I like to think of myself as a trendsetter… I used to eat Eli’s BBQ when there was just the one location (and never a real line). Findlay Market was our favorite Sunday brunch spot (back when you didn’t have to pay to park...which is apparently how I gauge the trendiness of a 166-year-old Cincinnati institution). And my husband and I basically started the Reds’ Opening Night festivities (it’s our anniversary… the red carpet they’ve recently started rolling out is for us, actually).
Now, it’s necessary, here, to point out that being a Trendsetter™ is not the same as being trendy. I don’t regularly post on Instagram. I don’t use Snapchat. Heck, I don’t even own a Fedora. But today, I’m happy to use any trendy excuse I can to share about a woman I admire, my mom… my #wcw.
People ask me all the time, "Why did you become a doula?"
I think most of them expect to hear that I had either a really good or a really bad birth experience (with or without a doula) and it inspired me to help others have the same really good (or NOT really bad) experience. But it’s different for me. In fact, for the first four years of my doula practice, I didn’t have any children (and thus, birth experiences) at all! I became a doula because of my mom (annnndddd the index of Gentle Birth Choices by Barbara Harper).
Growing up, she regularly shared with me three very positive birth stories.
About my brother, who came just before or just after midnight (she still can’t remember which).
About how he was “clean as a whistle” the moment he came out.
The TV show she watched the night my other brother was born. The heat that summer.
She shared with me about how she punched her partner in the face during transition.
And how my daddy grabbed her by the face and shouted BREATHE! moments before I was born (they had taken Lamaze)! We always laugh at that part.
(For the record, my other brother was “cheesy” and I was bloody… in case you were keeping track after reading about the mythical #cleanbaby. Mom always does.)
But, then, after all of that.
After the struggles.
After the laughs.
She, without fail, tells about the moment we were on her chest for the first time. She says, “it was the most painful thing I’ve ever done. But then, as soon as I held you in my arms, it all went away.” My mom had three quick, intense births (hence the punching and the screaming). But the way she talked about them made them seem so normal. And doable.
Because of her, I felt almost nonchalant about birth. Like, yeah, it’s hard...but it’s doable. Friends and family began to come to me with questions about their upcoming births, I think, in part because of that nonchalance. I wasn’t trying to shame them, or scare them, or laugh at their goals. I had only three good births worth of hearsay to go on...and that made me the most Positive Polly about birth one could find. I started reading whatever I could about childbirth. In one of those books, I discovered the role of a doula. And I knew.
Right then and there, I knew. This is what I was meant to do.
These days...now with hundreds of births worth of experience, I’m not so nonchalant. Birth isn’t always intense or quick, and it almost never feels doable in the moment. Sometimes, a client doesn’t want baby on their chest right away. And sometimes, even when they do, the pain doesn’t completely disappear. And RARELY do these babies come out “clean as a whistle.” Turns out, I missed some of what Mom was trying to share with me years ago. Maybe she doesn’t realize that, underneath of it all, this is what she was sharing either.
Mom taught me that birth is special.
That a mother will remember vivid details about the day she first met her baby for the rest of her life.
That being someone who shares that introduction, who bears witness to its intimacy, comes with great responsibility.
That listening to birth stories is a gift we give one another.
She taught me about how to be a good doula. Way before I knew what one was. So, today’s #wcw goes out to you, Mom. Thanks for nurturing the doula in me.
Also, can we talk about the fact that Instagram filters are no match for a 2005 digital camera shot? #Justsayin