Doula Times, pt. 3

Part 3: Doula what?

2003: I move to the South.  In a conversation about the army of pregnant women that seems to have appeared (much like puberty and noticing the hordes of couples in the world), a friend says “I bet they all have doulas.” She says it in the same tone one would mention a trucker cap, or a scooter–an accoutrement that smells of pretense.  Our group doesn’t understand the joke. The word sounds foreign and could be anything from some kind of sling to a specialty cheese.

The next week, the word comes up again, and I take notice.  It turns out that a doula is a cheerleader hired to help the mom in birth.  The whole thing sounds ridiculous and bougie; paying people to be nice to you. But, it is both popular and fairly unknown, so I decide to write an article about it.

I look up local doulas on Google, and find an announcement about a potluck meant as a gathering for local doulas and pregnants interested in doulas.  It was my great luck to find these gatherings at their start because I got to be a newcomer in a new group.  I remember sweating as I walked up to the house that was hosting the event, worried because I thought they might all be witches (Wiccan doulas slam me whenever I describe it this way, but it was what I expected, and I did think it in a pejorative sense).  My expectations were of hippies, new age feel goods, or ladies with babies that would hold a conversation that I couldn’t join.  Instead, the meeting was made up of:

  1. A tattooed cake decorator that was an ex-punk band singer.  She had several kids on her own, and had been a surrogate, and was planning on being a surrogate again.  Her last birth, as a surrogate, had included a room of her sisters and mother, as well as the expecting family.
  2. A childbirth and delivery nurse that now headed up the local hospital’s childbirth education program and perinatal loss support group.
  3. A university IT worker that was also a doula.
  4. A glowing earth mama who lived on a farm, grew her own food, had homebirths, and pretty much could be a spokes model for the beauty benefits of clean living.
  5. A woman who was three months pregnant and considering a doula.  She was the office manager for a world famous rock band.

The meeting was small and casual.  There were cookies and salad.  I have found since that in meetings of doulas, there will be at least, and usually more than one, incredibly warm and hospitable person that can relax any social anxiety.  I wanted to write an article about them, but was still unsure what they did, and also realizing how astoundingly ignorant I was about the female body.  I had been extremely lonely in the new city I had moved to.  Every friend I had made was a friend of my husband’s, creating a vortex of small talk and beginnings of finding what was in common, and most of these people were male.  Suddenly, I was sitting in a back yard with women of all backgrounds and ages, talking about if I ever wanted children, neti pots, and where to find a naturopath gynecologist.  It was incredibly comforting.  I felt parts of my chest, and dare I say soul, relaxing–happy to be in a place where I wasn’t constantly filtering expectations of what to say and what had been said.  The body was our meeting ground, and it was a fascinating one–the only connection in that group was that everybody felt strongly about childbirth.  I had forgotten how important talking with groups of women was–how vital it was to discuss and let conversations change and tangle into new subjects with little regard, to expose vulnerability and receive reassurance and support, and to laugh.  I left unsure of what a doula still did, and unsure of how I had presented myself in all. I felt young and under-established; 25 with too many degrees, and a shit job grading No Child Left Behind Tests.  The idea of becoming a doula was ridiculous and a real thing.

Why? Onto Part 4!

What’s this all about? Start at Part 1


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