Six years ago, when I birthed my first child, in a hospital, I was clueless to what my rights were as a mother. I arrived, no more than three centimeters dilated, and was kept for a precautionary measure never quite explained to me. Fed fear and uncertainty by a medical staff not well-versed in comfort, nor natural healing, I was strapped to a bed while IV fluids were inserted, and Poticin given, to speed up my laboring process.
The birth I desired, the birth I practiced for, was tossed aside as contractions ripped through my body with a fury I had, yet, to learn was unnatural. I held out for as long as I could, gripping my partner’s face, my mother’s hand, the side of the bed, the place that would become my laboring prison, as each wave tore through my will for natural birth. Around six centimeters dilated, I relented to an epidural…failure seeping into my very first role as a mother.
When I became pregnant, again, the ruptured brain aneurysm I suffered just two months after the birth of my first child, assured I would be laboring in a hospital setting for the second time in my life. Still traumatized by that experience, I breathed a sigh of relief when my sister, and co-mama, Marqui, became my Doula within the first trimester of my uncertain pregnancy.
Warned years earlier against pregnancy within 5 years, to assure my brain clipping would remain steady, to assure that no new aneurysm would surface around it, to assure my body could bear the stress, I was officially a year past the danger zone, but still skeptical if I should risk going through with my pregnancy.
Yet, Marqui was my Doula, whether I kept my child or not.
She supported me while I faced each hurdle ahead. Siting besides me while I filled out forms to terminate my pregnancy, holding me close when I couldn't go through with the termination, keeping me steady during the shakiest moments of my pending pregnancy journey. She began to teach me things that I didn't know to do when I gave birth to my first child, like encouraging me to create a birthing plan, and she checked on me weekly as, both, belly and anxiety grew. She'd bring me food, measure my stomach and tell me tiny, beautiful details about my baby along the way. When she wasn't answering my many questions, soothing my growing concerns, she was helping my partner became another support system for me when she wasn't around, taking time to teach him things about my changing body and hormones and encouraging him, too, of his own capabilities as my partner, as a father.
When I finally went into labor, I felt strong and aware because I went into this pregnancy armed with the fortifying strength of my Doula, determined to have the birthing experience I felt robbed of the first time around. With Marqui by my side, my birthing plan was printed, copied, read and honored by every medical person on staff throughout my labor. She pushed to keep me from being hooked up to any IV so that I could move freely. She lovingly forced me to drink cup after cup of fresh water to keep me hydrated, she held lavender oil up to my nose to soothe me while I focused on breathing and she massaged my back at the onset of pending contractions, pressing deep into my skin until they passed. She had my partner play music to distract me, to soothe me, to sway me as we sang and danced along to random melodies. She used her body as a crutch to walk with me to the bathroom, as my body dripped blood along the way, making me feel like it was the most natural thing for me, for her, for us to be doing. I still cry when I think about my birthing experience. In my mind, she carried the spirit of centuries of 'women healing women' with her, and she poured every bit of it into my body, into my soul, to champion me on throughout the night.
Somewhere between 8 and 9 centimeters I began to lose strength, began to crumble at the weight of each contraction and I reluctantly relented to an epidural...but it was too late. There was Marqui, chanting to me my own strength the entire time, assuring me that since I had made it this far, there was no way I wouldn't be able to make it all the way. She made me capable of doing what, to me, felt like the impossible. She gave me the gift of natural birth by gifting me her energy along the way. I could hear her voice besides my partner, hear her voice inside my heart, pulling me towards nirvana, detailing every moment that surrounded me.
"I see her head, Shay...you are doing so good...I am so proud of you...she's coming, she's beautiful...you got this"!
When my daughter, Mayan, poured out of me, my body shaking from pure shock and exhilaration, Marqui, my doula, my sister, my friend was beside me, putting water to my lips and lovingly feeding me fruit to replenish my body.
Before her, I had no clue what a Doula did. Because of her, I think that all women should have one by their side. Marqui was my personal guide to learning what it feels like to be powerful, to being able to feel every moment, of every part, to becoming a mother.