Those who know me know one of my greatest passions is to guide women on their journeys to becoming doulas themselves. It's not just because I love to chat about birth and see eyes open big and mouths open in wide "Os" of wonder (though that's a large part of it), but because I feel that having more women aligned with what birth in our culture needs for healing MUST reach critical mass. I feel a desperation to see the pendulum begin to swing the other way, ensuring within the context of the great access to modern maternity care we have, ALL families experience birth in ways which nourish them.
There are too many stories of emotional trauma, too many choking sobs at the telling of birth stories, too much shame surrounding the experiences of mothers and fathers, stories which, had the tellers been honoured in the spirit of "bringers forth of life" instead of "ignorant inconveniences", could have ended in triumph. Sadly, many end in the frustrated, guilty tears of those who feel they don't have a right to grieve while healthy babies lie in their arms.
Before I begin a doula training, I take time to connect as deeply as I can with my intent. What do I want for these women? I am humbled by the amazing women who decide to come to me to help them further and focus their aspirations to embark upon this work, and I have an overwhelming desire to serve them well. I believe my students all come with a deep yearning in their hearts to be of use, to do what they can to serve families as they contribute to the healing of Birth. They usually come for three reasons: either they've had that sip from the Holy Grail of "Transformative Birth" and want that for everyone, they have been deeply wounded and want to prevent that sadness for others by buffering and supporting, or they have experienced neither but intuitively know the stories they're hearing need to change, and want to be a part of that good change. Not only do I want to give them skills and knowledge to do so(learning myself from the amazing depth of skills and knowledge they already have), but I want to connect them more profoundly to their own feminine wisdom. I want to nourish that deep soul yearning they bring to our learning circle. I want them to feel in their cells how their inspiration to work as doulas is the prayer of their great great Grandmothers. So we work with that part too, exploring ceremony and energy work as we honour the inspiration that sets us on the path of Love and Spirit.
I love the way women gather. I observe how they interact. Before names are even exchanged, a woman will take another's baby so she can take off her carrier and coat, both of them happily chatting about early motherhood. Offers of holding babies are freely given so mothers can eat hands free (a rare treat). Coffees are poured for each other, resources are shared, tears dried, hugs exchanged, and acknowledgements of the great feeling in the room uttered. The talk is earthy, laughter filled, and bawdy as we let down our hair away from the presence of older kids and gentlemen. Women are capable of generating a lot of amazing energy in their gathering, an energy born of the simple being in community with a shared dream. And when that energy is focused with a collective intention, great shapeshiftings of heaing occur. I know many of these women will go home and experience some amazing synchronicities and come back to our next gathering with stories of more deeply honed intuition.
Today, after teaching half of our eight day birth doula training (the rest happens next month), I am physically and mentally exhausted, but I am on an emotional high as if I've just worked long and hard for an amazing birth. Thank you all, Ladies, for bringing your beauty to our humble gathering space within which to hone your own motherwit. Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again.
Note: For anyone who finds themselves all freaked out at the sight of doulas feeling bellies and listening with a fetal heart finding device, have no fear and relax. We are not out to do midwives' jobs (otherwise we'd go out and be midwives), nor are we trying to assume any clinical care of our clients. My students are literally under contractual obligation to perform NO diagnostic skills on their clients. We nourish the whole and provide information and support. We like to promote optimal fetal positioning. There is a lot of controversy as to whether or not there is value to this, as many babies turn posterior during birth..but because of the fact we see a large percentage of natural births, we also see (as anecdotal as it may be) that many of these malpositions during labour occur after mothers receive an epidural. We know that for moms who have healthy, normal pregnancies and their babies are determined by their caregivers to be head down and stable, the principles of OFP may potentially contribute to a smoother birth. Can we tell where babies are lying in their mom's tummies? No, of course not, that takes years of midwifery/medicine experience. We ask Moms when we are asked if we know where their babies might be upon our discussions of OFP, "Where do YOU think your baby is?" We ask where the mom feels kicks and a bum, and if she wishes, we feel along with her. It is in the spirit of bonding, exploration, and empowerment,and helps moms get accustomed to our touch, establishing a deeper rapport that we bring to her birth experience. To validate to Mom that her instincts were right on, or to perhaps explore further if she is unsure, we invite her to listen to her baby's heart, having her place the device over where she thinks Baby's heart would be heard. Parents love to listen to this, and their eyes light up when they realize they figured out the mystery. Never is anyone listening to the heart rate for any diagnostic reasons, nor are doulas ever trying to diagnose position or lie. If nobody hears a heartrate, we know it's because none of us know enough to find the right spot, no big deal. When parents ask about their baby's positions, most doctors tend to consult the ultrasound papers and say, "it's head down" and that's that. So discussions about fetal positions and their being proactive about it piques their curiosity to know more about their bodies.
This is for fun, information, and for parents to feel more involved in the understanding of their pregnancies and how they can potentially help themselves have a smoother birth. If they find Baby be in a position that may be less favourable for a smooth birth, we discuss and demonstrate exercises for moms to do.
Doulas are very intimate with their clients' bodies, massaging them throughout labour, drying them off when they're getting out the shower and are too busy with their labours to do so, dangling them on our laps to help bring Baby down, suddenly seeing a baby's head in her vaginal opening and yelling for a doctor, positioning their bodies to facilitate changes in position, drying tears, wiping blood off their legs, changing soiled bedding, holding vomit bowls, touching breasts, showing how to diaper and swaddle their babies, holding their babies when necessary....to put a taboo around a belly with a baby in it is a silly silly thing if this is our client's desire. There is often the assumption that if you give a woman some knowledge she'll go off and do dangerous things with it. Feeling bellies is not a "Gateway Touch" which shoots doulas over the line into playing midwife. The Spanish Inquisition ended a long time ago.