My journey into birth work began on a yoga mat, laying in savasana after a very hot and sweaty Sivananda practice guided by my wonderful guru and now friend. I was laying there in the dark, salty warmth of the heated room, when all of the sudden a light bulb went off (inside me, of course) and I was overcome with this internal calling to serve those during the transitional period/journey into and through birth/parenthood. I was shocked, because I had always been interested in languages, cultures and helping those in need, but wasn’t so sure I even wanted to have kids, let alone be there to support those who decided to take the plunge. I was happy with my then boyfriend, now husband and bunny, yet I could not seem to turn off this new Light shining within, calling me with its silent yet resounding voice. I began researching ways in which I could begin this journey into serving expectant parents.
Having finished my degree the year before, I knew I was not interested in pursuing another degree, so that ruled out midwifery (plus, let’s be honest, I got through my degree with the saying “C’s get degrees” on repeat in my head and coasted through doing the bare minimum of effort/class attendance) and to get into midwifery you need a 4.0 GPA plus an outstanding supplementary application. You might think, “jeepers, why would I want to have this academic under-achiever as my doula” and that is totally cool if you do, but let me just say, I just didn’t see the point in stressing about getting the exact word count on an essay that the professor was going to forget the moment she/he puts the paper down, nor would my GPA from an Arts degree be the deciding factor on whether or not some non-profit (the realm in which I was working/passionate at the time) would hire me. For me, life was/is about trying new things, having your hands in many pots and just trying to be the best person I could be while continually working to be the happiest self possible. So, another degree was not in the cards. Through further research I discovered DONA, Doulas of North America, an organization that is internationally recognized in training individuals to serve those embarking on their birth journeys. That was it! I knew it was the path for me. Everything about humbly serving those becoming parents and their partners/families during such an incredible life transition screamed my name. It required a five day course, reading many books, and writing a few short papers, along with attending a few births. I could totally do that! The fact that it was a role that required physical and emotional support, leaving the medical realm up to Midwives and Doctors was me through and through.
Looking back, I was always the mothering/nurturing friend, when people were upset and needed a shoulder to cry on, relationship advice (I even had a friend start calling me “Dr. Phil”..haha), if someone wasn’t feeling well, I probably had something in my purse to make them feel better, or if I was at a party and someone had drank too much, you can bet I was the one there with water, tylenol and an extra hair elastic (if it was someone with long hair). SO, I found a training time that worked for me and then everything began to fall into place. After finishing my training, the universe opened up doors to connections I needed to find expectant parents (both single and/or with a partner) in need of birth support and I was able to complete the further requirements of becoming a Certified Birth Doula CD(DONA), which also ended in some life-long bonds with clients and their families from those first few births.
I have now been a doula for over five years, and even though I have only attended a couple handful of births, they have significantly impacted my life. I have witnessed the birth of beautiful humans and the incredible strength, determination and beautiful vulnerability of those birthing warriors and all I can say is WOW! How did I become so blessed that these families invite me into one of the most intimate times of their life and to witness the miracle of life, watching these sentient beings come earth-side. Words truly fall short on how profoundly changed I am after every birth story I am a part of. I am constantly in a state of awe not only in how frigging incredible, intelligent and resilient the female body is, but of the sheer will, determination and grace* in which these new parents embody to bring forth their little humans. *When I say grace, I do not mean to say that births are easy, that they happen smoothly, serenely or quietly (which they totally do and can), but for the fact that birth is so immensely humbling. These birthing individuals are continually called to surrender and adapt to each new stage of labour. This takes trust and grace. Sometimes it requires reassurances from myself or their birth partner, midwife/nurse/doc, sometimes it requires tears or admittance to fear,so that they can overcome them, but in the end they always surrender with a gracefulness that I have not seen elsewhere.
There are many moments that keep bringing me back to this job, a job that requires being on call for upwards of 4 weeks per client, that has me missing out on events, or missing nights of sleep, but the three pivotal moments are the sheer primal strength a labouring person has to call upon during the pushing phase, that moment babe’s head comes earth side and takes its first breath as its own being, and that split instant between babe’s exit of the womb and being placed onto the chest-there is this switch between a fierce look of power to eternal bliss. There is nothing like that rapid switch of emotion and it brings me to tears every time. Those tears for me are always followed by this indescribable elation; a sensation that washes over me and fills me up like no other experience has. It continues to bolster me in the hours, days and weeks after the birth.
That being said, let me tell you, the exhaustion after leaving a birth is unlike anything I have ever experienced. I was just telling my husband that I am SO grateful that most of my births happen at night, so when I leave it is usually dark with few people about, because I am too tired to keep my thoughts in my head, and I find myself having to rambling out loud, guiding myself through simple tasks as opening the car door and getting situated, to turning on Pink Floyd’s Meddle (yes, I play this album after every birth), to just getting my shit together enough to drive home. I then talk myself through getting as bed ready as possible, lie on the floor with my bolster for thirty minutes or so to unwind and the shuffle myself to my bed where I moan signs of relief to be in the comforts of my bed. This exhaustion is heavy, deep, yet immensely satisfying.
With each passing birth, I find myself more empathetic, more humbled and more blessed and graced by this light that dwells within me, and that grows with these birth stories. I cannot thank each woman/each family enough for this gift they have bestowed upon me. I receive many thanks, but I feel they have given me more than I could possibly have given them during those hours of support. I cannot imagine a life where I move away from this offering. I cannot tell you in more words how being a birth worker has and will continue to change me, bless and humble me.