Friday, February 5, 2010

Love to My Students, Past and Future

One of the things I have loved most about being an admittedly very experienced doula, is the privilege of being able to share my knowledge and experience with those who are called to the same path of birth attending.

Being a doula trainer has made me a better doula. Being a trainer, I get the opportunity to constantly deepen my knowledge base of non-clinical birth support, re-organize and perfect my own approach, from what to pack in a birth bag to how to manage paperwork, to how to conduct prenatal meetings. I do these things easily and automatically at this point (except the damn paperwork, which is the bein of my existence), but doula trainees need to be guided through these processes, which gives me a chance to step back and see where I can improve my own practice.

My favourite moments are when I get to watch those who apprentice with me witness their first births as doulas. It is such a beautiful thing to see someone's passion for the process they were called to follow reaffirmed by finally getting to see it happen before their eyes.

What calls people to birth? I mean, when you think about it, it's often long, it's sweaty, it's messy, there's poo, blood, pain, yelling, amniotic fluid, tears, and involves someone struggling to move a wet and gooey little squalling person out her vagina. I think this is how most people view the birth process....as something vaguely unsavoury. A doctor I've worked with a fair bit made me laugh out loud once when she told me, and I quote directly, "If birth weren't so beautiful, magical, and amazing, it would be pretty f***king disgusting." But those who actually WANT to be there, and upon going discover how much they LOVE to be there, connect strongly to that incredible magic about birth. It is truly an epic and heroic journey, which is rewarded by a rush of crazy love which heals, changes, transforms, and creates. As far as I'm concerned, who WOULDN'T want to hang out with birth all the time? As hard as it can be, there is usually a beautiful sense of peace in the room a labouring woman is in, no matter how loud things get. The moment a baby begins his earthly life is awesome to behold.

So finding kindred spirits who are actually as excited as I am to be with birth and help to protect a mother',partner's, and baby's experience of it is amazing to me! I love to teach through story, guided imagery exercises, lots of hands on, and celebrate and nurture each student's strengths. Some are gifted speakers, and strong educators. Some are very strong space holders, and we work on honing and trusting intuition. Some are amazing nurturers, and acutely aware of the needs of those in their presence. Some have magical hands. Everyone has a special strength, and I feel it's my job to bring it out into the light and help a student develop that strength until it's her own potent medicine space from which to conduct her work. I also want to know what they fear, and be available to talk about their emotional processing of learning to work with birth energy.

In short, I LOVE teaching. I love my students. I am beginning to trust more and more that those who have come or are coming to train with me are there to help me learn and grow as much as I am there to help them do the same. My students in the past have enriched my life immeasurably. Some have been doulas at my last birth. Some of have become very dear friends. Some are now my esteemed MotherWit colleagues. Some have challenged me to find better ways to communicate and guide. Some have made me dish out tough love, and many have taught me things I didn't know before. Some have gone on to become midwives and are patient with me calling them to answer my technical questions. In short, it has been quite amazing to be able to provide doula training to some really special women. I hope to continue to do so for many years to come.

One beautiful past student of mine (and it's so funny to even call her a former student because she is such a dear friend and confidante today) healed me of pregnancy nausea. I am not joking. I was shockingly nauseated during my fourth pregnancy, and still had to do doula work. Friends and family were compassionate about the nausea, but as people do, they said, "well, it's a good sign..Nature is preparing you to be with discomfort, etc." All these things are true, and help to put the nausea of pregnancy into perspective. But this woman, with her acute sensitivity, sensed how nausea and I are mortal enemies. I am not nauseated like a normal person. To me, feeling nauseated is like a state of torture, and it does funny things to me emotionally. I prefer pain over nausea, even intense pain, any day. Without words, she knew. We were attending a birth, and I just couldn't do anything but lie on a couch in the waiting room and pray I wouldn't barf. This woman took charge. She took me to the cafeteria of the hospital and made me eat mashed potatoes and tuna, the only things I could look at. She anointed me with essential oils for nausea. She wrapped me up in her great big shawl, put my feet up, and when I was in the birthing room doula-ing, she made sure I didn't get too tired. Nobody has EVER cared for me like that. I can't even describe it. She was going to do it, no matter what my resistance was, but not in an invasive, over solicitous way. She somehow intuited that my resistance to having someone try to help me with something I thought I should just suck up like a big girl because I had other people to care for was probably at the root of the problem. After the birth of our client's baby, which was a VBAC (the baby had an angel's name...Gabriel..and about 5 minutes after his birth on Remembrance Day, a trumpeter played "Amazing Grace" outside the window of the birthing room), I wasn't nauseated any more...for the rest of my pregnancy. Needless to say, I didn't birth without her. She is like a guardian angel. She lives out of the country, and is IMPOSSIBLE to reach, but whenever I think of her and miss her, she calls me.

I am unspeakably excited about the summer retreat coming up, and I want to thank all of you who have put so much of yourselves into your applications, and have trusted me with your stories and personal details of your lives. Know that I hold them all to my heart with gratitude, and a focused intention to do the very best job I can to teach you about birth healing. Many of you already know, I believe, and I'm just helping you remember. I also know I will learn a lot from you.

On that note, I am off to prepare for a birth...send blessings for a wonderful VBAC!