In the past couple of years I’ve abandoned the pursuit of lusting after a normal life and embraced the birthing process of my inner wild woman. I made acquaintance with the woman I want to become, and in a way always was, and delivered her into being. Having served as a labor and delivery doula for many moons, I found myself pondering the essence of doula support and how it applied to my own birth—the birth of myself.
The root of the modern term doula stems from the Greek word meaning ‘female slave or servant.’ And I think when I was actively practicing doula work I embodied the art of service to the laboring mom. But as I have largely abandoned my active doula practice to pursue a career as a clinical social worker and a hypnotherapist, I have had a hard time parting ways with my identity as a doula. Redefining my title meant redoing my whole website, and losing a piece of me that held such a strong archetypal presence in my being.
I’ve been scratching at the intrinsic nature of the word doula and who gets to lay claim to that title. Although typically a word used to describe birth assistants, the term doula has more recently been conscripted by other helping professions such as hospice workers or “doulas of death.” Perhaps we need not wait to call upon the services of doulas until the beginning or the end. After all, the act of living itself is a constant, daily dance with life and death. Certainly no one is more sure of this reality than Mother Nature herself as she asserts her authority with winter’s annual kiss of death, leaving the distinct aftertaste of spring on the horizon.
We all carry seeds within us that are uniquely gifted to our individual selves. If we water the seed, it grows and eventually we give birth. As a doula, I’ve helped many women deliver babies, and I’ve been present as loved ones transitioned into the afterlife. But I can’t help but wonder why I should limit myself to the beginning and the end. We all have something in our womb space clawing to get out—whether it’s a novel, a business venture, an invention, or simply a happier self.
I’ve never witnessed a pain free delivery. Anytime we consciously decide to deliver the gifts that are within us, birthing them to life, we can expect some turmoil. I can wholeheartedly attest to that. But you can’t keep a baby in the womb forever. And putting your hand in the way of the birth canal won’t convince a baby to go back where it came from—although I know a few fathers who tried that technique. One way or another whatever is aching to be born of you, be it a baby or a novel or a better version of yourself, is coming out.
A doula is a person who is strong enough to hold the space for that experience and vulnerability. I’ve had many doulas throughout the birth of myself. They’ve held me like I held my clients as they labored. They held the space for those transitional periods and tiny deaths in my life, as well. Their essence as doulas whispered, “let me hold the space for the delivery of your soul.” And I let them. So I ask you, “what are you trying to birth in 2016? Are you manifesting rainbow, laser beam lactation and other supernatural powers? Do you have a doula?”