A conversation with an amazing radical doula and activist tonight got me thinking about a topic I’ve been avoiding writing about here for a while, mostly because of my feelings of shame.
It’s been four years since I’ve been at a birth.
I worry that when I tell folks that they will shun me, or consider me less worthy or my expertise false.
But the real question, and the interesting part of it, is why has it been so long since I’ve done birth doula work?
The first thing that pushed me away from the work was the burn out and exhaustion I felt from just a few months working at a hospital as a doula. It can be so taxing to be a doula in those environments, witness the inequalities and injustices, but know that your role was not to fix them, or intervene, but to try and support the birthing parent.
I left my last birth at that hospital just entirely spent and triggered by the hospital environment–I couldn’t do it anymore. Part of the problem is I’ve never witnessed a birth experience (at least not firsthand) that felt inspiring to me, that was a model of what birth should be.
I’ve yearned to see birth in the home, or in a birth center, or even a hospital where the mother is truly supported and has a positive experience.
So I’ve stayed away because of not wanting to be in the hospital setting again.
I’ve also stayed away because of my life schedule. I’ve not stayed put for more than three weeks at a time since college. My work has required pretty consistent travel–not a good combination for doula work.
But I’ve also stayed away because of fear. In the four years since I’ve last done doula work, my gender presentation has changed significantly. I’m scared of how folks will react to me, if I will make them uncomfortable, if I will have to answer questions that I don’t want to answer.
Because that’s the thing about doula work–it’s not about me. It’s about the birthing parent. And that’s the way it should be–but it’s so hard to think of walking into a room and wondering what is going through the parents head. Are they wondering why I’m doing doula work? Do they assume I’m gay and not feel okay with that? So many insecurities connected to this.
These are the things that keep me from signing up for shifts with the local volunteer doula group, which is awesome and connected to a birth center locally.
In the absence of direct doula work, this blog has been an amazing outlet for the passion and energy I have for this work. I’ve felt blessed to connect with all of you and keep abreast of the work of the birth activist community.
So this is a commitment to myself to get back to doula work this year, and face some of these fears head on.