So I googled our doula, and learned that she has a PhD from Harvard! Actually I guess I knew about the degree, just not the conferring university.
It’s odd to reconcile that factoid with the memory of her rubbing my feet in the holding area pre-op. Recently one afternoon T. persuaded me to attend a lecture on campus while he watched Valerie. I felt so disjointed sitting in that lecture hall – it’s been all baby all the time round here for the past few weeks, and it felt so strange to be in a space completely void of anything baby-related. The lecture was quite good, and I’m glad I went. But even so the image of her little face was present to my mind the whole time, and the second I heard a faint squawk outside I was out the door in a flash (she was fine). But I digress. My point here is that the academic world and the world of motherhood feel very separate to me right now, and I see that I have work to do in terms of reconciling these different facets of my identity now.
But back to L., our doula.
I can’t say enough wonderful things about her. Hiring L. was the single best decision we made through this whole process. Ironically, the original reason that I suggested to T. that we look for a doula was because I read in Birthing From Within that the mere presence of a doula in the birthing room reduced the rates of epidurals and cesareans. I had by this point decided that the most important thing to me about the birth was that the baby not be separated from me afterwards. Mostly this was because when I was born, my mom and I were separated for a long time (I don’t know how long exactly but long enough that she felt very distressed about it) and to this day she expresses distress about the memory. So, since a cesarean would necessarily mean that baby and I would be separated soon after the birth, it became a priority to me to avoid that.
Anyway, we only interviewed two people before deciding on the second one, L. We hadn’t signed a contract or anything, so when I was hospitalized and as it became increasingly certain that I was going to give birth by cesarean, I began to wonder what her role was going to be and whether it made sense at all to continue to work with her.
But this never seemed to be a question for her. And ultimately, I feel that her support was possibly the single most important factor in my being ok, at the end, with how things panned out. Here’s an exerpt from an e-mail from her, dated May 7 (emphases added):
There are reasons for the way things unfold as they do, and sometime we can only see them later, and sometimes not at all.
… If cesarean is in the cards, let’s think now, of the things that feel like they will make it the sacred journey you are supposed to have, even if it’s not the one you imagined. My feeling is that when birth takes place with integrity, when (for example) you have a cesarean because you need one and not because it’s Friday or the doctor is impatient or afraid, it can be incredibly transforming and beautiful, even when it takes place in the OR. So, while you have your quiet moments of sitting upside down, maybe you can meditate on your journey to bringing your baby to the other side and the things that will give it the integrity you want, and the reverence it deserves as a mama crosses over.
Sacred, integrity, and reverence were words never once spoken by the doctors or nurses – I know, it’s not part of the job description – but what L. did for us was pure ministry, in the most spiritual sense of the word. She was the only person caring for me through this whole process who seamlessly adressed all aspects of it – medical, emotional, spiritual, physical – in a way that made me feel like a whole person instead of an assemblage of measurable symptoms.
L is the reason I was able to be present, mentally and emotionally, at the moment of Valerie’s birth, to feel joy instead of only anxiety. And this was a gift not only to me and T. but to my baby as well.