Dina L. Relles

writer. editor. curious + common.


Beginnings are hard.

I took a birth doula training session last week, and at times, I was acutely aware that I don’t quite fit in. I’m a former litigator. I’m feisty. I’m pragmatic. I’m not opposed to modern medicine. I’ve had three C-sections. And I’m at peace with that. It’s not always sunshine and rainbows over here.

I struggle with what I could possibly have to offer; I recognize that familiar self-doubt that greets me at the start of anything—that fuels me to want to work (too?) hard to get to the point where I’m good, not new. I resent that that drive is infiltrating this new path. This is supposed to feel right.

Can I do this?

But then.

Then I read this.

Then I run into a mom during preschool pickup who asks me to write her an e-mail assuring her that she’ll be ok as a mom of two—that things WILL (of course) get easier. She’s three weeks postpartum. She’s picking up her toddler, one of her hands holding his while the other carries that god-awful heavy car seat. In it, her perfect newborn is protected from this “spring” weather we’ve been having.

She’s a rockstar. But somehow it helps her to hear me say that. Nothing means more.

And she’s not just any mom.

She’s The Mom.

The Mom who helped me realize I wanted to do this in the first place.

You know how you have those conversations that unintentionally shape who you are? That leave a profound impact? That just…stick? Usually, you don’t see it coming.

For me, it was in a parking lot. Almost exactly one year ago. At the time, we were relative strangers. I had my four-month-old strapped to me in the Ergo carrier, and I was on my way to a parenting discussion group after dropping off the older boys at school.

She had just lost her second pregnancy at 26 weeks. There we were, crossing paths. Something made us stop and talk. She opened up to me. I don’t know why. Neither did she. But I will be ever grateful. And even though it wasn’t her intention at the time, by telling me her story, she helped me.

She let me be there for her. She let me try to find the right words, and find when there were no words at all.

She let me comfort her. She let me show her she already had the strength she so desperately sought.

Listening to her that morning, I realized that’s what I want to do—listen. Be there. For women who are pregnant, or struggling to get pregnant, or were pregnant but then all of a sudden weren’t anymore. For women as they are becoming mothers, or struggling to figure out how to breastfeed, or how to feel comfortable not breastfeeding, or how to hold and soothe their newborns, how to get them—and themselves—to sleep, how to trust their instincts, how to grow into this new identity…as Mother.

And beyond…how to mother in the context of the rest of their lives, how to juggle a job along with it all, how to negotiate new relationships with partners, with parents, how to embrace the joyful chaos of managing multiple children, and maybe a career, and maybe challenging family dynamics, and maybe…maybe…you just need someone to help. To listen. To hold your baby and give your arms a break. To tell you you’re doing alright. That you’ve got this. To be that objective outsider who knows you’re doing better than you think, that you’re going to be ok, even when it may feel far from it. To be your inner voice when it feels like your insides are turned out. To help you see the magic in all the mystery–to find the beauty in this new path. Even if it’s paved with self-doubt.

We parted that morning, that Mom and I, and I walked quickly on to my parenting discussion group, giddy with purpose.

We need each other. We all need someone. We can’t do this alone.

I want to be that OTHER—another person, another pair of hands, another voice, another reassuring presence. I will be your company. I will be your confidence.

Everyone is a different kind of doula. Everyone is a different kind of mother. And there’s a doula for everyone.

I want to be there when that mother is born. Telling her she’s everything she needs to be, everything her child needs.

Just as she is.


11 thoughts on “A New Path Is Often Paved with Self-Doubt

  1. igarber says:

    What a beautiful post! I had a doula for both of my sons’ births and I loved the experience. I’m sure you will bring great comfort, joy, and meaning to the mothers and babies. Kol Hakavod!

  2. TJ says:

    Hi there, former litigator. I am also an attorney in training to be a doula. I just started a new blog and my first post was about the beginnings of this process. How ironic! This is a wonderful story. Best of luck to you!

    1. Thanks for reading & reaching out! Wild to discover all the attorneys-turned-doulas out there–you’re not the first to let me know you’re in the same boat! Great to make connections with others pursuing the same path. I’ll definitely check out your blog & look forward to following each other! Wishing you all the best.

  3. This took my breath away! You will make a fantastic doula!! I love how you talk about being that special someone for women during their birth and postpartum journey. I can tell that you have the gift of figuring out exactly what mothers need to feel supported. What a blessing you will be to so many women and their families! Thank you so much for sharing my story too….and for reminding me that the most important conversations always happen at preschool pick-up 🙂 xoxo

    1. This made my day 🙂 Thank you for inspiring me to write about my motivations for & perspectives on becoming a doula. I’ve found writing (& reading others’ awesome writing) to be an incredibly valuable way to clarify my direction and connect with people who truly help me reflect on my next steps–posts like yours are a perfect example. So thank you for sharing–I’ll be out there reading 🙂

  4. I read this while mid-attempt at sleep training. Talk about self doubt! Thank you for your wise and compassionate words at just the right time. You will be amazing in this new role–of that I have no doubt.

    1. Awwww…thanks, dear. And I have no doubt that you are a total rockstar at this mothering thing! If you ever seek a supportive ear, always feel free to give me a call. (And yeah, not much out there that’s more doubt-inducing in parenting than the endless pursuit of SLEEP.)

  5. Oh, wow. This takes my breath away with its truth. You are so right that a mother is born right there alongside the baby, of course – and what an immense honor it would be to bear witness to both arrivals. I’m so inspired by you and can’t wait to watch your path … xoxo

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement and support! I’m humbled and excited to begin doing this work. I’m so glad you found me & I look forward to “following” each other!

  6. Stef says:

    Hi Dina!
    I am a fellow BAI-trained birth doula, welcome to the awesome community of local doulas!!!!! I checked out your (wonderful!) blog and we have a freaky amount of things in common (very most importantly a love of REM since early childhood). Do you by chance go to Folkshul?

    1. Hi Stef! Thanks for reading & commenting–always excited to meet a fellow R.E.M. fan–and a local doula at that! What are the odds? 😉 I’m so glad you found me. I hadn’t heard of Folkshul until you mentioned it, but now I’m checking it out online…looks wonderful! I hope our paths cross sometime soon.

Leave a Reply to Dina L. Relles Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: