I’m coming to the end of my course work for the Doula course I did back in November, and starting to think about my final assigment, what form it will take (a felted painting? something written?) and where I will go from here.
I was unsure, for some time, about whether to do the course at all. York has many wonderful Doulas already, many of whom are friends and some of whom have a clear calling: this is their life’s work, what they were born to do.
I didn’t feel like this. I am passionate about so many aspects of birth, and have always been in awe of the whole process. Even as a child it was a fascination to me and something I knew was important. I love discussing it and supporting others, but I also know that there are lots of other things I want to do too. So I delayed for a while, until enough people encouraged me to do it, and I ended up doing it just as I came to my second trimester.
The timing has been just right. Much of the coursework is about reflecting on yourself – your own issues regarding your birth experiences and parenting. Unpicking what it is each of us will bring to the births we attend. The further along I go in this pregnancy, particularly with the decision to have an unassisted pregnancy and birth, the more this reflection feels important to me.
I know so much more about birthing than I did when I was pregnant for the first time. I’m not sure I even knew then what a Doula was. Having a doula with Ezra (and specifically, the Doula we chose, who was exactly the right person for us) was undoubtedly one of the best decisions I made and I know that it played a huge part in the birth I ended up having.
This time round, I was lucky enough to have a close friend who I knew would be my Doula. Her littlest one was due at the same time as Ezra, so we became friends during my last pregnancy knowing that she couldn’t attend my birth. When I found out I was pregnant this time, I think she was the 4th person I told, and we instantly agreed she’d be there. Not only has she experienced a freebirth herself but I couldn’t picture birthing without her. My kids love her and I knew having her there in that space would feel the way I need it to feel – warm, supportive, loving.
And certainly I am lucky that she happens to be a good friend, too, and also happened to be one of the people encouraging me on with my own journey as Doula, but I think regardless of how well you know a person, the most important decision in choosing someone to share that space with you as you birth, is how they make you feel. Nothing is more important than guarding your birthing space and inviting only those inside who bring the right energy and attitude.
We carry our own stories with us everywhere we go. A common factor for the Doulas on my course were the journeys they had experienced from their first birth through to their second, third and fourth. Each birthing experience teaches us so much. It is such a primal and incredible transformation to go through, and when we stop to really look at each experience and to think about why the things that happened may have happened, our stories can become a way to help others and support them in the decisions they make.
So often I think of the parallel between a Doula and a therapist. The role of reflection, of mirroring back, of being present and truly listening without bringing your own agenda or issues to the birthing space. I think of the women I know who are Doulas, all with such distinct personalities, and how each of them has so much to offer.
It’s hard to explain how comforting it is, during pregnancy and birth, simply to have someone there who is there completely for you. It can seem like such a luxury before you’ve experienced it, and before you know how huge an impact births have on everything that follows; from your own feelings as a woman and mother to the feelings you have towards your child.
I don’t know, once I am officially a Doula, how much doulaing I’ll do. Maybe only one or two births a year. Maybe more, or less. I feel honoured to have been asked to be there for the births a couple of friends are planning, and this is how I can see it going. I know how important it is to me to have Hannah there for Gatsby’s birth – and I don’t think that it is a coincidence I met her when I did, or became close to her over my pregnancy with Ezra.
The people we know and invite into our lives have such an impact on us – any real connection we make stays with us. It is irremovable, and the consequence of really knowing a person reaches far beyond anything we can really comprehend. And that applies even more so to those who are a part of our birthing experience too. They become a part of our birth stories, and those stories become a huge part of how we come to know ourselves.