“So… how did you decide to become a doula?”
That’s a question I often get asked when interviewing with a potential client.
I usually smile, remembering my very own journey through pregnancy and birth and then proceed to tell them that it was a gradual happening starting with my daughter’s birth and ending some time after she was a year old; when I realized how much I loved all things birth and had naturally fallen into a support role as my peers began to have children right alongside me.
But that’s a lie. I’ve been lying.
I didn’t realize it until two days ago when Randy Patterson from Prodoula asked me: “Who is your business’ hero?”
Umm…. what? My business’ hero? I’m not very good on my feet– plus this was an intense question!
I sat and thought. I thought back to the story I always tell. I thought back to Judah’s birth– is she my business’ hero? I thought back to my friends’ births and their postpartum periods, were they my business’ heros?
I thought back to the very first birth I ever witnessed. Suddenly my face became hot and tears welled up in my eyes.
I was 17 years old. I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was taking a nap not expecting any company, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. Kneeling by my bed, was my cousin, 17 years old, just like me.
She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said: “I never got my period. I’m pregnant.”
I sat up– still fuzzy– not knowing what to say.
She continued on… and the story wasn’t a pretty one.
She eventually looked at me and said “I don’t know what to do. Everyone says I should have an abortion. What do I do?”
Suddenly, me, a 17 year old high schooler without a care in the world, who was obsessed with her boyfriend and auditioning for school plays, was assuming the position of authority in things BIRTH related. <GULP>
Lord knows if I even knew HOW a baby was birthed, never mind if my partnerless, jobless, senior in high school teenage cousin should go through with her pregnancy!?
Did I mention I’m not quick on my feet?
I took a breath and muttered “I’ll help you. Whatever you need. I’ll help you”
For the next nine months, I quietly watched. I watched as her body changed and grew. I watched as she was congratulated, was given loads of advice and I watched as she was stared at and probably talked about behind her back. I watched as she navigated school as, quite possibly, the only other kid growing another human being.
I watched her strength.
Springtime came, and I was playing Peter Pan in my high school’s yearly musical. I got word that I would be needed bright and early the next morning for my cousin’s induction. My director gave me the day off and headed to her house.
The night before, we packed her bag. I remember the little diapers… I was so excited. A baby was about to be born!
When I think back on it now, I wonder how she must have been feeling.
Nervous? Embarrassment? Dread? Resentment? Guilt? Shame?
The details that I remember from the birth are unlike the details that I remember when I attend births now. I remember taking videos, I remember writing down different things that she was saying during the labor. I remember playing card games and I remember falling asleep outside in the hallway while she got her epidural.
I remember how she pushed. I remember how hard it was physically but how incredibly intense and beautiful it all was.
I remember that I wasn’t afraid.
I remember his black, fuzzy hair and his red skin and squishy nose.
I remember holding him. I remember that she didn’t want to hold him.
But I remember how she did, anyway.
SHE is my business’ hero. SHE is the reason I love birth and I support families.
Because the journey is long sometimes, and the journey is unexpected sometimes. The journey is bittersweet sometimes. It can be joyful, it can be easy, it can be enjoyable, but not always.
This is not a position on abortion. This is not a position on epidural or induction…on purple pushing or passive descent.
This is about supporting a mother in making the decisions that SHE thinks are best for her and her family. This is about the STRENGTH within a woman that defies circumstance, feeling and plans.
SHE is how it all started for me. Thirteen years ago on a sunny day in April, when if someone would have mentioned the word “doula” to me I would have tilted my head and said:
“What? What’s that?”