Sinking, Swimming, Not Hugging, Pt. 5
October 15, 2010 Leave a comment
Part 5: Doula with a robot heart
So I trained as a doula–it was one weekend and seemed a bit tedious. We learned about pain management, the art of low talking, and how to get a newborn to start breastfeeding. In one way it all felt strange and like we were playacting–the intensity of a real labor was impossible to mimic, and we were all too shy to fully commit to the kind of practice that the instructor was asking from us. We had to use baby dolls in partner groups, show how to breast feed. In my training there was a mother-daughter midwife time that were super Christians, and their car was covered with pro-midwife bumper stickers. The daughter was pregnant, and they represented a ferocious element of birth rights advocates–very conservative, very pro-life, very fertile women who wanted to be able to have their babies at home with God and prayer in attendance (in Georgia, homebirth is illegal–and there is an underground network of midwives who attend homebirths). Like homeschooling, homebirth has a fundamentalist side that wants to keep the government out of the party, and a swath of liberals who share the cause of trying to give their version of the DIY best to their kids.
There was one woman I met at the training that calmed my gawk. We both struggled with the strange kind of earth mother compassion that seemed to be necessary for doulaing. I have never been one to be able to glow at and comfort the sick. At sick beds I make jokes and talk about my life as if normality is appropriate (on my grandmother’s deathbed I kept gleefully introducing my fiancé to all of my devastated aunts and uncles–ridiculous). In short, I do not hug naturally. Most of the amazing doulas I had met could definitely hug naturally. E. and I both stutter-stepped at this part of the doula process–how do we do this support which we so earnestly so believe in, and fake the ability to casually touch people and offer relief?
Luckily, E. and I teamed up as co-doulas, and our first birth was a gift of confidence to us. A woman due in two weeks was interested in our services mostly because we were free. Her husband came from a culture where men did not attend births or act as participating partners. He would be there, but he would be by her head, and she wanted to make sure she had some more support. She was great for us because it was her second pregnancy, so she knew what to expect. We didn’t have to talk her down, and we could actually help her–and like most of my successes in doulaing, it was in very little ways. She began to panic after the baby was born, while the doctor was giving her stitches, and we were able to distract her and chat about her older daughter. Her body relaxed, the panic left. She was nervous about breast feeding, and we were able to calm her anxiety and get her new little human all latched on and ready to go. Her husband was wonderfully happy we were there, and in all, it was a great success. Doulas worked! We had done good things! We hadn’t been royal fuckups with robot hearts!
There’s one last chapter: part 6
Where did this all come from? Start at part 1