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From My Doula List

A doula said she was considering leaving doula-hood and invited people to read her blog regarding her desire.


I comment:

Regarding making any difference at all and the difficulty being a doula in the environment out there at the moment, sometimes the ONLY thing I *can* do at a birth is love the woman.When every intervention is foisted upon her, her fear is showering her, no one else believes in her and she is incredibly disappointed in her choices (or her choice to be where there *are* no choices), the only thing I can offer is love.

I believe that my greatest role as a doula is to Be with the woman. Witness to her experience. Storyteller to her years later about the experience (or writing-storyteller if it's a transient relationship). A filter of experience that translates what happened when mom begins asking questions regarding her birth experience.

Many times, my role as doula is the most miniscule during birth; it tends to be much, much greater during the first year postpartum (and I do not mean as a postpartum doula, either).

Another part of the prism of my continuing to do occasional doula work even as a midwife is that I am able to speak confidently and truly about experiences that happen in the hospital and effectively communicate them to my childbirth classes and even my clients who find themselves, for a variety of reasons, within The System. It is painfully obvious which midwives have on-going hospital "training"and which don't. I suspect the same could be said for childbirth educators. Without continuous re-education or re-exposure, their words fall flat with inconsistencies and inaccuracies. Midwives who don't re-experience the hospital experience every so often seem clumsy and stilted when they lumber around the hospital room during a client's transfer.

I find my doula experiences over the last 22 years invaluable as I progressed towards being a midwife. So important, in fact, that I revive my belief in doula work periodically by taking a hospital client on as a reminder. I mean, 99% of the women in the US have their kids in the hospital, right?

Even if the 4 other (or 8 other) people in the room are ho hum about the bringing forth of a life, I know that I can BE with the woman and her partner and SEE the preciousness, witness that child's only time to take a first breath, witness the birth of a family and the addition of one more soul to the earth. While I no longer weep at birth (most births, anyway), even after over 800+ births, I remain humbled and honored to be invited in to such a sacred event.

I just wanted to share these thoughts with you as you consider leaving doula-hood.

A blog spot that concerned me was the one that discusses a woman who chooses not to take childbirth classes ("5 Dumb Excuses for Not Taking a Childbirth Class") and, particularly, clients who don't practice what they learn in classes... even going to the point of saying: On the other hand, if you are not dedicated to practicing and preparing, you just might not have a clue how to deal with contractions. But is that the fault of the childbirth education class?

I find this statement, and the entire piece, incredibly offensive.

Women inherently know "how to deal with contractions." True, birth provider (or lack of provider), birth location, and inner beliefs all play into the birthing experience, but blaming a woman for her potential (or experienced) difficulties in birth on her not practicing breathing exercises (or relaxation) is vulgar and cruel.

As a woman who has taught a variety of "classes" from Preparation for Parenthood classes for the Red Cross, through Bradley, and now a combination of Hypnobirthing and Birthing From Within gatherings... and a doula/midwife who has worked with thousands of women who have never had a class of any sort - women birth just fine without someone giving them a certificate for passing a class. For MANY women (not to mention their partners), class is boring, expensive, and a waste of time. And a huge bone of contention in the marriage at a time when harmony is better suited to preparing for a child.

Depending on the brand of classes I have taught, reasons for arguments with the spouse have varied from not practicing breathing exercises, not practicing perineal massage, and not practicing relaxation. I have seen that as my own "teaching" (guiding) style has changed, the arguments revert back to the basics of a marriage, mainly money. And the loud discussions are far, far less frequent when not about assignments from the childbirth teacher.

Women merely need to be reminded that they know what to do. If they lived in a jungle, they would know what to do. Even without a tribe of birthing women to witness her whole female life, she would find her way through labor and birth. Our culture that slams women into a bed and uses medications at the slightest whim of a doc or midwife has a whole lot to learn in childbirth classes, but breathing and birthing are the least of it. If she is left alone to find her way, she will rock and sing and moan and squat and kneel and sway and breathe and gasp and holler and grab and twist her baby out into the world.

One thing that is a constant in my birth walk over these last two decades plus is change. I learn from my women, their partners, my doula-sisters, my childbirth educator-sisters, the women who speak to me frankly and bluntly about their painful and fabulous experiences, the docs, midwives, and women who birth unassisted... and my words reflect that change. Not one gathering goes by that I don't alter my words or learn something, even from first time mamas.

What I know is They Know.

I honor their knowledge.

Reader Comments (2)

Hi Barb,

Just had to respond to your comment on my being "vulgar and cruel," beings that you are picking apart what was said in an article I wrote.

First off, the specific excuses discussed in my article titled, "5 Dumb Excuses Why Not To Take A Childbirth Class" were taken directly from a discussion with several pregnant women who were bashing the idea of "bothering" with taking such a class. These excuses are not something I made up.

Maybe you've never been exposed to a woman who panicked in labor and didn't know anything except to hold her breath, scream in fear, and therefore all but invite medical intervention. If you haven't, then I can't expect you to think of me as anything but "vulgar and cruel" for making such a statement. Although the thought of every laboring woman today in the United States innately turning inward and experiencing a beautiful labor and birth is a wonderful thing, it just doesn't always happen that way.

The point of the article is to address specific excuses to not bother with a childbirth education class made by women who think CBE is a waste of time and money. These are the women who think they don't need to learn anything in advance, and are unaware of the great value childbirth educators have as members of the birth team. And I find that incredibly offensive.

March 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterPatti

The first point is I never said YOU were vulgar and cruel, but that the idea that women needed to practice breathing to have a baby and blaming them for having a hard time in birth because of that not practicing, *that* is what I said was vulgar and cruel. I don't know you, so wouldn't be able to comment on whether you were vulgar or cruel; most people aren't, so I can't imagine you would be either.

I have had women in high stress in birth, but in over 800 births in 22 years, I have never seen a woman "panic." I have seen women hold their breath, scream, even curse like a sailor (rare), but I wouldn't call anything I have seen as panic.

Yes, women holding their breath might need a gentle reminder to breathe... I'd breathe with her to share in the experience. I believe screaming is delightful in labor. It's hard to be tense and hold your breath when you are hollering your head off!

True, the hospital staff frowns on noises in general (an understatement, for sure) and if women are screaming, they hate that, but if I have a client that is unmedicated by choice and wants to remain so, they need to get over her vocalizations. Now, you and I both know that they don't. That they *really* don't just sit comfortably in the noises, but step up their mantra of taking meds and women, "getting it," either pipe down or take the meds.

So, with clarification, I hope this helps a little and do need you to know that the underlying gist of this entire post was to encourage a moment's look at your words, how you said things about women and their actions and experiences. If you read deeply into my blog, you will find my own transformations as a doula/midwife over the years as women have spoken to me about their lives and experiences in birth and with their caregivers (cbe included).

I'm hoping that, with a moment's reflection and setting aside your hurt feelings at thinking I was attacking you personally, you will find the true message I was trying to share with you.

Words are powerful. Belief in women is even more so.

Women are perfect, classes or not.

Thanks so much for writing, Patti.

March 22, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

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