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 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.
Five years later, when I became pregnant, again, the ruptured brain aneurysm I suffered just two months after the birth of my first child, cemented that 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 friend, 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. Sitting beside me while I filled out forms to terminate my pregnancy, holding me close when I couldn't go through with it, keeping me steady during the shakiest moments of my pending pregnancy journey. She taught me things that I hadn't learned 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 belly and anxiety grew. She brought me food, measured my stomach and told me tiny, beautiful details about my baby along the way. When she wasn't answering my many questions or 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 changing hormones while encouraging him, too, of his own capabilities as my partner, as a father.
When I finally went into labor, I felt strong and aware and was determined to have the birthing experience I felt robbed of the first time. At the hospital, Marqui and I found a secluded staircase and walked up and down them, urging, both, body and baby to follow my lead. My birthing plan was printed, copied, and honored by every medical person on staff throughout my labor. She pushed to keep me from being hooked up to an IV so that I could move freely, lovingly forced me to drink tall cups of cool water to keep me hydrated, held lavender oil to my nose as I focused on breathing and gently massaged my back with each rising contraction, pressing deep into my skin until they passed. She instructed my partner to play music to distract me, to soothe me, to sway me as we sang, as we danced, as we moved within each moment. She used her body as my crutch, walking with me to the bathroom, blood trickling out along the way, and made me feel like it, all of 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 poured every bit of it back into me.
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. And, there was Marqui, chanting, praying, showing me my own strength, making me feel capable of doing what I didn't think I could and what the doctors assured I couldn't. I tell her this often. She gave me the gift of natural birth by gifting me her energy along the way. I heard her voice beside my partner, heard her voice on the phone with my mother, heard her voice inside of my heart, 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, body shaking from shock, exhilaration layering my skin, Marqui, my doula, my sister, my friend was beside me, putting water to my lips and feeding fresh fruit into to my body.
Before her, I never truly understood how important a Doula's role was. Because of her, I am a staunch advocate for all women having access to one. Having a doula was like having a personal guide to my own inner power. Because of her, I was able to feel every moment, of every part, of my transition into motherhood (again).