"Ask me for strength and I will lend not only my hand, but also my heart."
~ Unknown

Monday, May 30, 2011

My Doula Philosophy - Michelle's Musings

As I sit before my computer screen today, I'm drawing a bit of a blank.  It is not because I cannot describe the concrete aspects of my doula "philosophy," as it were.  No, it is because what I believe about work as a doula is based on more than studies, books, papers, classes, etc.  For me, work as a doula is work of the heart.  In a recent workshop, Barbara Harper mentioned that the word doula is not entirely accurate.  Our work is not to really do anything, rather it is to be.  My greatest joy in practice is simply being present for a family on the most beautiful, emotional, spiritual day of their lives.  Holding the space for a mother and her partner to welcome a child is a blessing.  We, as doulas or birthing companions, are honoured to bear witness to miracles.

Through the education that we are continuously pursuing, doulas and other birth workers learn how conception, pregnancy, birthing and postpartum experiences shape the life of the mother, the child and the entire family unit.  We learn about the concrete - such as the use of interventions in birthing; how medications during labor can effect baby, mom and the breastfeeding relationship; the importance of skin-to-skin contact immediately following birth and how it initiates the stimulation of vital neurons in the child and hormones in the mother, etc.  The list goes on and on.  But, I feel that to overlook the emotional and spiritual aspects of birthing is to deny its full power.  I believe that conscious conception, a connected pregnancy, and an understanding of the way baby and mother work together during birthing and breastfeeding is as much a part of childbirth preparation as are prenatal care, nutrition and an understanding of the physiology of labor and birth.  Conception, pregnancy and birth are more than women's issues, they are family issues.  It is this wholistic view that inspires us to support informed choices, integration of any spiritual or religious views, and the intrinsic values belonging to each particular family we work with.  Birth belongs to the family!

I also believe that birthing does not have to be painful.  Birth is a natural process that the female body was designed for.  The uterus is a muscle just like those in our arms, legs, etc.  It does not only function during birthing, but also during menstruation and during sexual intimacy.  Certainly, when one experiences pleasure with one's partner, it is not a painful sensation; therefore, why should birthing be any different? One word: fear.  We must work to eliminate the fear of birthing.  I believe that, as Franklin D. Roosevelt once stated, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."  We do not fear connecting intimately with our partners.  We do not fear a sneeze.  We do not fear blinking, breathing, the beat of our hearts...no other natural function of our bodies is met with fear other than birthing.  Interestingly, in cultures where women live in more rural communities and are not connected as readily to media - there is much less fear and anxiety about birthing.  Why?  Because birthing is seen as a natural part of life and an emergence of a soul, rather than a medical emergency.

Hearkening back to the beginning of my musings, when I work with a birthing family, I always try to lead with my heart.  Occasionally, a doula (myself most definitely included) may get caught up in relaying all of the facts and necessary practical information, but as time passes, she learns more about herself and the kind of doula she aspires to be.  Knowledge, not only of the mind but also of the spirit, increases with experience.  I have seen births go so smoothly, that they are literally seamless.  I have also seen special circumstances occur, where medicine has truly worked miracles.  I have seen mothers embrace the power of their birthings and gain confidence that translates throughout their lives.  I have also cried silently while holding a grieving mother.

I can give scientific data and clinical references to birthing families; but, without lending my heart, I will not have given what is truly needed.

With Love,

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