Friday, April 29, 2011

Why I Read Books

I had a wonderful experience yesterday. I was invited by a group of women to speak about natural birth, about women's health, and about attending birth. We spent two hours together and decided at the end that we would meet every week to read, study and learn together. Two of the women are expecting so we will be accompanying them through their pregnancies, and possibly their births as well.
We are reading books about birth, on health, breastfeeding, anatomy, VBACs, and of course we will be discussing our own experiences as well. We are getting together out of a sense of loyalty and friendship, dare I say love? We are a handful of women from different countries, cultures, and races. It is looking to be an exciting process.
So, the most amazing thing was, the place we had our meeting was the grand central library in downtown Montreal. It is a large, rather imposing building on a large street across from the main bus station.
The building, as you would expect, is full of books. It houses a exhibition room, many small meeting rooms, a huge children's library and all the arts, science, literature, documents, journals, and everything else that you could possibly want to read. It has study tables, movie desks, media booths, and armchairs absolutely everywhere. And the chairs are full! The library is full - people of all ages, colors, styles, languages - they are everywhere, reading, listening to music, borrowing basketfuls of books, looking things up...

When I was small my favorite spot was an armchair in the living room, where I would curl up and read for hours. As I grew older I migrated into my bedroom to read. But I have always read, and books have been some of my best friends. One year, when I was expecting my third child, and my husband was teaching English in the evenings, we lived in a tiny medieval village (in the tower in the center of the village - but that's another story), and I had no books except a collection of Rudyard Kipling. I read those books over and over, even the ones in that awful Pidgin. I love to go into that other world where books live, to make friends with characters, writers and ideas. I like knowing that there are people in the world who think, dream, and write.

I have just written a book. It is about birth, and about the choices a woman can make throughout her childbearing year. It is about attending women in birth, and about ways and means to assist a woman during pregnancy and childbirth. It took me the best part of three years and it is almost ready to be sent out into that same world. It will be available for sale by June 15, 2011.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Volunteer Spirit

I know so many young women who are eager to spend their time volunteering. They want to gain experience working with women and babies, so they donate hours and bundles of energy to women who perhaps don't have money to pay a doula, or to women who are in a difficult situation postpartum.
This is the core of being a doula, that desire to accompany women on their path toward motherhood, whether we are paid in money or not. I am sure all of us fantasize about an old great grandmother that we have, who traveled from her village to assist women in childbirth, and accepted just a bag of lentils or some corn as payment. This did happen, although I don't think all of our grannies were midwives.
But we have inherited that peaceful, nourishing spirit, and we try our best to assist women, even though lentils cannot pay the rent.
Of course, a midwife has a much greater responsibility than the modern doula. She was responsible for the life of the mother and baby. Often, she was the only one who could save the baby's life - there wasn't an intensive care unit down the road. But she did her job, and she did it well, and the best midwives were the ones who worked in the background of the mother's labor, who assisted only when necessary, who left the honour and joy to the birthing woman.
Just so a doula peaceably attends birth. Not interfering, humble, almost invisible, not a "Professional" or an "Expert", but a friend, a companion. The volunteer doulas who work for Montreal Birth Companions, and other volunteer organizations around the world, are just that - companions. They attend, accompany, and honor the birthing woman. And all for lentils!!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thank You

I just want to say thank you to all the women who have invited me to attend their births over the past fifteen years. It has been an honor and a pleasure to accompany you through this important time of your life.
And if we only met once when you were in labor, and I rubbed your back but didn't understand your language, thank you. And if I've seen your first child born, and your second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh, thank you. And if I caught your baby when no one else was around, thank you. And if you gave birth in an hour and a half, thank you. And if I was with you for three days, thank you. And if I held you when you cried, thank you. And if I spoke to you for hours and you birthed in another city, thank you. And if you had a vaginal birth after a surgical one, thank you. And if you had a cesarean to save your baby's life, thank you.
Thank you.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Loss and Innocence

Last week I got a computer virus. I don't know how it got in - who knows - but it masqueraded as my security system for my laptop. It disabled my firewall, my updates, and my anti-virus protection, and it tried to persuade me to go to its site and pay for new software. It mimicked the Microsoft site very well, and the only way I recognized it was because of a small spelling mistake. I was the frizzy-haired girl with crooked teeth who excelled at spelling bees. You can guess how popular that made me!
I digress.
The other thing that happened - the thing I can hardly think about, let alone talk about or analyze - is that I heard about a good friend whose son's favorite teacher was arrested for pedophile acts.
He went in, disabled the firewall, and the virus protection, and took advantage of his student's innocence to fulfill his twisted needs. The children that were better educated about boundaries resisted his approaches, but all of them were propositioned: this blog is not about how we need to teach our children (we do). It's about how trust can be horrifically betrayed.
The most important thing I have been told about this type of situation is that when it happens, no matter how much the parent would like to believe that the child will forget about it, it is very important that it is dealt with immediately, by talking, understanding, affirming the damage done, and learning about prevention.

The same goes for a traumatic birth experience. When a woman has trusted her doctor, and listened to his or her assurances that she or he is supportive of natural birth, and then gets to the hospital in labor and realizes that she made the wrong choice, and then pays dearly for that choice, it is important for her to have a place to go where she can heal, where she can talk honestly about what happened. It may not be right away, and usually isn't, because she is, after all, a new mother and usually she is experiencing a baby-moon phase. But it will come up, and it is often the doula or midwife who is present for her next pregnancy and birth experience who will be the person she can trust to be non-judgmental and will help her to get to a place of forgiveness and love. Where we can get the healing done.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Doula Love and Accountability

I have raised a lot of eyebrows with yesterday's post so I would like to go back and comment and try to clarify. One message I was sent was this:
"Doulas don't cause Cesareans. Emphatically. Doctors, emergencies, and women's choices do."
Yes!! Absolutely! And we, as doulas, need to remember this. It is ALWAYS the woman's birth, and not the doula's. No matter where the path leads, it is the doula's mission to follow, and to respect and nurture the woman she is accompanying.

Another message went like this:
"When I'm at a difficult birth, even though I've only been practicing for a few months, I know that I am providing something that no one else can, and that is unconditional support. I know that I'm not responsible for the outcome of the birth, and I hope you realize that inexperienced doulas may take your words seriously."

Still another:
"Yes, we need to take responsibility for what we do - and if a woman in my care has an unnecesarian, I take responsibility, I try to work through it to improve my care."

Wow! Please comment on my blog. I appreciate your messages but I would like to make this discussion public.

To clarify, I would like to publicly apologize to any young/inexperienced doula who was hurt by my words. That is the last thing I wanted to do. I would like to engage in an ongoing discussion about responsibility and transparency. How do you feel when your client has an unexpected outcome? How do you feel when you have a feeling she will end up in surgery, even though she is planning a natural birth? Do you change your practice? Do you call in a more experienced or differently trained doula? What do you do when you are at a birth and things start going haywire? Do you reach out to other doulas?

Whenever I am at a birth that ends in an unexpected c-section, I always look back at my actions and the prenatal and labor process to see if I could have worked differently. Sometimes I know I did everything possible. Other times I know I could have done more. I know as doulas we are not held accountable, as medical professionals are. We form associations and collectives but we are accountable, in the end, only to ourselves. I know I am very hard on myself, always wanting to do better, and I would do good to accept that meconium happens.

To all of you, keep up the good work, and keep on loving.