I have to start this blog post with a heartfelt apology for the doula I used to be. When I started out as a brand-new doula in my senior year of college, I had a whole lot of passion and a whole lot of bias. I was immersed in the natural birth community and I was an activist for everything “natural” birth and breastfeeding. I understood that those things weren’t options for everyone, but in an effort to raise awareness for them and support those who were choosing them, I alienated and likely hurt other parents and for that, I’m so sorry.
There was a time when I thought the perfect birth looked a certain way and I didn’t understand why people would willingly choose anything else. Then, I found a doula training organization that challenged me, made me acknowledge my bias and made me a better doula. It might not be a popular opinion, but I no longer believe I can be an activist and a truly nonjudgmental doula. I had to unlearn a lot of things and really change my perspective. I can genuinely say that the perfect birth to me is perfect because the parents think it is. I feel like the best doula when my clients feel heard, supported and encouraged through their birth experience, no matter how their baby comes into the world. I leave every birth knowing that my clients only got nonjudgmental support for all of their choices from me and I truly believe they made the best decisions for their family.
When people hear that I am a birth doula, they might assume some things about how I must have given birth myself or how sad I must be about how my birth went. Having my own daughter only strengthened my passion for providing unmatched, nonjudgmental support. I was fully informed of all of the risks, I knew what complications we might face and I still got out of that amazing birth tub at hour 22 of labor and asked for an elective cesarean under general anesthesia. That same state of the art tub I had shared a picture of years before on my Facebook page because I just knew one day I would give birth in it. I had done everything “right” to have an unmedicated birth, knowing I couldn’t have an epidural. I chose the midwife group over an hour away who did hospital water births and was known for being flexible and hands-off. I hired an experienced doula. I wrote my birth plan in a realistic way. I read all of the books. I did the meditations. I had a rock star husband by my side. I recruited my incredible mom to support me too. This was the birth I had always wanted. I was surrounded by grounding touch, words of encouragement and caregivers who wanted to see me have the birth I wanted. In the end, nothing prepared me for almost 24 hours of labor with contractions 2 minutes apart the entire time. No one told me that some of those labors that look like they are progressing beautifully on the outside, have crossed the line to suffering on the inside. I listened to my body and luckily the best part of my dream support team was their nonjudgmental support. When I changed my mind, they met me with love and encouragement. They told me they were proud of me and they helped me bring my daughter into the world in a beautiful cesarean, where I was heard and respected. They trusted my intuition and my ability to do what was best for us.
Birth choices aren’t always black and white and sometimes there are reasons at play that we know nothing about. I will be just as proud to walk beside you if you labor without medication, get your epidural and a nap or you welcome your baby through a cesarean birth. All birth is beautiful, but truly nonjudgmental support can make it so much better.