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

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Being Doula

The following post contains anecdotal information from an actual birth.  This story is posted with full permission from the family involved and no identifying details have been included.

I apologize for such a large stretch (no pun intended) without a posting.  The truth is, I have been under transformation, as we all have been at From Womb to Cradle Doula Services.  What I'd like to share today has been my most recent transformation... learning to be.

I was recently blessed to attend a birth where I needed to be present, but not necessarily used.  It got me thinking about my training and all that I had learned.  I loved my initial training with it's hands-on aspects.  I learned great tools such as the "double hip squeeze," "counter-pressure," soft touch massage, how to use a birth ball, etc.  In my continued training I learned more communication skills to assist me in working not only with my clients, but also other professionals.  All of these tools were great to have in my "kit" when needed, but what if they weren't?

In one of my favorite seminars, midwife Barbara Harper told those of us present that we needed to learn not to be a "DO-ula," but rather a "BE-la."  I pondered what she said, thought I had it figured out, "Be present," I thought, "That's all I have to do."  Was I prepared to BE so?

I was preparing to attend my first home water birth a few weeks ago.  Those of us who would be in attendance had a conference call with the primary midwife.  There was to be quite a large group including potentially three doulas.  I had previously been quite concerned about the amount of individuals that would be present as I have read extensively about the importance of privacy during labour and the mammilian reflex to stop labouring when feeling in danger.  During the call, I asked what she would want me to do.  What did she say?
In the end...it is her (the mother's) birth.
Ah hah!  Yes, of course!  I knew that.  Every birth I've attended, other than those of my children, belonged to the mother.   I didn't have to touch a mother to help her.  I had often told my clients that they were the queen and I, their humble servant.  So, it would make sense then that if a mother didn't need or want me to do anything, then I didn't need to.  I simply needed to be there for her.  (Sometimes we need to be reminded of these things that are in the crevices of our minds.)

The day arrived and I made my way to the birthing family's home.  The midwife and another doula as well as several others were already there.  I watched, I waited, I looked in awe at this beautiful mother birthing in her own time, her own home, her own way.  I was transfixed!  (Did I mention this was my first home birth!?)

I literally did nothing other than take a few photos for the family for 95% of the time.  It wasn't until the mother was pushing her child out into the water that the midwife turned to me and asked me to do...the double hip squeeze (Aha!) for the mama that I moved from my silent post.  There I stood, a silent witness to the miracle of an uninhibited undisturbed birth...then I got it.  Just be...

My most important job that day was to be a witness.  To see that birth could be perfectly safe, perfectly natural, perfectly... perfect...without interference. I was there to learn that we often try to do too much.  Ah, yes, the importance of privacy during labor...the mammilian reflex to shut down when in fear... all from too much doing.

Do less.  Be more.  Just watch. Wait. Witness.

How else can we be?