Saturday, June 16, 2012

Confessions of a Former Doula {an insanely long post}


For those of you who read this that know me personally, or have been reading for more than a year,  you know that I used to be a doula and a student midwife.
If you don't know what a doula is, I'll explain it quickly: it's someone who is hired by soon to be parents to help educate and support them through out their pregnancy, and then provide physical, emotional and education support during a {usually} natural birth, and the first few weeks of postpartum.
We teach childbirth classes, we help you learn to breastfeed, we loan you books about pregnancy and we give you tons and tons of resources like pregnancy chiropractors, prenatal yoga instructors, info on how to avoid a c-section, questions to ask your doctor, and we more or less help you have as natural of a birth as possible in a hospital, or at home with a midwife.

I worked as a doula for about year.
It was hard.
I was on call 24/7 for almost the entire year.
I attended 4 births a month on average as a doula, and an additional 2-4 as a student midwife {read: for free}
My phone was on all the time.
I slept with my phone by my head all the time.
I didn't leave town, I didn't go anywhere that didn't have cell service, and I generally didn't make any plans ever if they meant I could miss a birth because of them.
I missed Easter. 
I missed time with my kids.
I missed a lot of bed times and bath times and dinner times and stories.
I was exhausted a lot.
My house was disgustingly dirty a lot.
I lived in constant anticipation of the phone ringing.
But you know what?
I loved it.
I did.
It was hard. Sometimes too hard. There were more than one births where I had to excuse myself to cry it out in the hallway, or where I bawled my eyes out on the way home, or to another birth.
I spent multiple days in the hospital eating in the cafeteria if I got to eat at all, and sneaking in a break to text my kids when I could.
But I did love it.
I loved the moms I met who were strong, and empowered and believed in themselves.
I loved the husbands I met who believed in their wives. 
I loved the look on a woman's face when her brand new baby was placed on her chest, and she realized she did it.
I loved holding the new babies in the postpartum visits and when the women would look at me through tear filled eyes and genuinely say 'thank you". My response to that was always an equally teary "No. Thank you."

What I didn't like about working as a doula was the activism that seemed to be involved.
Feeling like every time I tried to answer a woman's questions honestly about what to expect from a hospital birth, I was getting up on a soap box.
I didn't like the look I got from so. many. damn. nurses. when they walked into the delivery room and I was introduced as "the doula". I could feel them thinking "Oh great. This bitch read a couple hippie books about giving birth in the woods and now she thinks she knows everything, and she's hired this little back  up know it all who's going to try to keep me from doing my job."
And I didn't blame them. I would've thought the same thing.
They have to go by the book, they have to follow protocol or it could be their job.
The problem was, so much of what is necessary to achieve a natural birth, goes against hospital protocol.
I got tired of feeling like a ranting, pushy asshole every time I told women "If you want to try to make a hospital birth into a home birth, why not just hire a midwife and have a homebirth? Why push doctors and nurses so far out of their comfort zone that you're probably creating a dangerous situation for yourself?" and seeing their husbands eyes roll.
I hated seeing anyone's eyes roll when I tried to explain the mind/body connection that plays into childbirth.
I got tired of pumping my fist and feeling like an anti-hospital protester. 
I felt like I walked a fine line between being honest and saying I love hospitals, and I am a HUGE fan of modern medicine, and then turning around and being honest when I said "but I think sometimes we go too far. I think sometimes we interfere when we shouldn't, and I think the mass population is severely misguided and uneducated about the real facts"
And you know what else?
I got tired of the selfishness.
I had some amazing clients, some truly awesome clients, who I loved dearly, and still to this day think about all the time.
But I had some fucking assholes too.
I had a husband who tried to sue me for causing his wife to have a c-section because I upset her when he asked me to leave the birth, and I did.
After nine months of going to their house almost weekly to talk about their plan, their fears, their concerns, their worries. Teaching them childbirth classes, chatting with her on Gmail until the wee hours, answering every god blessed phone call at 2 a.m. because "something felt different".
After a 14 hour labor where his sister tried to get in my way at every turn, and he and his sister basically took turns making the mother cry and freak out every time a contraction "seemed too strong".
He tried to sue me.
And when that didn't work, when we agreed on a deal to settle it all, he trashed me online. He left shitty reviews every place he could, he wrote awful things about me.
I cried for two days.
I had poured my heart and soul into them.
I had another couple who wanted their money back because I asked if we could reschedule their prenatal visit for the third time because I was at yet another birth.
I understand their were upset, but it was in my contract and out of my control. 
I had to tell them no and sever our relationship two weeks before the birth of their baby. I felt awful.
There were some shitty people in the mix who hired me thinking I would be the ultimate protector from all evil, scalpel wielding doctors, and I would wave the magic "natural and pain free effortless birth wand" and everything would be flawless.
They didn't want to take accountability, they didn't want to educate themselves, and they didn't want to have to work.
I couldn't work hard enough for all of us, and I missed my family.

But like I said, sometimes, I miss it.
I'm friends with some doulas I met along the way on facebook, and sometimes their posts pull at my heartstrings.
I have two shelves full of pregnancy and childbirth books. I always say I'm going to sell them. I know I never will.
Sometimes I find a stack of my old business cards and I feel a little sting.
I miss it.
I miss the good moments, I miss the victories. I miss the sound of a fetal heartbeat on a doppler in my hands.
I miss that moment where the head first appears and you know it's all been worth it. You feel everyone in the room get the chills.
I miss running my hands over a smooth, taught belly and feeling for the top of the fundus, measuring the uterus, checking for swelling.
I miss conversations in my midwifery preceptor's office at lunch time, about the birth process and the spiritual impact and the mental roadblocks, while she nursed her son and we ate good cheese and nitrate free pastrami and felt like we were doing some good in the world.
I miss arriving at a woman's house in the quiet of 2 a.m. and seeing her face light up when I walk into the room, taking her hand, and telling her today could be her baby's birthday.
I don't think I have it in me to go back.
But sometimes, when I remember the sisterhood, and victories, and the magic of that whole world I lived in for however short of a time of my life, I just....miss it.

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