“Why are you a doula?”
In 2010 the birth of my daughter transformed me. It activated soul knowledge. I felt like yelling, “Women’s bodies are amazing. Don’t believe they are just good for being attractive or sexual expression. They are also made for birthing!” Indeed, the vagina is just as wonderful as an entrance as it is an exit. Society gives us these messages; women’s bodies are for men’s pleasure, and birthing is terrible. I felt this was not true. It’s definitely not what I want my daughter to believe as she grows up. What a paradigm shift created by an inside-out experience. Jumping head first into doula work felt like a pit bull puppy pulling me on a leash. I had no choice but to run with it. I caught the wave for birth rights. After all, they are human rights. Yes, birth can be a lot of work. Yet, we are designed for that work in body, mind, and spirit.
My mother-in-law encouraged me in my early days. She grew up in New York during the ’60s. She still carries those vibes with her. After connecting with her deeply for a few years, I saw a wide gap in the modern female experience. The concept of birthing with autonomy missed the feminist movement. There were pockets of birth revival, but none took hold. Somehow women’s rights included birth control and left out birth. Did the patriarchal medical model bring about scary sterile birthing experiences? Did it create a model that left out the rationale of a women’s movement in labor? Were the elements of natural birth too revealing in a hospital setting (think loud, deep moaning, naked bottoms swirling around, and a few f-bombs)? Have we traumatized women and made the next generation fear birth? Did this make them want to avoid it? Or possibly it was the reason so many want to numb it all away? Did we swing from motherhood being a white picket fence unrealistic ideal to viewing motherhood as a disadvantage? Or a role of complete martyrdom? What’s up with the schism? Where is the wholeness around the natural cycles of life? In a society that can’t hold mothers with honor, it makes it difficult to define and honor ourselves.
Helping women have better birth experiences is a real calling and a pursuit for many women of my generation. Doula work has grown tremendously in popularity in the past five years. Yet, the average doula only works for 3-5 years. Why? We experience secondhand trauma. Not so much from births, but from “the system” which can swallow up anyone if they aren’t careful. It takes grace, grit, and a good deal of output. It takes dedication to remain faithful to wellness in a barcode-scanning and beeping atmosphere. I’ve moved through the seasons of burnout and come to see that birth work is an extension of a deeper purpose. It means showing up for people in a wholehearted way. I love a crunchy homebirth where I can pet the family dog and walk around barefoot. Yet, I also know the surreal feeling of dressing, fastening in a car seat, and carrying a newborn (that isn’t mine) to a hospital because the mother needs to transfer to the hospital and my aim is to reconnect mother and baby. It happens and it IS ok. Ultimately, birth is not about performance. It’s about connecting to life on a deeper level. I’ve been in births that have lasted for days. I missed a few births because I couldn’t get there fast enough. No matter what happens, I am devoted to the mother and helping her to know she is cared for. This work keeps me humble and is an extension of my spiritual journey.
My son’s birth solidified my calling to birth work. My second child was born in 2018, also using HypnoBirthing. I also used Pranic Healing. My labor was short and manageable. I didn’t reach the birth tub, but that is a good problem. He came out lovely, and my husband caught him by the toilet. I had some moments of doubt (that included telling my husband he can’t play video games in the bathroom anymore) but we did it! This reinforced my desire to help more women create a birth rooted in acceptance.
I want to help babies enter the world in a way that minimizes fear. That isn’t necessarily contingent on how the birth goes. What matters most is feeling supported. If my presence allows mothers to feel safer their babies will be imprinted with maximum positivity. Additionally, the well-being of the mother strongly impacts infant bonding after birth. Birth is a heightened experience that stays with the mother. It profoundly impacts her relationship with her body and her new baby. Also, it can influence her husband’s or partner’s perspective of women. The more men and children see physiological birth, the better chance the human race has at returning birth to the mother. I feel the more women will be honored in general. I think birth is an extraordinary moment in life that deserves extra care, love, and reverence. I help moms sort through options and hold space for what is best for them. My motivation to repair this system somehow includes the birth stories of all the women around me. It includes restoring female strength. This begins with honoring our instincts. Then, we must use our courage to speak. We must collectively speak with our choices about birthing including: where we give birth, who is allowed to be there, how we discuss birth and how we choose to see the miracle of the womb.
My husband is very supportive of my work. He caught our two babies and he understands my work hours. (There are not many jobs in the world where you leave for work, and you have no way of telling your partner, childcare, or kids when you will be back!) If you are blessed to have a good doula or midwife, she was blessed with a supportive partner that probably could teach a childbirth education class. Overall, I feel this is my dharma and my path. We can restore our maternity care and remind women of their strength and the true power of motherhood.
Between DONA training and completing my certifications, my mother unexpectedly passed away at 47. I was 28. I had attended about 10 births then. Yet, I found a depth in my grief that created a gravity compelling me to honor the mother and child relationship even more. It made me want to celebrate the passages a soul takes as it transitions in and out of Earth. I came to see that birth and death are similar passages. They are like coming to the same house but passing through different doors. I also could not help but reflect on all that is maternal. I could not help but review my personality because of my mom. The bond between mother and child is in every aspect of our lives. It is biological, psychological, social, economic, intellectual, cultural, and spiritual. It does not get much bolstering or noticing. It is just a given. The mother gives and shares her body and life with a child. To be a mother is an honor. We have the chance to raise the collective consciousness with how we parent. To do our best with all this responsibility requires support.
We live in nuclear units with individual iPad, iPhone, laptop, stove, food, bathrooms, and cars. However, we aren’t that different from our tribal ancestors. We are hardwired for social connections. To be their best, women need support from other women during pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and parenting in general. The bonding of birthing and breastfeeding is key to a healthy life. This doesn’t mean these things have to go perfectly for healthy attachment. However, we must return to holding space for the sacred nature of this time. Not only is this a time when the mother is bonding to an infant, but it’s also when the mother becomes a new version of herself and bonds deeper to “her tribe” and her new identity. Vulnerability is there for a reason, creating a tenderness as a foundation on which both mother and child can build their social and emotional life. Healthy attachment and gentleness help set up feelings of safety so the child can grow to access more functions of the higher brain. Also, as a mother feels safe and supported, she can better care for her child. When the mother feels safe her nervous system and breathing patterns, signal comfort to the infant. What if more babies come into the world feeling safe? How would that change the next generation?
What’s important to me is reverence for birth in all forms. I also think there needs to be exceptional support for those women who want natural births and to nurse their babes due to how America’s perceptions have become, forgetting the magical nature of a woman’s body. For about 100 years, we have lost many birthing arts, and my goal is to bring them back. My style of doulaing includes: sisterly connection, devotional prayer, regular journal homework, autonomy advocacy, modern hypnosis, HypnoBirthing, and sometimes Pranic Healing (energy medicine). Acceptance is vital for life. Let it begin at your baby’s birth. We can choose to live in harmony. In my doula role, my deepest desire is to bring more connection to the planet. Let’s maximize the oxytocin!
Sincerely, the doula lady