I’ve written posts such as this before. They feature joy-filled gratitude for invitations that I have received to be allowed to witness birth. Every one of those birth moments still fills me with wonder, and amazement, and awe.
Women have expectations of birth. Couples are encouraged to learn about, and even plan for, their preferences for both the hours during labor, but also the moments of birth itself. If you have had a child, then you know that old saying…”The best laid plans…”
I have never attended a birth, including my own three children’s births, that followed ‘the plan.’ That plan is a wish, a guide, a strategic tool that can help to facilitate alternate plans when the original course deviates. What I’m saying here is that no labor, no birth, follows the textbook plan. Humans – women – are not words and ideas stamped on a medical text page. Their bodies will do what their bodies are designed to do, in the way that best suits the hour, or the moment. The most important thing a pregnant woman can learn is to let go, to let her body do what it is meant to do. That task is incredibly difficult when your world is turning upside down.
Imagine being told to simply surrender to the power that seems to be welling up from places inside of you that you never new existed. Imagine being encouraged to simply allow your body to take control. Logic and the human brain say that this idea is counter-intuitive. It can be almost impossible to disconnect the brain from the body when labor begins, when birth is imminent.
As a doula, and an educator, I have always seen my role to be a conduit between this mind-body logic. My words and actions, both prior to, and during labor can help bridge that divide between what the head screams out as real, and what the female body simply must do. As someone who has also watched social trends change, and birthing processes and preferences come and go over 30 years, I know that fostering that connection can/is a huge challenge. A doula’s relationship with a client is often fairly short term. It takes time to build trust. It can take a great deal of time, much longer than a doula often has, to come to know a woman and her intimate views about the ritual of birth. The myriad of choices surrounding birth can seem to overshadow the process and the joy that can simply come from the ritual of giving birth itself. Doing ‘it’ (birth) the right way, whatever/wherever that may be, or however that may be defined, often gets in the way of just ‘being’ in each moment.
On occasion a doula has the privilege to serve a woman who is close to her, an intimate part of her life, a part of her very self. Those moments are precious in and of themselves Perhaps the honor comes when being asked to labor with a long-time friend, who you realize has many more facets to her personality than the person you thought you knew. Or it might come when invited to labor with a family member who puts her trust in you because of that connection.
But to have the privilege to labor with your child, your female child, your first-born, goes well beyond gratitude. You will always see the face of this child (now a mature woman) as the newborn, handed to you in the glaring lights and sterile environment of a hospital delivery room. Of course you are biased as her doula. You know of her stamina, and her conviction, and her ability to make the best choices when they need to be made. You saw her courage during one of those labors that strayed 180 degrees from ‘the plan.’ Through those moments you came to know her as an individual, not just as your child.
There are no words however, to describe the hours and moments when that same child/woman allows you to witness her transition to warrior. You walk with her, and speak softly with her, and touch her. There is a hint of that newborn face around the edges, but her true face is astonishing to behold.
In this face I saw determination, and commitment. I saw unlimited strength and power, although she may disagree. I saw courage and an ability to persevere that went beyond physical power and resolve. I saw a face of calm that spoke to an inner focus; to the hard, hard work ahead.
I saw a woman empowered to let go. I saw a woman who believed, through all the flooding intensity of this birth process, that she was safe, that she could trust her body. I saw the amazing power that is woman, and birth, and life. She literally held the world, her families world, in her hands as she birthed her child with courage and strength and fierce, primal energy.
I was witness to this family…complete, and I will always be grateful.
**Photo credit: Terah Lara, midwife at Foothills Midwifery