Reflections on Motherhood and Life as a Doula

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

So much to learn from

Still new to the "doula" scene, but thought I was flawless.  My first few births were smooth sailing, and I was confident in the support I provided.  But alas, I have been humbled.  Even though this last birth was successful in its ultimate goal, I walked away feeling like a failure and wanting to quit.

I have had a few sleepless nights since the birth (on top of the sleepless night during the labor and birth), and I think I have finally gotten some of my emotions and thoughts together. 

I watched a VBAC momma hit mental block after mental block, and I sat there...helpless...not knowing what I could do to help.  Not only have I attended a VBAC before, but I have VBAC'd myself!  I know all about the mental blocks that a woman experiences as she tries, yet again, for a vaginal birth.  I am "miss emotional support"!  What happened to me?  Why couldn't I say the right things to help her move past these? 

I was so full of doubt and disappointment (in myself), that I forgot about the other important things a doula needs to do.  I stopped reminding her of position changes, I stopped protecting her from inconsiderate comments made by the "medical professionals", I just stopped.  And labor got "stuck".  I took a break (one of many) and went home to have dinner with my family.  I was a complete mess.  Sobbing over the idea that I was a failure and I was failing this tremendous woman who "needed" me so badly.  Thankfully I have a husband who has his head on a little straighter than I do.  He calmed me down, reminded me that this wasn't my birth, and also reminded me that only one person can move through these blocks - the laboring woman.  And he was right.  I hit block after block, and although I had a massive amount of supportive women around me, only I could move past them.  And I did.

I went back to the hospital (my husband's words had not rang true with me yet), and tried to get out of my head and into the birth.  Luckily for me (and I think for all of us), a good friend of ours came to offer some extra support.  She was like a doula for all of us.  She gently reminded position changes and relaxation.  She encouraged physical support that I wasn't expecting to do - which was awesome because I felt useful and got to use my homemade oils!

And then she pushed.  And while she pushed, I wanted to punch the rude nurse standing across from me...but I didn't.  We whispered words of encouragement and love.  And she pushed her baby out into her open arms.

Could I have done more to support this amazing woman in her labor and birth?  Absolutely.  Will I ever forgive myself?  Probably not.  But I am going to try.  And I am going to take so much from this birth to help me move forward and grow as a doula.

I am truly honored that I was able to witness this beautiful birth, and I am thankful that I had this experience. 


  1. Thanks for the beautifully honest post.

    I acted as a kind of doula for 2 of my best friends who ended up having very difficult posterior births (both began at home and ended up in hospital with some interventions). I felt so guilty and traumatised, and retreated from my doula aspirations. No matter how I prepared, what I read, I couldn't help them have the natural homebirths they so planned for. I was unprepared for their resistance to whatever I offered, and I too retreated into self-doubt and self-recrimination which limited how much I could help them. On many levels I can see that they had the births they needed to have, and there should be no dogmatic judgement about what is a 'good' or 'successful' birth, but I keenly feel their disappointment. I too still feel I need to do a lot of work to heal from this as I get closer to the gateways of pregnancy and childbirth myself.

    Of course you should forgive yourself, it was such a valuable experience, and helped you both grow. Such a gift. I think it is so important to be humbled and honoured and thankful, but kind to yourself too because this will make you an even better doula for all the women to come.

  2. I have been there too! I almost stopped going for my certification after my second "free" birth. It was hard for everyone, but luckily everything ended well. My following birth (only 2days later) was beyond amazing and made me remember why I love my job:) I think it is something we all go through.

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