I am a doula.
Those words, filled with so much meaning over the years, were my starting point in this birth journey I’m on. Doula is a weighty word. It’s a very different role than almost any other in birth. It encompasses so much that used to be taken for granted: that a sister, a mother, a grandmother, an auntie would be there for our births.
With our scattered society, and its driving desire to prove individual independence, that doesn’t happen as much any more. I think the rise in doulas in this country is just one sign of a shift in society’s thinking about that independence. The resurgence of old-fashioned life skills such as knitting, crocheting, quilting, canning, gardening, keeping small farm animals, bartering/trading for goods and services, and more all indicate that our society might be beginning to see the value in interdependence.
A very different concept than independence. Independence declares, “I can do it myself!” Usually in ALL CAPS. Interdependence says, “I can probably do it myself, but I would really like to have you by my side, because many hands make light work.” It’s a humble honesty that admits that we need each other, while acknowledging individual responsibility.
I like this shift in thinking. It means that each of us are needed by one another. Isn’t it a wonderful feeling to be needed?
We see it in the blog posts encouraging us to ask for help when we need it. We see it in the abundance of people who come out of the woodwork in order to sign up for meal trains. We see it in baby showers, scrapbooking parties, childbirth classes, book clubs, community gardens, homeschool groups, and knitting circles. We long for community, especially as women.
Birth is not an independent act. While it is “your” birth in one sense (individual responsibility), it is very much “our” birth in another (we need safe community in order to do it well). There are very few women who don’t need other women around them to birth, and each birth has a ripple effect on the community around it.
Enter the doula.
She brings interdependence back to birth. She encourages the mother’s individual responsibility in decision-making, while helping to meet the mother’s need for community. A doula bridges the gap between our precious, American independence, and our desire to have another woman to lean on. It is finally acceptable to need the help.
This is no bad thing, and is slowly, birth by birth, making a big impact on the way women, babies, and birth are viewed in this country.
“What’s a doula?” is a question asked less and less frequently, though we do need to keep putting the good word out there!
I am a doula.
The words still carry great weight. I have not yet burned out on standing beside women in my community while they usher new life into the world through their bodies, with the strength of Creation behind them. It is an honor, a privilege, and a blessing for me.
I am a doula.
I don’t yet know when the day will come that I utter these words for the last time, as I move forward into midwifery work. I wonder how that will feel, when it finally happens, as it surely will in the next few years.
Until then, I am a doula.
And I am grateful to be one.
Grace & Peace,