A few weeks ago, I had the good fortune of being an active birth doula again. The couple had a truly gorgeous little boy, born healthy and strong. Wearing the doula hat again felt wildly good. I trained in the UK years and years ago, and then retrained here in LA. It’s a strange one; having a baby in the UK is much more about birth plans and female intuition than it is about medical intervention and clinical analysis. Even in a hospital, unless there’s a significant problem, your midwife delivers your baby and you’ve met the entire nursing team a few times before the big day.
In LA, hospitals need to adhere to insurance company’s demands and birth plans lie on pieces of paper not seen by many. They poke and prod you more often and one must work hard to create a sacred environment not flooded with fluorescent lighting. I’ve never seen a birthing bath, for example, in a LA hospital, whereas in London they offer them in nearly every ward. You would think that doulas – birth partners responsible for guiding and protecting the mother’s emotional life – would be more popular to hippy dippy LA women as opposed to the great English reserved. But I have found this profession more widely known and accepted in the UK.
With each birth I’ve been there for, the lessons run deeper and the benefits more clear. Being of service to a woman and her man requires me to leave my ego well at the door and be present for them without having any of my personal feelings getting in the way. I get yelled at and dismissed as much as I get squeezed and loved on. I represent so many different emotions in the room as the hours creep on and anxiety rises. The counting, the massaging, the pep talk, the information, the silence. In the end, the gift I get when I receive their look of complete trust from the rawest corners of their souls; the shared experience when the first cry is heard and we all cry out of love and relief and fatigue, that is what drives me to be a doula. That clarity of pure giving in the most vulnerable moment of a woman’s life – means everything to me.
I’ve tucked that day away into my memory bank and it reminds me of what is important and how many times my ego gets in the bloody way of things! A great lesson to hold onto especially with the Christmas season upon us and everyone seems a bit more emotional, no? Life is nuts right now for all of us, so let’s just enjoy the madness, together.