As we grow, we absorb big and small shocks to our bodies and souls. We all know where our physical scars are, and we often assign stories to them. I remember when I was skipping school and the knife chose that day to slice my finger, so I had to get myself stitched up without (I dreamed) my mother finding out. I have a little white line on my finger that tells that story.
Some women have bigger scars, on their skin and their muscles, from birthing their babies. I hear these stories often when I am speaking to women about their birth experiences.
Other women have emotional scars that last for years. These scars have a way of aching and burning during pregnancy and birth. The doula can gently assist the woman when she is feeling these aches and pains.
We are not therapists so we do not have to probe, suggest, or hypnotize. What we can do is provide a non-judgmental ear, if the woman wants to talk. We can let her know that she is not alone, that she has support. We can also remind her that there are other women who have traveled the same road and survived.
One of my students is accompanying a woman as I write. She has been in labor for most of last night and today. She does have emotional scars, and they are hurting. My student has been with her the whole time, supporting and comforting.
And even though my student is a very inexperienced doula, she is still providing the essence of what a birthing woman needs. The expertise, medical know-how and scientific facts is not the realm of the doula. She is there with other skills: the skill of touch, listening, compassion, and presence.