the diaries of a doula: sometimes it just takes a while
welcome to the second installment of diaries of a doula. things i'm learning on my journey. things i find poignant and want to share with you. things i think are worthy of discussion. or just things that you might now know about doula life.
you know, every birth is different. it teaches you things. and just when you think you KNOW something, anything really, about birth, you realize that you know nothing about this particular birth, this particular dance, this particular story that is unfolding in front of your eyes. and even if you think you know, God humbles you and teaches you that this is one of His most sacred moments, that He gets the glory, definitely not the doula who thinks she knows.
in teaching childbirth education classes, i talk about the general guideposts of labor. the ignoring stage, the joke cracking stage, the somber/serious stage, the "i can't do this any more" stage...and whenever i talk about what to expect i always say- but expect to expect something totally different, too. every body every baby every birth is different. always. it's a funny thing preparing people for something that i really have no clue what will look like for them.
sometimes births happen by the book. things progress in an upward trajectory that leads to a super straightforward birth of a new life (straightforward yet miraculous, as all births are just an incredible miracle, yet normal...it's a crazy dichotomy). and sometimes births happen by no one's book but the baby's and mama's, an unkown story that was already written before it even began. in particular, i'm thinking today of the births where hours and hours and hours go by, i use every "trick" i know to use given the circumstances, and nothing happens. for example, no progression of any kind after hours of intense active labor. i think of baby positioning, i think of getting mom relaxed, i think i think i think i think. i do i do i do i do. i tell her it's part of the process, her process.
recently at a birth, after the aforementioned hours and hours of active labor and no progression (not that i live and die by cervical dilation by any means, but this was after a days worth of time of expectant progress given what mama was feeling and experiencing and the intensity, etc), my sweet doula client said to her doctor, "well, what do we do now?" and in my head i am ten steps ahead of this conversation. playing out possible scenarios, figuring out what "tricks" i can bring to this birth to help this baby make her entrance, just in my head trying to scheme to help my sweet mama have the birth she desires in the face of what, i assumed, weren't going to be suggestions she wanted to hear from her OB.
and you know what the doctor said?
no, not pitocin. not an epidural. not going in and releasing her bag of water.
he said something that i know in my heart of hearts to be true. he said something i needed to be reminded of. he said something that helped me get out of my own mind and into my true doula role. a woman that serves. he said something that has echo'd in my head at every birth since then, and will certainly echo in my mind as i serve couples in the future as a doula, student midwife, and eventually a midwife. he looked at her and said, with a smile,
"what do we do? you're doing great, baby looks great. sometimes it just a takes a while. she'll be here when she'll be here."
oh my friends. what a convicting doula moment for me. of COURSE this is true. of COURSE these words of encouragement were what was needed for a tired mama who was teetering on feeling sorry for herself and her situation. of COURSE. where was i in those couple hours before this? in my head. thinking of and doing THINGS rather than ways i could serve her soul. yes i whispered encouragement along the way, yes i gently massaged her, or applied pressure to her back, or simply gave her an assuring "you're doing it!" ... some births i am SO in tune with those things, and others i feel i have to do do do.
want to know what happened next?
i gave mama a massage, we walked the halls to get a change of scenery, i whispered encouraging words to her along the way, whispered affirmations of her body and her baby and her all powerful God, and encouraged open and loving thoughts. reminded her that sometimes it just takes a while. she'll be here when she'll be here. no fancy positioning tricks (which, believe me, have their place and can do incredible things), nothing but my doula heart and words and intution.
mama was complete soon after, and a sweet little girl made her way into the world- naturally, with mama squatting over her to help her on her way out.
every birth i've attended since then, i have seen the line more vividly that we doulas dance between do do do and be be be. while i have attended births where it just simply took time, because hey- it's not a horse race- and i know these things to be true, this particular birth brought it home to me.
yes, this particular birth brought it home to me. both in the births i attend and the work that i do. but also in life. what am i trying to make happen? what am i pushing? what am i doing of my own efforts for my OWN glory that need not be done in that way? my journey into midwifery is something that i hold very dear, and i am so thrilled to be at the beginning stages of it, but i also see how i have personal tendencies to turn it into a horse race, and i do NOT want to treat this journey as such. you have your destination, now GET THERE! get the degree. get to haiti. make an impact. serve in low income areas in your county. go go go. do do do. when in reality, she'll be here when she'll be here. i do my work, i dilligently learn and sit with amazing mentors and women who are willing to share their wisdom, i do my work and i exert my best effort...but really? sometimes it just takes a while. and you know what? that's okay. learning to slow down and enjoy the journey, not just the destination, is the name of my game now. all because of this sweet baby girl who took her sweet time, and when all was said and done, was so divinely appointed to be born at the exact time on the exact day she was born that it gives me chills. i know He has the same story for my life and for our plans.
what areas in your life do you need encouragement to just BE in? what areas of your life could you remind yourself "sometimes it just takes a while?"