on birth and doula work


This week I had my first official experience working as a doula. It was a awesome. I got the idea to be a doula a few years ago when I took a training for a pre/postnatal yoga class for my RYT-200 through Yogafit. Teaching yoga is all about guiding people to breathe, relax, and move their bodies in certain ways, and it is something that has always felt really natural to me. Being a doula is a lot the same. I have had some misgivings though. For instance, I have not given birth to a child of my own, and I really do not have a whole lot of experience with new human babies.

However, having grown up on a farm, I do have a lot of experience with the birth, delivery, and life of new baby lambs and calves. At a very young age, I regularly witnessed and assisted in the births of lambs from my own flock of sheep. I have very early memories of being in the barn, helping a cow deliver a very big, breach calf. My brother had one of the calf’s legs. I had the other. I remember saying, “Wait until she pushes.” I remember working to gently, but firmly dislodge and deliver the calf. We were young enough to be left alone by our parents, but still quite young. Maybe 8 and 10? 9 and 11?

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calves on the farm

After a good deal of effort on our parts, the calf was born, swollen and weak from a long labor and delivery. The mother cow was also weak. Eventually, they both gained the strength to start doing their parts–the mother to lick the calf and the calf to attempt to stand and suck.

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lambs on the farm

I have always loved lambing and calving season. It is an exciting time on a farm, when life and death are immediate and when waking up to find a calf warming by the wood stove was not unusual. Throughout the winter months, I regularly did “night checks,” taking a flashlight into the clear, dark night with vivid thoughts of wolves and coyotes in my imagination, images that quickly faded once I was among the sheep or the cows and their peaceful cud chewing. 

Working as a doula was a lot like I expected–a lot like the birth I was familiar with from the farm. The peaceful waiting is the same. The unwavering optimism is the same. The assurance that the body is doing what it knows how to do is the same. The love and gentle care for the mother is the same.

This week, in my first official capacity as a doula, I felt quite comfortable in the birth settling. Since I am new to this work, there were moments when I wasn’t quite sure what to do, but those moments quickly faded away and were replaced by a clarity and a certainty in the process and in my role in that process. It was the kind of reassuring experience that was good to have at the beginning of my work as a doula.

The details of the birth are not mine to tell at this time. Suffice it to say that if people were exposed to the kind of power that women have while they are in labor, and if women were allowed access to that power (without unnecessary and disempowering medical interventions), the world would be a better place.

I know that my love for women has grown exponentially this week. And, I already really loved women. So, that’s saying something.

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