Becoming a Doula, Pt 4
October 15, 2010 1 Comment
Part 4: Doula who?
I like the narrative big deal element of birth. I love how bibles break down a life into its big events (the sacraments)–and I agree, the real deal -it-doesn’t-get-bigger-than-this moments seem to be birth (baptism), recognition of self and belief (confirmation), recognition of responsibility and faith in improvement (confession), love and commitment (marriage), and death. Especially for birth, love and death, it can’t be faked–self narrative can’t distract from the true grandiosity of the event–I adore things like this because the rest of the time I’m wobbling between my own illusions mostly based on sitcom season finales, and critiques of other’s reliance on readymade sentiment.
So, I met these women. They were awesome–and there was something inherently charming in that one could pay to have unbiased and unconditional support in a stressful time. A doula is an advocate with the only focus of helping mama have a good experience. I had just finished a brutal wedding that, while successfully hitching me to my own true love, had also devastated deep friendships, revealed major family weaknesses, and completely rearranged my sense of reliable folk and my ability to eat shit for the comfort of others. A wedding doula would have been magic, and I understood on a fundamental level that in the big moments, the support necessary might be nowhere in sight, and if present, and leaned on, it might break and be even more devastating. So, instead of a symptom of a robot world where emotion is prostituted, hiring unconditional love out might actually be the must nurturing thing a person could do for themselves (and possibly their kid, and future family).
So that’s where I was coming from. And then, I started talking to the people I knew who had babies. One guy was a waiter at the restaurant my husband worked. He and his wife are hipster parents right out of central casting, and I imagine them being as prepared as any pre-parent would be for birth (which I assumed meant reading books, balancing cups on their stomachs, and eating right). They had prepared, but once at the hospital, the picture changed. They didn’t know what to expect, and they didn’t know what was going on. The pain was intense, they did whatever they were told, and he described it as getting on a train and seeing where it took you–a really scary train. Mama was put on Pitocin (a common drug to induce contractions), and eventually had a Cesarean section with very little understanding of what and how and why. Since it was the birth of his child, it was amazing, but he also said it was traumatic for both of them. They sounded as if they had been mistreated in a normal way–and it seemed like a doula would have been a huge help.
And then there were the really bad stories. Doctors comparing a woman’s labia to mashed potatoes as they performed an episiotomy (a surgical cut to widen the birth canal); women berated for whining while in labor, jerk doctors saying jerk things in front of their patients, jokes about sexual position of being in stirrups, the doctor taking the husband aside and telling him to persuade the mother to do something a certain way–manipulation and not treating the delivering woman like she is part of the process, when in fact she is the process. Anger ensued.