Birthwork ~ Care Awareness

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I’m working my way through Birthwork by Jenny Blyth (isn’t the cover magnificent?!) and thought it would be appropriate to share my thoughts here. This book is more than just a casual read. In it, Jenny discusses the more profound aspects of being with women/families in birth and the thoughts/feelings/actions we have surrounding such an intimate event. Each section ends with probing questions for the reader to digest, making this more of a tool than a book.

Care Awareness

1. How did you become involved in birth work?

2009 ~ Watching the births of my brothers as a teenager really captivated me. I remember the midwife, after Sage’s birth, commenting that I would make a good midwife. It didn’t immediately settle me upon this path but it did plant a seed. After L’s birth, I felt very traumatized and propelled myself down the path of knowledge surrounding birth. When I became pregnant with B, midwifery care was the only option I ever considered. His birth transformed me. I was hooked on midwives, doulas, home birth, and have been ever since. The feeling of empowerment that came from that experience was intensely gratifying. It was really hard work, but *I* did it. I knew then that I wanted, more like I NEEDED, to help other women experience that. If every family could have just a small inkling of that feeling, I think it would make a huge difference.

2013 ~ Sometime in the last few years, it has become clear that I am “called”. I started dreaming of births, of women, of babies. I started feeling like what I knew wasn’t enough, then people started asking me about things and I realized there was an expectation, so I had better know my stuff!

2. What does providing care mean to you?

2009 ~ I think the term “providing care” can encompass so much. For me, providing care is dependent upon each family’s set of particular needs. I think empathy, compassion and knowledge of the birth process are paramount in this situation. In order to know what the family needs/expects, I must empathize and understand, as well as actively listen. During my time with them, my sole focus should be them/her. I think another important aspect of providing care is having clear boundaries that everyone involved understands and respects.

2013 ~ Ah, boundaries. Those are hard to define these days. When one has tools to help another, is it okay to withhold? I understand and accept that there are definitions or specifications or whatever with certain roles. So I guess I feel like “providing care” is assisting motherbaby/family in whatever way is requested, within my knowledge/skill base. 

3. Which role do you play as care provider? How clear is that role?

Right now, I feel my roles are in transition. I think I am confidante, trusted friend, avid listener, loving support, unconditional, toucher (is that even a word?!), dutiful servant. My defined role is doula. I have consciously chosen to remain uncertified so my offerings to families are dictated by them.

4. What practical skills do you have to offer or share?

5. What personal skills do you have to offer or share?

What is the difference? I’m not sure. Empathy, compassion, loving touch. Knowledge of the birth process, some complications, some interventions. Hands-on skills such as counter pressure, movement/position, some rebozo. Ability to keep calm under pressure, plan & strategize solving problems. Diplomatic and clear communication with others.

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Steps

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Much to my delight, my friend is scaling down her birth book collection and last week she brought over some goodies for me to peruse. One of the books she had just happened to be “Helping Hands: The Apprentice Workbook” by Carla Hartley. It prompted me to double-check that mine was still on my shelf (it was), although hers was in much better condition. Anyway, my horribly ripped/stained copy is not really the point of this post! I am embarrassed to admit that I have picked this workbook up a couple of times and read through it, but I have yet to really sit with it….until today.  I hope to post soon about some of the other questions posed (my answers to them).  For now, here is what I wrote tonight in my journal:

Working on the apprentice workbook. The line says, “I am taking the following steps to make midwifery a reality” …. um …. am I?  What AM I doing? Right this minute, I think I’m setting up my community for better birth, better support. It’s a stepping stone, I hope, toward my ultimate goal of being a midwife. I mean, really, if I don’t encourage and support the mamas on their paths to loving births, how can I expect anyone to support me? It *feels* like I’m setting up my future, their future, OUR future. Of course, I don’t really know that. What if I’m wrong? Can I be wrong, is it EVER wrong to support families, to bring more options, more information? What if we move and never come back? Will the networks I’ve tried to build live on and continue to support families? I hope so!

And, is this helping me on my path? My long, long, winding, long path. My path that always seems so s-l-o-w. It could be faster, oh yes. Put the kids in school, move closer to my (hopeful) mentor, work my ass off, cut everything back to the bare bones hoping not to struggle. It could be done. Would I regret that? I don’t want to find out. Better to be frustrated, taking it slowly as my family can handle, than to rush.  They deserve better than a splintered mom who misses far too much answering the call of another family. And yet, I wonder, is that already here? Am I already splintered, answering many calls to fill the void where midwifery goes? Or is this what midwifery is….learning as I go, adding a skill for this family, a tool for that family…will I look back one day and see clearly that I was right where I needed to be all along?

What Am I?

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Today I changed the description for my job on Facebook from “Professional Doula” to “Birth Attendant”. Yeah, I know, what is so earth-shattering about that, right?? I don’t know exactly. It’s not earth-shattering, I guess, but it does provide a source of confusion (for me).

What am I?

I don’t like calling myself a professional doula. I guess it’s appropriate, since being a doula is considered a profession and that’s part of what I do with women and families. And yet, I feel myself moving away from that. It doesn’t feel right anymore, on multiple levels. I’m not sure I can adequately explain, but I’m going to try anyway.

Technically, a doula could encompass a lot of the things I do.  In the literal sense of the word, it means (in Greek) “female slave”, although it’s come to be lightened up a bit by being referred to as “woman who serves”. While I certainly don’t consider myself a slave to anyone, I absolutely identify with the “servant” aspect of the meaning. I feel strongly that my role is to serve women and their families (by serve, I mean whatever she defines as serve and by family, I mean whatever she defines as family). Thinking about this led me to consider the term “woman’s servant”, but I’m not sure that quite covers it either. I’m specifically called to and am studying the childbearing years, so a general term as servant doesn’t really convey those attributes.

While all doulas, in theory, have a defined scope of practice, this is particularly true of certified doulas. I originally chose the term “professional” to escape the “certified”, both because I am not now, nor do I ever plan to be, certified and also because I have an ethical problem with the idea of certification. Scope of practice is a great idea, as it helps us understand where certain boundaries are (both as consumers and as service providers). But what happens when those boundaries start blurring?  And should they?  If I know something that may help, yet is outside my “scope of practice”, what is the ethical thing to do?  Ahh!  In those instances, black and white becomes very, very grey.

I never intended to teach childbirth classes.  I am not a teacher!  However, this is where my path is leading me right now.  This is where the need is for my community, at this moment, that I am capable of filling.  And that is where I find the definition of what I am….

Where they go, I will follow

They are the leaders, I am the servant

The women define me.

Sacred Work

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This past weekend, I attended a women’s spiritual retreat led by a friend of mine.  I was moved to tears when she read an adapted version of the following:

 

The Sacred Work

The sacred work
is the work for which
you were born.

It is that which
is encoded in you
in every fiber of being
that houses your
bright spirit.

If you listen
it will call to you
from the inside.
Asking, calling,
even begging
for you to release
it from its cage
of reason.
Of logic.
Of acting normal.
Getting it right.
Waiting for ‘ready’.

If you listen it
is knocking from
the door inside.
Do you know
where that door is
upon which
is written
your holy name?

The name that
belongs to the part
of you that knows
who you are?
The name you
struggle with
or don’t dare to say
out loud?
For fear of being
hurt, or heard?

Healer.
Teacher.
Leader.
Changemaker.
Priestess.
Artist.
Poet.
Storyteller.
Wayshower.
Guide.
Curandera.
Cantadora.
Medicine woman.
Writer.
Shaman.
Seer.
Dreamer.

The time has come,
even today.
For those who are able
to rise into the work
called

sacred.

If you feel anxiety,
fatigue, if you wonder
what it is all about.
If you wonder when your
time will come.
There is only one thing
I know that is the remedy
for this over-culturation
that keeps us captured
from our soul’s deepest song.

It is this:

To declare your sacred work.

~Shiloh Sophia

Now, I admit to being a fairly sensitive person who “feels” a lot most of the time.  This was something different, though I can not fully describe it.  I know I felt every word of this, that it called to my deepest senses.  I heard the words “sacred work” and my spine tingled.  I immediately heard the word that resides hidden in my very soul.  It’s something I know I can not escape, even if I wanted to.

We were asked to speak our sacred work aloud and, with tears streaming down my face, I did.  The next day, I sat down with my journal to write some extra thoughts from the retreat.  This is what I wrote about that moment:

She speaks the words and I hear the rumble

Rumbling, within me

It IS a calling

For it calls to me

Deep in my soul, my heart, my sleep

It is in every fiber of my being

Every breath

It is who I am

And yet, I dare not speak the name

So noble, loving, compassionate

So…. much …..

Wrapped in the word of heart’s desire

The drum beats

Tears flow

Shall I give it the voice it yearns for

Set aside the politics

Society’s definition

I know who I am

What my sacred work, my calling, is

To be with woman

I.  Am.  Midwife.

The Beginning? The End?

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I haven’t written here in what feels like a really, really long time.  I can barely manage to find time to check my email or pop on Facebook for more than a few minutes these days, even though my schedule hasn’t changed drastically and I can’t seem to find a definitive reason for the change.

Prior to my 30 Days of Gratitude challenge, I joined a terrific online midwifery study group.  I felt like the stepping-stones on my midwifery path were finally starting to line up, as opposed to the slim-sham, hop-skip-and-a-jump pattern they’ve taken in the past.  The group was going well, I signed up for a free online course from Coursera, my favorite midwife was going to be starting a new class this fall with a distance option I could use and the kids would be … ah yes, the kids.

They’re getting older now, they don’t need me as much, with our new place we’ll have a better routine and everything is going to fall into place.  WRONG!

As I moved through my challenge, it became obvious to me that I was being completely unrealistic about my time, my finances and my family’s needs.  Damn.  The reality, when I finally chose to see it, is that my older two need even more now.  They no longer need me to get them dressed or bathe them, but they do still need to be able to talk to me often, drive them to their insane amount of activities (oldest joined the dance team, be still my dancer’s heart!), cook them meals/remind them to eat and just in general, be here.

I am so glad I can recognize that now instead of regretting it later.  However, that doesn’t make it any easier to follow through with.  I struggle with finding time for me, my interests, my pursuits…sometimes I even struggle finding time for my poor husband.  He seems to think I’m kinda cool and wants to hang out with me too.  Does anyone else ever feel pulled in five million directions??  AHHH!!!

So, where does this leave me with my midwifery journey?  I honestly don’t know.  I can only pull back so much; it’s gone too far now.  I can’t put mamas on hold and I can’t put my kids on hold.  It’s a delicate, intricate balancing act that isn’t always balanced.  Some days, I can put most of my focus on the kid’s beautiful painting projects or video game highlights or Supernatural trivia.  Other days, I have to push them to the back to assist a mama or family.  Often, neither one feels wholly okay.  I’m always letting someone down.  And then I think, It’s okay Summer, you simply can not be everything to everyone.  Be you and do what you can.

In the end, will that be enough?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that I deeply desire to have children who know, with every fiber of their being, that their mama loves them and thinks they are important to her life.  And also, that I deeply desire to be of service to birthing families and just can not fully turn my back on them.