Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Hands

I am a doula. I help women become mothers. With my heart and my hands and little else. Though it is something that I don't get the privilege of doing as often as I would like to, I still describe myself as one. It isn't just a job to me, it's a way of life. It means more to me than a set of tasks and responsibilities. Most people have no idea what that means, and I love explaining it. Even once I explain what it is, there are people that will look at me strange, unsure of what it is exactly that I do.

I never set out to be a doula. In fact, I didn't really know what they were until after Aidan was born. I had heard the word, but it didn't mean much to me. It wasn't until I met a few, mostly through the breastfeeding support group, that I started to learn about them. These were women that helped other women have babies. I was intrigued.

When Ashley was born, one of them, who had become a very good friend, attended her birth. Aidan's birth had been a bit dramatic, since it all happened so fast. We were scared, I got a totally unnecessary epidural, and Aidan had serious complications. It was not a perfect birth experience. Pretty far from it, actually. I was hoping for something better with Ashley.

Ashley's birth wasn't much better honestly, it was chaotic and she was also whisked off to the NICU. But with the help of my friend, I was able to do it all without pain medication. And from that day forward, I was determined to help other women have a better birth than I did.

When Ashley was only a few months old, I started working towards my certification. I had some books to read, then I took my training. My first client was also a good friend of mine, and I had a lot riding on her labor. I wanted so badly to help her. And I wanted to do a good job.

She wanted very much to labor without medication or other interventions. It ended up being a very long and drawn out labor, since the baby wasn't in the best position. I'm sure she was in pain the entire time, but I did as much as I could to help her. I used every single thing I had learned in my training that night. And finally, after almost 24 hours of labor, I was the first person ever to see her son as he entered the world. She had done it her way, and it was breathtaking to watch.

My latest client fought for her labor too. She was in a position like too many women these days, forced to be induced, forced to give up many of the things she wanted for her labor experience. Staring in the face of a c-section after hours and hours of pushing, she fought through it. And she did it. And I helped her.

I've helped women mourn the loss of their ideal births, and I've helped women mourn the loss of their babies. An unfortunate truth is that not every pregnancy ends happily. I helped a mom with a single birth that began as a twin pregnancy. And I was there with her, as she cried, celebrating one life while simultaneously longing for the other.

Being a doula is a gift. A privilege. It is the most amazing and energizing feeling to hold the hands of a woman becoming a mother. To help her bring life into the world. To sit in the silence with her, as the entire room hushes, waiting to hear the first cry.

I have witnessed some of my clients transform into helpers. Become doulas, become lactation consultants. My hands helped them, and they are paying it forward. Being a doula truly is a gift, I am so blessed.

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