Amber is no stranger to the 31 Days of Doulas project. She wrote about the advantages of a doula who hasn't had children yet, how doulas help in all kinds of births, and her "labor" as she started nursing school. This year's addition gives us a peek inside Amber's life. Nursing school is not easy! And Amber's confidence was shaky -- until she realized the true value those doula skills held.
Doula training has a way of bringing out the best in people. Sure, before I was a doula, I was caring and compassionate, but I was also a wild 20-year-old who wasn’t always focused on others. When I completed doula training at 22 years old, my eyes were opened to the injustices that many women and families face as they meet their baby for the first time. I was made more aware of how much what we say matters, and how important it is to simply listen and respect people. During my training, I also learned physical skills to provide comfort. I didn’t know it at the time, but the knowledge I gained over my two-day doula training would stay with me, even when I wasn’t supporting women and families during the childbearing year. Most notably, my doula skills have all proved extremely useful as I’ve journeyed (yes, sometimes trudged) through my last 2.5 years as a student nurse.
Prior to starting nursing school, I absolutely loved being a doula. Being present for one of the most intimate moments in a family’s life was an immense privilege. The qualities that I already had were allowed to shine when I was a doula for a family. Once I started nursing school, I was immensely saddened that the magical relationships that I built with my doula clients would be a thing of the past. It was time to become a nurse, and my touchy-feely relationships would only be distant fond memories.
At the end of my first semester in nursing school, I was talking to one of my professors about how much harder nursing school was turning out to be, in relation to my expectation of what it would be like. Her response was one I vividly remember. She told me that you can be a nurse forever, and learn all these fancy technical skills, but that it is extremely hard to learn how to be truly empathetic, be good at listening, and have emotional intelligence towards your patient. She told me that it seemed I already had these skills. It wasn’t until she pointed this out to me that I had really stopped and realized just how much I had translated my doula training into my practice as a student nurse.
I hadn’t realized it, but I had been all of my patients’ doulas. The older folks who had dementia who just needed someone to talk to, the veteran who was depressed, the widow who was confused and scared because she didn’t know where she was -- these were now my doula ‘clients’. Except, they were my patients.
There was something that I brought to my practice that was slightly different than some of my classmates. Now, the other students in my cohort are amazing. We are all very different, and have very different skills. Some of them are fearless, they always jump at the opportunity to insert an IV or catheter. I, on the other hand, was sometimes almost petrified with anxiety just thinking about doing something I didn’t feel confident in. Some of my other classmates were really book-smart, they had memorized complex physiological processes and medications. I sometimes compared myself to these other students, and felt inadequate, that I would never be as good as them. But, once I realized that emotional support was my strong suit, I stopped beating myself up.
When it came to talking to patients who were depressed, needed someone to talk to, had just received bad news, had dementia and missed their loved ones, or were in pain, I felt very comfortable. It seemed that knowing appropriate yet comforting things to say came easily for me, and I didn’t shy away from using physical touch on my patients. With this knowledge in hand, the rest of nursing school has been different for me. Yes, I’ve had some tough days (and nights!) but I know that every single one of my patients felt emotionally supported, respected, and truly cared for. I know that if I were in the hospital, this is how I would want my nurse to be, too.
Now that I’m at the end of my nursing school journey, I feel confident that I’ve left a trail of cared-for patients in my wake. The unique set of skills that I will always carry with me as a doula can be translated into any area of life, and I am so happy that I don’t ever have to stop being a doula. I am especially grateful that I also had the opportunity to share some of my doula-ness with my classmates. I think some of the knowledge about providing comfort will stay with my classmates. Some of the doula wisdom I’ve shared with my class, which can be translated to almost any patient are:
I’m planning to start working as a labor and delivery nurse this summer, so I will truly get to put my doula skills to use on my patients. But, I also know that wherever nursing may take me, no matter a patient's sex, age, or whatever brought them into contact with our medical system, I will always be their doula.
Amber is a special soul to me. Years ago when I was bringing the first of many DONA-birth doula trainings that my former trainer, Connie Sultana, would offer in Chico, CA, I got a phone call. It was Amber's mom. She asked me questions about doulas, the training, what it would mean for someone like her daughter who had a fascination with helping people and a passion for birth. She passed along that information to Amber, and the rest is history! Amber and I became fast friends although we weren't exactly peers -- me with three kids, and she, college-aged and free! But we had a connection, and we built on that. Slowly we started finding more doulas, bringing Connie back for more trainings, serving families, and creating plans for better ways to serve families. Eventually we helped form Chico Doula Circle. All this time, Amber was set on getting into a nursing program. I moved away, and she got into a program -- and here she is, at the end of that schooling-journey, ready to jump into the world as a nurse! Amber will be an amazing nurse, in any field, although her heart is set on birth. I am so excited for what her future holds!
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)