When people find out that I’m a doula they make one huge assumption about me: I only support people who are planning natural births. Not only that, but that I might try to talk them into a natural birth if they have been considering using an epidural.
Nothing could be further than the truth.
Let’s face it: I am not having your baby. I don’t have to carry it for 9ish months. I don’t have to get poked and prodded by your OB or Midwife. I don’t once have to drop my pants and put that paper sheet over myself. And I definitely don’t have to go into labour and give birth to your baby.
So why would I have an opinion on how YOU should have your baby?
I shouldn’t! But it wasn’t always like that.
When I first trained as a doula, a decade ago, my training included a lot of content on the spirituality of giving birth. Every article shared by my trainers, their peers and the doulas who made up the international community of mentors I listened to for guidance, was about how epidurals were bad, how cesarean birth was dangerous, how doctors and nurses were manipulative, how midwives and home births were the only truly safe option for birth, how women were “built” to birth babies easily and safely and how the top achievement in birthing was the unmedicated spontaneous vaginal delivery.
The messages were coming at me at every turn and I did my best to reflect that culture of unmedicated, unmanaged birth as best as I could back at the world.
I must have been unsufferable to be around when people were pregnant. I might sit beside you at a family bbq and enthusiastically preached about how every woman could achieve a natural birth if she really wanted one, failing to really listen to the true desires and needs of my beleaguered audience.
I cringe to think that I probably subtly pushed my clients to delay or go without epidurals they truly wanted. I worry that my face – never good at staying neutral – gave away my bias as I unconsciously frowned when clients spoke about their doctor’s recommendations. I know for sure there were a few interviews I bombed because I unthinkingly portrayed the choosing of epidurals as thoughtless or even harmful to the baby.
Well, I’m done with all that.
If there is one thing that being an experienced doula has taught me is that birth is beautiful when the parents think it’s beautiful. And, only they get to define what beautiful is.
I have learned that a healthy birth is a birth where both mother and baby are healthy in the end. And, only they get to define what healthy is.
I know now that my helping a woman (attempt to) achieve a so-called natural birth can actually contribute to her unhappiness with her birth if she doesn’t, in fact, have that perfect vision of birth she dreamed of.
I have discovered that the people who are most satisfied with their births are the people who are supported by people with no agenda.
That’s what I do now. That’s what our doulas at Hamilton Family Doulas do for families in Hamilton, Halton, Niagara and Brant. We support our clients with no agenda. We don’t walk into our client’s homes or their birth spaces believing that one kind of birth is automatically better than another.
I still know that birth CAN be a deeply spiritual experience for the birthing person. I still know how to help people achieve beautiful unmedicated births. I love a home birth.
I love holding a birthing person as they transition and whisper my admiration and care into their ear when they doubt themselves.
But, I also love all other kinds of births. I still am floored by the power and dedication of the person who pushes their baby out after 12 hours with an epidural, feet in stirrups and an IV of oxytocin to help them along. I still tear up when I see a parent holding their hour old child in the recovery ward after a surgical birth.
All birthing parents undergo a profound transformation that requires hard work and physical sacrifice. I witness that and honour it.
I want you to make whatever choices you want to make in pregnancy and birth and parenting. My enthusiasm for your journey won’t change.