“And, what do you do?” “Oh, I’m a doula.”
It wasn’t until I became a doula that I realized that just by introducing myself and sharing with people that I was a “doula,” an entirely new world of conversation opened up. Women love to talk about birth. They tell you birth stories that are four decades old while waiting on line at the grocery store. They open up about the most personal moments of their life while pushing their toddler next to you on the swing at the park. It always amazes me how much is shared, how much wants to come out and be heard, without any prompt other than this:
“Oh, I’m a doula.”
Saying I’m a doula is like an invitation for women in our culture — an invitation to be heard. And listening to women is one of my favorite aspects of being a doula.
A few weeks ago, I was picking up my son from school and I ran into the mother of one of his classmates. She was pregnant. We had chatted a few times before, about classes and about my work as a doula. This was her second baby. I overheard her telling a woman about how today was her due date and that “time was running out.” The other woman kind of laughed and acknowledged that it was now “out of her hands.” She turned to me with huge eyes. She looked stressed and worried. She started telling me about how her midwife had scheduled her for an induction, a day after her EDD. She really wanted to wait but felt like it was best to go through with it. I listened to her and then asked her, “Well, what do you want for yourself?” She stumbled a few times and then finally said, “I don’t want them to induce me. I want to wait until next week, or at least make it until Monday.”
“Great!” I said. “You can ask for that and then see what happens. You have the right to ask for what you need. What’s the worst that can happen? Maybe you’ll disappoint someone?” She looked at me and I felt the shift happening in her.
“You’re right. I can ask for what I need. It just feels uncomfortable but you’re right. I feel like I just need a few more days. I want the baby to come on his own.”
She hugged me and thanked me several times. We gathered our children and their lunch bags, jackets, hats, and gloves, and walked out to the parking lot together. I got in my car and felt a surge of gratitude for this work. She wasn’t my client. I wasn’t attending her birth but I was doula-ing her because there’s no way NOT to be a doula in those moments. Every woman deserves support. Every woman deserves to be listened to and, during a very tender time in her life, she was able to share her story and be received.
The next morning I got a call from her. She was in labor at the hospital. She refused her midwife’s recommendation for an induction and, instead, labor kicked in on its own and she was feeling great. She just called to say thank you. She said she was going into the birth feeling in charge and so much better about everything. A week later we met again in the hallway. She was already out and about! She told me she had a beautiful birth and that everything was going really well. “I know you weren’t my doula, but I don’t think I would have made that choice had I not talked to you that day. It meant so much to me to have someone listen to me.”
As doulas, these are the moments we get to rejoice in with women. We’re not always hired by every pregnant woman we know, but our work goes way beyond the birth room. Being a doula means listening to women. It means being brave enough to go deeper in a conversation in a hallway or on line waiting at the bank. It means giving women the opportunity to be heard and to receive them.
Can you relate to this story? We’d love to hear your personal version.
Aimee, DTI Trainer & Mentor