I am ready to stop typing and run to my phone if it rings. It may be a call from the doula I’m shadowing. There is a woman who will give birth any day now, and when this woman (the client/patient/mother-to-be*) needs birth support, I will go (with the doula) to be with her at her home, or maybe straight to the hospital.
Besides my own, the only birth I’ve attended was that of my little sister, and I was a 5 year-old, and it was late at night. This makes me a minority among the 16 women in my Level 1 doula training course with the Montreal Birth Companions, because I am not a mother.
You don’t have to be a mother to be a doula. You just have to be there. In the last few months of this course, I’ve learned a lot about birth: anatomy, pain-alleviation techniques, how it progresses and why it might stall, affirmations, visualizations, and what to pack in my birth bag. This is all important, but the most important role that a doula plays is of being present, and being loving.
Montreal Birth Companions, then, love hundreds of women a year. They provide free doula services to women in need. They are most often refugees, immigrants, women without family in Canada, and women who don’t have health care. They are women who just need a little bit of love at a vulnerable time.
With each ‘birth story’ that I hear from a fellow Montreal Birth Companion, I am filled with admiration at the important role they play at these births. They are advocates and peace-makers, negotiators and videographers, a friend and calm presence. I am also filled with a certain amount of frustration or anger at a medical system that seems, often, to desecrate such a powerful moment—perhaps the most powerful of all. Birth also has two sides: pleasure and pain. But, I’ve learned that pain in birth serves a function—it releases oxytocin which makes the contractions stronger and more effective, and stress hormones increase blood flow, which brings much-needed oxygen to the baby. I’m not confident, though, that the ‘pain’ of the medical system serves a purpose.
I’ll remain on high alert for calls to explore birth and love in the hospital. In the meantime, I encourage you to VOTE daily for Montreal Birth Companion’s campaign to provide more free pre-natal classes to women. You can like the MBC’s facebook page and select 'get notifications' for daily reminders like this one:
*Serving as a doula is new to me and I am not sure what language I feel comfortable with, yet. As my teacher writes in her book The Birth Conspiracy, 'client' seems impersonal and business-like, while 'patient' may disempower the woman giving birth.