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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sailing

There is a Muslim saying, "Pray to Allah, but tie your camel to a tree". There's a longer Jewish story about a fisherman who is having trouble in a storm and his boat is being blown towards a rocky shore. His advice is "Pray to God, but row away from the shore".

My oldest son is sailing across the Atlantic this summer. My friends and relatives have asked me if I am afraid for him. My answer is, well, actually, no. I know he is afloat in a 40 foot boat, bobbing on top of many thousands of feet of water. Rogue waves, storms, whales, and possibly even sea monsters do exist and are a threat. But his safety and well-being are not in my hands. I know he and his crew mates are conscientious and skilled. Beyond that, well, pray. Or at least have faith. Or just have a pragmatic or fatalistic view of the world. But the worst thing to do is either to live in fear, or to attempt to wrap yourself and your family in bubble wrap so as to avoid the rocky shore. At the same time, of course I am afraid. I would like my sons to stay at home and ... sit in the living room?

Of course, our fear and worry for our children starts when they are still in the womb. We try to eat well, to avoid dangerous substances. We wonder if they will be okay, even if we have an argument or become sad. Then during the labor and birth we try to have as gentle and positive an experience as possible, in the hopes that this will reflect on the small human's life.

Fear during birth has been discussed through history and is still a controversial subject. Unfortunately, it can be a pivot upon which a woman may make choices that can be dangerous for her and her baby. Of course, most of us, if we are told the baby may die if we do not do such-and-such, will agree to whatever it is immediately, in order to save the baby's life. Unfortunately, I have seen this type of prediction based upon bad science, or fatigue, or simply impatience, and I have seen women make choices based upon fear that they later regret.

The presence of a doula dilutes this feeling of anxiety and fear. We can radiate a sense of calm, that even when the most unexpected and difficult events take place, will allow everyone to do their work in a sensible and honorable fashion. We do not suggest that fearful predictions are wrong, but when a doula-assisted birth is going smoothly, and the woman and her partner are confident that the process is normal, then fear-based predictions are out of place. The medical staff will enter the room and recognize a normal, active process. The room is full of calm, concentration, activity, emotion, but the dominant feeling will not be one of fear.

So, my advice: keep your faith, but hire a doula!

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