Professional Doulas do a lot of things. We drop our lives with a phone call, work with very long periods between meals and often with no meals at all, can take a nap anywhere, have both a clinical and sacred understanding of birth, our work is both physically and mentally demanding, and we have learned to manage all of this with very little or no sleep. But I think the most important skill a doula can have is the ability to establish an intimate relationship quickly. As I teach in Birth Boot Camp DOULA, it is this relationship, it is the heart I bring, my faith in your ability to birth that will enable me to support you in the best way possible.
Unless you're in my childbirth class, we've probably spent a total of 5-6 hours together, including our interview, before I join you in labor. Our meetings were casual, our time spent discussing your pregnancy, birth and postpartum period. You were excited, anxious, nervous, hopeful and glowing with your round belly. When you call me to your birth, you are your raw self. You are exposed and primal, powerful and vulnerable. You are likely naked or in some state of undress. If you are uncomfortable being in this laboring state with me present, then I am an intervention who is in the way of your labor. That is not good. This could stall or slow labor.
We do carry a 'bag of tricks' as some of my clients have called it. Really, there is nothing particularly magical in that bag and if I forgot it at home I can still do my job. This is because I bring you my heart and this relationship that we build is love. I have to make myself vulnerable to you in a way very similar to how people fall in love. My own oxytocin levels are high and are rising as you progress through your labor. Oxytocin is the love hormone.
I read this article that has been circulating on facebook and I thought to myself, "THIS! THIS is how we do it!" If you haven't read it, here's the synposis:
- two strangers enter a room and sit near one another.
- they ask one another a series of questions of an increasingly intimate nature.
- they actively listen to one another.
- they hold eye contact for a prolonged period. Then, they fall in love.
(And as the author discusses, this experiment can be repeated in a bar - how New Orleans is that?!)
Now, here's the doula synopsis
- We sit together at a coffee shop and talk about your birth, my profession and you ask me questions about my role
- We sit together in your home, discussing an increasingly intimate number of things. I am sure to make eye contact.
- I listen to you and work to gain an understanding of who you are, your wishes and how I might best support you.
- I join you in labor and at some point, we have prolonged eye contact.
The rest is labor history.
You see, they are very similar. In the article it is noted that both individuals were open to participating and to love. This is not very different from us. You seek to be supported, unconditionally and wholly, through your labor and birth and I am making myself available to you.
I loved reading this article because this is one of my favorite parts of my job. When this happens the best way it can, you feel supported and cared for even if your labor and birth are different than what you had wished and how you envisioned it. When this happens in the best way it can, I will never forget your birth because it is in my heart and I am genuinely so proud and happy for you; I look forward to seeing pictures of your baby grow and it makes my heart happy when I run into you around town and see you as a mother and father.
I also think that this exercise, similar to how it is done at the bar, can be a very powerful thing for couples to do when preparing for birth. Take the opportunity to share eye contact and really focus on one another. Talk about nothing and let it build to sharing your intimate feelings and experiences, especially those concerning your pregnancy and birth. It may not be over a beer, and you're no stranger to one another - but doesn't everyone love falling in love?