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?
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.