I am currently 37 weeks, 6 days pregnant. This means, like Arnie Grape says, "I could go at any time." In the past have I ever gone this early? No. But two nights this last week I started having irregular contractions in the evening -- more than those warm-up Braxton Hicks, but less than what I deem to be "true" labor. And it has given me a little bit of anxiety as to the realization that yes, someday soon, this baby will have to come out.
I have taught families about birth for years! I have touted the benefits of minimal-intervention during birth as long as mom and baby are okay. I have been excited for birth, pledged my allegience to birth, shared my mammalian theories about birth, and basically been on fire for the wonders birth can bring -- simply from a new, sweet baby, all the way to that complicated glimpse into what we are capable of as women. Birth has been my world -- it has been something I believe in, something I put my faith in, and something I have experienced as an incredible part of being a woman.
Yet here I sit, getting heart flutters and panic, as I experience a contraction that feels a little stronger than normal. When I get those nagging self-doubts or scary flashes of fear, I push them right out of my mind -- I can't even entertain them. If I had business with them, if there were something fruitful to come from their company, then there would be a purpose in having them hang around. But I know this much about myself: Negative thoughts are part and parcel to my brain and its chemistry, and they mostly have no function to fulfill.
To counter my own inclination of dwelling on the negative, I have found some solace: When I think about the women I have supported during their own experiences of birth, I find my confidence in birth being rebuilt.
There was Karen, who birthed her second son at home in a horse-trough-looking tub, all 12 pounds, 2 ounces of him, like nobody's business.
Amanda, who exercised her right to attempt a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) in a local hospital; she walked into the hospital (no wheel chair for her!) at 7 centimeters open and soon after birthed her baby in a squat, close to the floor (I don't know if she even sat in the bed at all before the baby was born!).
Kim, who had her baby in the car on the way to the hospital with just the support of her husband.
Tara, who labored at home with a walk to Jamba Juice while she and her husband shared the story of how they met years before, as co-workers, at that same Jamba Juice (he snuck a kiss in the walk-in fridge!). Their baby was born a few hours later, peacefully and in the water.
Another Tara, who labored hard for almost two days to bring Brian Patrick into the world, on St. Patrick's day, no doubt, after being thisclose to having a cesarean birth.
Leah, who didn't let her fears get in the way of the hard work that birth is.
Kim, who was on bed-rest -- she ate breakfast, had a conference call for work, realized her water broke, went to the hospital and had a baby within an hour, had a follow-up call from someone at work regarding the conference call, and then had Thai food for lunch!
Laura, who experienced the worst kind of tragedy during pregnancy which she used for strength to have a home-water-VBAC -- I will never forget the words she kept chanting during transition, "The only way out is through. The only way out is through."
There are so many more. I remember them all. One thing I will say about birth -- no matter how you have a baby, no matter where you are or what your personal experience will be made up of, birth is a day of hard work. Regardless of whether a woman has a spontaneous, normal birth, an epidural, a cesarean birth (or whatever combination), it is generally not a day at the spa. But one thing I have always said, it is mostly a mind-game: You can psyche yourself up or you can psyche yourself out. I, for one, am working on the former, and I am so grateful for all those families who have allowed me to witness their power and strength, because right now, that's exactly what I need.
Ever since I had enough experience to help another doula out, I have been happily engaged in growing doula sisters. My first hospital birth in Chico found me in the fortuitous position of working with another doula; this was an invaluable experience. She was able to show me the ins and outs of the hospital, where to get snacks for the mom, which drawers held the pillowcases (and that we were able to access), how to get to the cafeteria -- all stuff that would have taken a lot of time, energy, and bothering-of-nurses (while I was also trying to support a family during labor). I am grateful to that doula for taking me under her wing -- I wasn't new to birth, but I was new to this hospital -- and her willingness to share her craft and her knowledge is a true sign she believes in the work doulas do.
It can be hard to find sucess as a doula -- it truly takes a village to get yourself and your name out there to the point of receiving referrals, interviews, and ultimately, births. Many women who attend doula trainings later "drop out" because they have such a hard time trying to integrate into their local birth world. In pondering this, a lot of thoughts have come to the surface which may be helpful to that doula-in-training who is about to fall by the way-side.
When we think about who might need a doula, often we focus in on our closest social networks -- our close-tie connections -- family and friends we know well. We have emotional connections with these people, we see them often and have shared past experiences with them. This can be met with gleeful agreement and anticipation on the part of these close-tie relations, or it may not get us anywhere. What can be more fruitful than this group is the next social network outside this realm -- these are known as our "weak-tie" connections.
The idea behind weak-tie connections was proposed by Stanford professor Mark Granovetter in 1973. The basic idea is the more links we have with people who are not closely associated with each other, the more opportunities we will have in business, spreading ideas, and joining together for a common cause. "Individuals with few weak-ties will be deprived of information from distant parts of the social system and will be confined to the provincial news and views of their close friends," Granovetter said. Basically, if we stay within this close-ties realm, we stifle our opportunity for further exposure to grow and branch out of our little corner of the social-world.
How does this apply to doula work? Get out there and network! Start with your close-ties and work into weak-ties via your connections. Let your close-ties know your doula endeavors and be sure to encourage them to pass on your information to people they think might have a need or common interest. Just today I virtually met a doula who lives in the town where my sister-in-law grew up and still has many friends and family -- I promised this doula I would pass her information on to my close-tie, thus providing her (hopefully) with some weak-tie opportunities that may prove beneficial at some point. Other places to find weak-ties as a new doula: church, school, clubs, the gym, work, your doctor's office, commujnity meetings and events or fairs. When you open your eyes to the potential right outside your direct family and friends, the possibilities are not only endless, they can also be much more promising.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)