four centimeters

I recently completed my last certifying birth for the doula certification through DONA International:

I’m not done yet. I still have books to read, another class or two to attend, and I have to write an essay about the experience. It seems like people are most worried about the essay! Um? I think I’ve got that part covered.

For me, the certifying births were the big unknown because labor and delivery is really hard to predict, which means I couldn’t really plan for them, and there was no guarantee that I would make it on time. I can control the other things on the “to do” list, but I couldn’t control the births. I also couldn’t control the fact that no one was ever pronounced “four centimeters dilated” when I was working as a doula. There were many women here were dilated to three centimeters and then six, or three centimeters and then five. There was a woman who refused frequent checks (and good for her!), but she wasn’t checked until she was at 6 centimeters. The problem is that DONA requires doulas to be in attendance at 4 centimeters and beyond for their certifying births.

Here’s the thing, as a doula, I don’t really need to be there until labor has become more active. In fact, being there too early can be a bad thing. It’s like the adage about how a watched pot never boils. In most cases, it’s best for women to go about their days or sleep through their nights until the contractions demand their full attention.

The births I’ve attended for certification should count. I feel like I was fully there and fully a doula on those occasions. I learned a lot. Most recently I attended my first epidural birth, and yes, they are very different from unmedicated births. And yes, I can see how they can compound complications for the mom and baby. But, you know what? It was fine. And the outcome was fine. And, it’s important for me to know how to doula in those cases too.

I’m lined up to attend a few more births as part of my certification *just in case*. My work as a volunteer will also help me gain a lot of experience, and, hopefully, at some point, I’ll be there when the doctor or midwife announces that someone’s cervix is dilated to four centimeters. But, if not, I’m hoping that it will all still count toward certification. It should. Like I said, I’ve definitely learned a lot and would feel right about reaching certification level at this point. I’ve found my voice as a doula, and I’ve received a lot of good feedback about the work that I do. As I’ve said before, I think this is a calling.

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