Celebrating Doulas

I was reminded yesterday of two very important things related to my work as a doula: community and passion. Core elements to why we do what we do, and what I find to be the foundation of what keeps me going. As we close  out World Doula Week for 2016, I’m inviting you to celebrate these two beautiful gifts with me.

Rochester is blessed with an incredible doula community. We connect. We bond over birth stories. We back each other up and support each other in countless ways. We keep each other going when it’s really tough to be on call one more night, during one more important family day, or when we’re feeling undervalued and worn out. Doula sisters have brought me coffee,  arrived with food, watched my children, and covered for me when I needed to go home and nurse my baby. They are a constant reminder that it always works out. They have committed to births that weren’t theirs so that I could go out of town with my family or attend my daughter’s graduation. Sent me endless texts and checked on me in the middle of the night. As a whole I can say that we’ve stopped by the hospital to visit doula sisters during births – to pow wow in the hall and share some energy and positive thoughts. Checked in on other doulas’ clients across the hall when they haven’t been able to make it there to support a mom just yet. We’ve cried over the phone with our fella doulas in the parking lot, sometimes over beauty and sometimes over grief, and taking 5:00 am selfies together outside the hospital doors in the middle of January just to wake ourselves up. We have been a listening ear for frustrations and grievances that we can’t voice to our clients and we don’t want to take back home with us. We’ve been present with each other, soaking in the beautiful silence surrounding the miracles we bear witness to over and over. Countless rallies, picnics, and round table meetings with providers to help get hospital policies changed. Birth movies, Red Tents, community gatherings, pregnancy expos, literature reviews, classes, and conference travels together. Doulas believe in support, full circle. We live it.

Why birth work? “I do it, because nothing else… nothing else, compares to watching a woman move mountains with her own self, to watching her rise to a challenge and meet the moment with all she has, and that experience is only enhanced when she is supported by those who care for her, respect her, and want her to be empowered by the journey.” (The Yarn Harlot) Countless times we may ask ourselves this question, “Why birth work?” Listen quietly and you’ll hear the answer echoed above. Because nothing else compares.  It’s because birth work has been planted deep inside of each of us, and the vines that have grown from our labors and the labors of those whom we serve have stretched out and wrapped themselves around our hearts. Nothing else compares.

So today I celebrate the community of women who are fueled by this unique gift, and I celebrate the passion that breeds awe, happiness, mystery, and joy.  I celebrate doulas. “We are made to do this work, and it’s not easy… I would say that pain is part of the glory, and of the tremendous mystery of life. And that, if anything, it’s a kind of privilege to stand so close to such an incredible miracle.” (Quoted by Simone in Klasson, 2001)

Here is just a small glimpse of a few area birth workers, creating space and witnessing incredible miracles.

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Sometimes birth is just being present. Bearing witness.

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As labor moves forward, this doula offers comforting touch and words of encouragement.

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Doulas observe as  a mother is born, and share in her joy.

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This doula and mom have worked together before. There’s a quiet understanding as labor builds and the mother surrenders.

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The role of a doula takes many forms. Labor support, one who helps bring understanding, and sometimes a photographer, capturing moments.

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Immediate postpartum, this doula helps a family claim their golden hour.

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Working together: creating  rhythm, relaxation, and ritual. The doula’s actions echo the writing on the wall.

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All doulas learn, all the time. Here, two doulas train together.

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A doula is the quiet whisper in a mother’s ear, reminding her to call on the inner strength that lies deeper and stronger still.

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Holding the mother’s space with her, calling out the birth warrior.

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Doulas strive to work as a team with other birth workers, each with their own incredibly important role, in order to benefit the family as a whole.

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Wisdom and peace from within this doula is being imparted to the mother, creating a circle of support.

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Transition is never easy, in life or in birth, so this doula helps to steady and center this mother as she reaches out.

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Doulas advocate and strive to provide evidence based information.

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The circle around a mother that a doula helps to create provides a sounding space for a laboring woman – where she can call out, be heard, and keep moving forward.

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Mothers need a resting place. A place where they can stay in the in-between, the vulnerable moments, and be.

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And sometimes, no words are needed, just touch.

“Speak tenderly to them. Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don’t only give your care, but give your heart as well.”  Mother Teresa

– Julia M. Sittig, MSW, AdvCD(DONA), BDT(DONA), LCCE

– Thank you to Kaela Ann Photography for many of these lovely birth images.