Wednesday, August 28, 2013

On stepping back while moving ahead

Warm bodies.

I'm going to miss all of the babies.

I'm not sure how much you know about what doulas do, but one of the greatest perks of my job is the snuggling of the babies. As much as I support women with my experiences and training for coping with labour, breastfeeding, adjusting to life as a bigger family, all things I'm driven to do by my passion for pregnancy and birth, I also just really adore the babies.

As a birth doula I am invited to share the most intimate of spaces with families I've only recently met. Of course we had meetings leading up to their birth where we slowly got to know each other, but nothing really prepares you for sharing that vulnerable moment when a mother gives birth to her baby. I've stood next to mothers and their families through excitement, exhaustion, fear, uncertainty, elation, and relief. I shared their quiet spaces in the middle of the night while the rest of the world slept, but we were awake, holding each other's hands, waiting for the next contraction. I've stood in amniotic fluid and blood and vomit and still had to wipe the grin off my face as I watched a woman push her baby into the world. I've fallen asleep standing up in a hospital hallway. I've had crushed fingers and tired feet.

The little hands get me every time.

I've whispered quietly, I see your baby's head, while a woman pauses between contractions. I've stood next to new parents as they inhale that moment when they the baby is here. On the outside. In the world.

As a postpartum doula I've shared a different kind of intimacy. I've held a new baby in my arms all night long while parents sleep exhausted in their beds. I've tiptoed into darkened rooms that are filled with those quiet moments of transition, moments of families coming alive for the first time. In these moments I'm quiet, too, not wanting to stand in the way of those first few days as a family gets acquainted with one another. Other times my actions are louder, bolder, as I've busied myself with the business of supporting the practical needs of a newer, bigger family. I've roasted chickens, baked cookies, cleaned bottles, made endless tea. Mostly I've listened, to mothers and their partners, to children. I've paid attention.

I was there when this little one's mother pushed her into the world. I saw her head.

It's been a little transformative. Maybe a lot.

I've spent the better part of the last year immersed in this world. Together with the talented Alexandra Weinberger, we have filled the past year working to support as many families through pregnancy, birth, and life with a new baby as we possibly could. We met one night at a local doula event and we've been fast friends ever since. Over coffee we started to talk about our experiences as newer doulas, sharing suggestions and strategies for learning as much as we possibly could about birth and our role as supporters and guides for families. Before long we decided to join forces, passions, energies, and determination to build a doula practice we could really be proud of--and I think we did! I am so proud of our work together. We formed the Holistic Birth Collective, a doula practice created with the intention of supporting women and their families through a community of support. Of course for the moment we were only a community of two, but it was a great start. 

Designing our website.

I don't think I would be exaggerating if I told you that Alex and I have exchanged roughly 283,383 texts since we met last November. We've stayed up late nights planning, imagining, and scheduling until our eyes fell shut. Alex taught me the power of brainstorming big ideas. She inspired me to challenge myself as a doula. She will also, hopefully, teach me how to knit socks. She's more than a doula, you know. Together we've celebrated Alyce graduating kindergarten and Alex's 30th birthday. She's listened to me as I've struggled with my transition to a mother who works outside of the home. She's been patient and generous, two of my favourite qualities.

Alex and Alyce, love at first sight.

But a lot has changed since we joined together as doulas. Tomorrow I begin orientation at Ryerson University's Midwifery Education program, a dream I've had for almost fifteen years. I am still floating over the news of my acceptance and I am ready to begin. Earlier this week Matthew started his own dream job (don't even get me started about how proud I am of this man). Life has changed and I need to respond to these new demands. Starting now there will be classes, assignments, readings, scheduling, child care, first grade, two parents out of the house full time, and life as we've known it is about to look very different.

The box of pastries eaten on the day of my acceptance to the Ryerson program.

With sadness I am now stepping back from my doula work. Life deserves my full attention right now. I need my wits about me as I learn to care for women in pregnancy and birth in new ways (and continue to parent my two daughters). I am grateful beyond measure for the experiences I've had as a doula this past year and I will make a better midwife for all of them. Fortunately, Alex is not only a great doula partner, but an incredible friend, and we will continue to support each other--and each other's work--into the future.

I am really going to miss my work as a doula. Not only have I spent nights upon nights working to create and support a business I love, but I have grown to rely on the relationships I've made along the way. I've gotten used to the warmth of the people I work with every day. No matter how sad it is to leave, however, it is the best decision for me and family. This is one of those moments where I need to direct my strength to the people and dreams closest to me. My young family needs a healthy and rested mama, and I need to give myself over to something I've dreamed of for my entire adult life. As much as I adore being a doula, I know in my heart that I am meant to work with women as their midwife. And so now it begins.

Same snuggle, different baby. She was a sweet one.

Fortunately for the expectant parents of Toronto, Alex is going to continue her doula work with a new partner, the amazing Tasha Bodnarchuk, a counsellor and doula. Holistic Birth Collective is growing each week with new families to support and babies to keep warm. I wish Alex and Tasha the best of luck as they continue to work together. They are doing good things for families in Toronto.

Thank you Kelly, Sandra, Kaylie, Jason, Ivonka, Jennifer, Rosemary, Christine, Sina, Mymy, Monica, Alana, Carla, Trish, Nevella, Carolyn, Paula, and Rosalee.  Thank you to all the partners and families of all these amazing mothers, for sharing so much of your own private world with me. Thank you to my own family, who patiently (most of the time) and with understanding (all of the time) held down the fort while I spent days and nights with other families.  And thank you to Alex, an inspiring doula and friend.

Birth is kind of amazing.

1 comment:

  1. Birth is jawdroppingly amazing. Women are capable of such strength and tenacity, and many women have the opportunity to discover that about themselves during a well-supported birth. Sadly, though, many women's birth experiences are not-so-well-supported and they are left feeling disempowered. Hooray for all the doulas and midwives (and the occasional physician) who help women have the former kind of experience rather than the latter!

    PS: I need a birth fix, I'm almost 3 years out from my last one.