MotherWit had a wonderful meeting tonight. Though we didn't have a huge turnout (not unusual in mid January), the feeling was great, and the parents who had come for information left feeling informed, nurtured, and calmed. But what made them feel this way was not just the presence of 5 great doulas, but the presence of the new parents. We had the pleasure of having a few couples come with their older babies, and it was they who provided answers to the questions, and they who gave the basic message "hey, we were where you are, clueless and scared, and here we are now, confident and happy." There was a particular moment when a mother with her six month old baby said to the terrified, expecting mother "I was petrified when I got pregnant with Emily. I even asked Lesley if labour was going to feel like torture. And you know what? I ended up giving birth naturally!" Now what could possibly be more reassuring than that? Nothing I could say as a professional could resonate so deeply as this message.
I'm seeing part of my mission as a doula in healing a wounded birth culture is not just going to the births and helping to create good outcomes, but bringing people together so the ones who come out of it feeling like the rock stars they SHOULD feel like, can tell the ones sitting scared, "you know what? No matter what, you're gonna be a rock star too! If I can do it, so can YOU."
Our birth culture is hungry for new stories. No more should women who are contemplating a natural birth be met with the voices of resistance, "are you CRAZY? Why would you not go into the hospital as soon as it hurts and get 'your' epidural?" Can you imagine instead the impact upon a woman with a fledgling hope for a natural birth in a hospital hearing from a new mother, "Honey, of course you can give birth naturally. I did!"? We don't get these stories very often out of hospital birthing moms. But we are starting to more and more as doulas help to contribute to better birth outcomes, simply by honouring the mother's space and reducing distractions, providing encouragement, reinforcing that all the mother is doing to help her body open is great. Messages from new mothers help to deepen that impact, and community grows. Healing spreads. Our stories reflect the healing. As a doula, I am a story keeper, and the more stories I have of beautiful births to share, the more women will believe, "hey, I can do this too!"
Here is how you can contribute to the healing...it's not hard, and I encourage you and all your friends to share this message. When an expecting parent tells you they want to have a natural birth in a hospital, don't fill them up with anything negative. Don't say, "oh, it's impossible to have a natural birth in a hospital!" Because you'd be dishonouring their choice to birth where they feel safest. Don't tell them any horror stories about natural birth. I don't think any of my readers here would do that, but if you are in the presence of someone else doing so, intervene with something healing and positive. Instead, fill them with stories of success. You will not be misleading them. Assume they are intelligent and know the benefits vs. the risks of their choices. Allow no horrific stories in the presence of a pregnant woman. It is not necessary as part of her education. Instead, reinforce the great design of her body. Tell her her round belly is beautiful!
Let's let the expecting father know we trust he will know how to come through for his partner, that he will not be the dufus he thinks he's going to be. When I hear my new daddies telling the daddies-to-be, "don't be afraid. You are going to be amazed at how strong she is," this gives them permission to embrace this process as a journey the couple will go through together. So many fathers feel like they're going to be annoying sidekicks, and our culture really doesn't give enough praise to the amazing job the vast majority of fathers do to support their women in labour. My husband was a 22 year old boy when we had our first baby, and there is no way I could have birthed without him, his intuition and trust in me keeping my path alight. Let us change the story that men don't know how to handle birth. Even the ones who think it's icky still can have a profoundly positive emotional impact. So let's build them up instead of scaring them into thinking they're going to barf and faint when they look between their spouses' legs when the baby crowns.
I am tired now, and given to rambling when exhausted, so i will say good night, and go to bed happy, knowing there are a few more people in the world who have reclaimed a little of their motherwit about birthing.