I recently connected with a sweet lady. We were having just a lovely time chatting – she told me about her children (they’re all grown now) and she asked what I do. “I’m a doula,” I replied.She had never heard of a doula! So I gave her a basic rundown of what it is I do. “I assist women in prenatal, birth and postpartum as their support person – emotionally, physically (meaning, I can help with comfort measures during labor) and educationally.”
“Oh that sounds wonderful! I could’ve used you when my children were born!”
She immediately started telling me her birth experience. She didn’t go into great detail, because (as she confessed to me) she had had no idea what was going on while she was in the throes of labor and birth. She had never read a book or been told what to expect. She had been “put out” with something – she had no idea what it was the doctor used – at the first sign of pain and had no recollection of her daughter’s birth. I was feeling very sad for her and then she said something poignant and made my heart ache for her.
“To be perfectly honest with you… I feel cheated. But my baby was ok… So it’s ok.”
This made me wonder… But is it?
We hear so often new moms say “But at least my baby is healthy!” after retelling their birth story. Maybe the birth was traumatic for mom, maybe an unforeseen problem arose and there was no time for her to process what was happening, maybe there was no time for her to get the epidural she was counting on and she had a very fast and very painful natural birth that was not prepared for. What then? How do we speak to these moms? How do we validate what they’re feeling?
Yes, it’s wonderful when a baby enters this world and is healthy and unharmed by what would have seemed like a traumatic birth. Don’t think for a second that I’m saying the baby does not matter – of course the baby matters! But what about the mother? Does the emotional well-being of the mother matter?
If we think that the one who is the key caregiver to that baby, the one who holds the home together, the nurturer of life, if we think for a moment that how she feels is irrelevant as long as her baby is ok – it is my true belief that we will have some hurting homes.
Mothers deserve to feel safe and supported in their birth experiences and postpartum! A mother whose feelings and intuition are supported in birth, is a mother who can start off her journey into motherhood without being clouded by doubt in her abilities.
This lady I was speaking to didn’t seem traumatized anymore by her daughter’s birth – it was so long ago. Our conversation ended and we each went our ways. But she asked for my card “just in case I come across someone else who may need you”.
If I can extend hope to another mom and make her birth experience a memory that empowers her, then my job as a doula is complete.
This is what a doula does.