We all know that birth rarely goes according to plan. As a doula, it’s my job to make sure to the best of my abilities that when things go off track my clients feel informed, empowered, and in control of the decisions that are being made. It’s also my job to help clients let go and grieve unmet expectations as we go along. While I take this protection of your experience very seriously, sometimes there are reasons that this emotional processing must be done later. Maybe things were moving too quickly, or you were too tired in the moment to even begin to think about it.
One thing we can know for sure about birth, is that in the best of circumstances it is completely life altering. It is a monumental shift on every level of everything you ever knew to be true. When things don’t go according to plan, this shift can feel even more daunting.
I recently attended a birth.
Of course you did, you say. I was going to make that sentence a little longer, but realized I can’t possibly say all the things I need to say about this birth in one sentence. This birth was…first and foremost, LONG. It was hard. Determined. Strong. Distressing. Hopeful. Beautiful. Messy. Fraught. Powerful. Anxious. Calm. Did I already say, long?
This birth was a process filled with letting go, of releasing unmet expectations, constantly adjusting to new options, and coming to terms with the realization that we are most often not in control. It was a lovely, if not extremely difficult, metaphor for parenthood: that journey in which we give it our best shot and then standby and watch as it all falls apart, over and over again, only to get up and do it all again the next day. And if that sounds a little dark, it's not my intention. This is a tribute to the sheer force of will and determination of one mother, and of all mothers, who give every last morsel of their energy–often to their own detriment–without a second thought. Who fight for what they need and for what their babies need. And who sometimes lose that battle. It can be a painful loss when it doesn’t go the way we wanted or expected. It can take time to grieve and heal. And that's okay.
I often find myself saying, "well, this is not what we wanted." And while that is true so many times during birth, I also hope my clients can let go enough to see the beauty in this experience as it presents itself in other unexpected forms. In other words, when we let go, we create space for more. More power, more strength, more love. Maybe not as we envisioned it. But maybe in a way that allows us to walk this path with more grace and compassion than we would have previously–for others who walk the path after us, and most importantly for ourselves as we go through the process of letting go.
In the words of Maya Angelou, "Each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for ALL women.” My hope is that this mother, and all mothers, come to see what I see in them: adaptability, strength, the birth of an immeasurable love for their families, and maybe most importantly a Woman Who Stood Up–for herself, for her family, and for all women. May we all strive for such heights.