May 30, 2007

My Job as a Doula: The Most Rewarding Experience

My journey into this career was quite unexpected. I became a doula after a student, an OB doing her fellowship at a NYC hospital, invited me to observe birth. At the time, I had not given birth myself, I was very curious to see it first hand. At that time my experience of birth was all text book information, friend’s stories and movies. After 12 hours on the labor and delivery floor, my eyes were wide open to the over medical and isolated way we birth in this country.

The turning point came while watching a scared mother delivery her first child with a shell shocked husband by her side. The medical team was quick and efficient and after a vacuum birth, the little baby boy was born. The baby was not brought directly to the mother’s chest, instead they suctioned him and placed him under a heater. The mom and dad disheveled by the commotion were in a state of surprise and paralyzed. The new little being was alone. As a very innocent and out of place bystander, I decided to stand by this new little soul. Someone had to be with him. Even though I didn’t pick up the baby, I figured my presence would be helpful for this child.

I went home that day realizing I need to do more than just teach prenatal asana in the class room. I wanted to be an advocate for women as they birth. In class we focus on finding strength in the pose for mental and physical stamina. We look to build confidence through our own inner wisdom to birth freely. As a doula, I can take this work to the next step. I can remind the moms of their innate power and help them through the arduous hours of labor.

My job as a doula is not to have the birth I want, but to help the pregnant person have the birth she wants. I offer them continuous physical as well as emotional support and help with pain management techniques. I am available to explain the pros and cons of procedures to the best of my ability and reassure them that labor is progressing normally. Sometimes I am just there to offer a hand for holding or massage. Most importantly I am there to be present, attentive, encouraging and supportive.

Of course having a doula present does not mean that the “magic wand” will be waved and everything will turn out alright. The very nature of birth is unpredictable and often does not go as planned. Labor can be long or even surprisingly quick and sometime complications arise. Having a constant, supportive figure that is not emotionally involved like the father, can be a very grounding force.

My own life has been greatly affected by this occupation. There is nothing more real to me than the life altering experience of birth. Even when the journey stretches into the early hours of the morning and many cups of coffee have been consumed, the hours can fly by unnoticed. There is an immediacy and impermanence to the fleeting moment. The complete focus on the breath make it impossible to be any place other then in the present moment. As a yoga practitioner, I embrace the opportunity to be fully alive, aware and present. Who would have thought this is where I would find that experience! And that the students I teach in class would become my teachers in life!

I find that these women inspire me in the choices I make. Whether it be something as arbitrary as holding a yoga pose for longer then I care to, or making tough decisions, I think of my clients and how they pushed through the painful contractions and were brave in their choices and this helps me continue my own personal struggles.



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