’s a professional, knowledgeable, caring set of ears and hands to support you along your journey. Postpartum doula support can be a great addition to your postpartum plan - a postpartum doula holds the new parents' hands, literally and figuratively, as they establish themselves in the world of parenthood. 


Being a new parent can be hard. Surround yourself with people who help you feel secure in your choices, who walk with you as you find your path, and who support you without judgment or agenda.


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