For many doulas, our journey begins with our own birth story. Our first experience of pregnancy, giving birth, breastfeeding, becoming a parent. Our first understanding of being part of our new family. And our first contact with the maternity care services.
The quality of physical, emotional and social support that we have received during this time can make a huge impact on our experience of childbirth. And whether it has turned out as we hoped or expected, or whether it has confirmed our worst fears, it is nonetheless so often the trigger that starts us thinking about the idea of supporting other mothers through the same experience.
Listening to other women’s birth stories is bread and butter to doulas therefore. It is the way we learn about and connect to the mothers and fathers we support. It forms the baseline upon which our relationship with our clients during this birth experience balances, it provides waymarkers and flashpoints. And allows for the unpacking of a whole heap of the grief, anger, fear, hurt and disappointment that can sometimes accompany the joys of holding our newborn.
We need to be strong, mindful and steady in order to weather the storm of some birth stories, as well as gentle and yeilding enough for the parents to know we are with them from our hearts. This can be tough, it can resonate with our own birth trauma or postnatal illness, and touch us in ways we never knew was possible. Not only can it connect us back to the circumstances surrounding the birth of our own babies, but also to our personal (unconscious) memories of our own birth.
It’s useful for new doulas to be aware of the powerful and valuable impact that birth stories bring to their learning and preparation I feel. Not only does the novice hear about the physiology of natural birth and what happens when this is disturbed, but also it is an opportunity for her to begin to explore what it might mean to provide birth and postnatal support in practical and emotional terms within a safe setting.
To become humble, to begin to know a little of the amazing art of just being.