Sunday, March 14, 2010

Challenges and Love

I used to turn down clients I didn't feel I was a good fit with. I justified it by saying "well, they'll probably get better care elsewhere." But I've stopped doing that lately. I am trying to have the attitude of gratefully accepting those who really want to embark on this journey of birth with me. If someone doesn't vibe with me and chooses not to work with me, great...I am so glad they are able to trust their instincts and look elsewhere for excellent care, which I will most certainly guide them towards if they ask. But in terms of clients approaching me, if they are very much into working with me, even if I have a few concerns about our connection, I will go for it.

The reason for this is because I think if I don't feel like I click with someone, perhaps somewhere in me I am challenged by an unwillingness to stretch my capacity to surrender my attachment to "fun" births (births in which a woman is at least open to the idea of a natural birth). If a woman's desires are so adamantly different from mine, my feeling trepidation about serving her may be reflecting a challenge I have of truly meeting her where she is at, which is fundamentally a doula's job. I have learned that if I stick these situations out, I come to understand the excellent reasons why this mother is making these choices, and have come to respect and honour them even though they were not what I would have chosen. I think it took a long time for me to come to a place of trusting that a woman truly does know where she's at and what she wants, even if it used to seem to me that she was just not "getting" my information. It also took a long time to not hold an ulterior motive and secret ego-based hope that in the throes of labour I can heroically support her so perfectly that she will eschew that epidural or induction.

How am I to know what is better for a lady; a natural birth full of love infused oxytocin and stoner endorphins (my faves), or a planned induction/epidural out of fear? Yes, we know on a physiological level the former choice is often healthier than the latter, but certainly not always. Women struggle with all kinds of different emotional challenges, and it is supremely important, in fact their sense of safety depends upon it, that they can whenever possible call the shots about their choices in childbirth and know they will be honoured. A GOOD birth, however that woman experiences good, is my goal. But as many of you senior doulas out there know, it's not always easy to surrender your ego and serve from a place of true humility. Interestingly and blessedly, what I've found is that instead of feeling wounded by a ton of births in which people were stuck to ideals I initially thought were "misguided", I have been enriched. I have witnessed first hand that many of the times I have secretly thought a woman was being overly neurotic about something or making unwise choices, she was actually being guided by very deep intuition. It has been so incredible to witness this.

On my plate right now are women struggling with some intensely difficult situations. This is what has come upon my path. I will be attending a birth soon of a disabled child who will be given up for adoption. Many would utter expressions of shock, but I cannot express to you how the path to this choice for this beautiful couple has been paved with hearts so full of such love and compassion, it moves me to tears. I feel so honoured to be part of this process, to hold the space for this couple to say hello, and then say goodbye, sending that child off with blessings for a wonderful life. I have seen so many things in my career I would perhaps have judged harshly from the outside until I have been involved with the people in the situations, seeing them walk in those shoes for a time. It becomes easy not to judge as the relationships I forge with my clients deepen, and grow into something strong and loving. When a doula can meet her clients' issues and choices with unconditional love, drawing out her strengths and beauty, she is truly working from her heart.

The most beautiful thing a client ever said to me as I was hugging her "goodbye" after our last postpartum meeting was, "you've made me feel so loved." She had had an induction, an incredibly long, difficult birth, and a C-section...she had worked with such grace and dignity and it had been nothing but an honour to tend to her. Knowing she had felt loved by my apprentice and me cemented to me how love is truly the cornerstone of our work. If there is any defining vehicle with which a doula serves her clients with the greatest clarity and integrity possible, it is love..