Losing Your Self

Back in the fall, I went to a birth. It was the first birth I'd been to in a long time. It was wonderful! But it was very different from how I imagined it would be.

I always love the feeling that I am doing exactly what I was meant to do: accompany women during childbirth. The most important lesson about birth is that it is very much like life: you can't really plan for it. Meconium happens. Stuff gets broken. People get lost. Suddenly you turn a corner and there is the most beautiful sunset you've ever seen.

Here is a picture of an obstetrician waiting for an unsuspecting pregnant woman. She is being pulled along to the birthing room by her husband...dropping her slipper like Cinderella...he is rushing to punch the clock ... I'm late! I'm late!

The doctor holds a limp pair of forceps in his hand. He is going to get this baby out, for once and for all!!!

Of course, birth doesn't usually happen according to our plans, or according to anyone's schedule or hourly rate. Babies come when they want, or when they need to leave their mother's womb, or when the womb needs to expel them. Who knows. But they don't generally show up when we plan for them to.

And then when they do, the birth unfolds in a different way from what people had been expecting or planning. Which is why I still don't believe that birth plans are useful. Not because birth shouldn't be thought about and considered deeply, that choices shouldn't be made about where you want to give birth and with which people around you. But because the unfolding of your birth experience, of any birth experience, is unpredictable and can't - shouldn't - be pinned down. Because if you try to capture it with a plan, you could miss out on something extraordinary that you hadn't thought about, that couldn't be contained by your plan.

So, what does that mean for us attendants? How do we plan our days and our lives? 

Birth attendants are often on call day and night. Doulas may be on call for months at a time, unless they structure their work effectively by creating a doula collective which involves sharing care. But most doula clients want the continuity of care that means that one doula is always available. So there go your plans for family events, sleep, trips....

But in a deeper sense, when you are actually attending a birth, when the labouring woman is there deeply in the process of birth, then what? Are you thinking about what groceries you are going to buy tomorrow? No, you are with the labouring woman. You are providing support for her and her family, her partner, whomever. Even if you are sitting in a comfy chair knitting: your intention, your senses, your compassion, your heart and all of your focus are bound up with the birth process and the safe place you are creating for the newborn family to move through.

And then you lose yourself. You forget about your worries, strengths, failures, envies, moods. Your only task is to serve birth. You are serving the woman as she moves through her experience of birth, as she becomes a mother. And are you the most important person in the room? Is the obstetrician the buck upon which stuff stops? Of course not. The most important people in the birth room are: the mother and the baby. And how they are treated by everyone else is the most important aspect of the whole process. So, the less we all worry about ourselves, and the more we focus, truly focus, upon the family-to-be, the better off everyone will be in the end. Losing yourself is just the beginning!


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