This week I witnessed birth. Twice.
Each unique, but each raw, uncensored, primitive, captivating and beautiful birth.
Intense birth. Arduous, and each emotional and physically charged.
Over the course of two nights I slept for about four hours.
Over the course of two nights two beautiful beings were welcomed into the world. And I got to bear witness.
For two days I trekked the halls, gathering water, ice, popsicles, juice, heated blankets, the birthing ball, the birthing stool, to the microwave to heat the hot compress and to the toaster to provide a light snack.
To the bathroom, to the cafeteria, up and down the halls.
I walked. I squatted. I perched on the edge of the tub and I hovered.
And so did she and her support person.
I gave information and I listened. I laughed and I cried.
I rejoiced and I bawled.
And so did they. Tenfold.
And then I went back to my old life and left them in their new one.
And when I inevitably return home, people ask me how things went and I compliment the experience and the client and I hug my kids and move on with my day.
And they eventually ask me, ignoring the goofy grin plastered on my face, but aren’t you exhausted?
Well yes. Yes I am. But not for being awake for two days.
Not for soreness or homesickness.
So let me explain what I am tired of.
What I’m tired of is these itchy fucking wool socks I’ve been wearing for two days. What I’m tired of is the ice machine that won’t let down ice unless you put the cup in the exact right place against the sensor. What I’m tired of is the feel of the headband cutting in behind my ears on my head.
I’m tired of eating Larabars alongside pink peppermints every few hours for a day and calling that a proper meal, and of the pasty spit in my mouth from dried fruit and drier nuts- but these foods were my own doing and my own choices. And it’s primarily because they call it continual support, so I left in a hurry at just the moment I was called to and grabbed what I could.
But that’s all I’m tired of- just the trivial stuff.
Because a doula lives to be awake for days.
I chose to arrive right away because if I didn’t get there right away I might miss something. And if I left the room to go to the cafeteria I might, too. I could miss an irreplaceable memory that would hold a place in the journey.
And those bagels really aren’t that special.
So how could I complain?
How could I say I’m exhausted after having witnessed a young woman surrender her body, toes curling, eyes clenching, to endure urges of pain so she willingly opens her body in two?
How could I possibly be exhausted in having witnessed a woman, while in the midst of pushing and having just felt her baby’s head escaping her own body, speak the words “I can do it’ to herself- and really, for the first time, understanding and believing in her own power.
How could I be exhausted in having seen a grown man bend over in half, his knees supporting his trembling torso, gasping for air at the marvel that is his newborn son the love of his life presented him.
Unable to speak. Unable to move.
And then his eyes meet hers and they see each other as not just lovers but as a mother and father, and their eyes each well with tears.
And mine do too.
Because I get to see that.
So yes, it’s work, but how could I tire of this? How could I ever replicate this feeling in witnessing a miracle for a job?
How could I be exhausted?
So I’ll wipe the beads of sweat from the bridge of her nose as she rocks hands and knees in the tub with the greatest of admiration for as many hours as she could appreciate it until we moved to the next tactic.
I’ll rub her back in exactly one particular way for as long as she accepts my touch.
I’ll give her an ice chip at the precise moment her contraction ends and point the fan in a very particular way on her aching bones.
And I’ll do it willingly one hundred times over.
Because this work is a privilege. This work is my honour.
My body will certainly sleep tonight. But first, I’ll take off these socks and my own feet will remind me of hers, as she rocked her baby through her body, and I’ll remember my itchy feet are but a small sacrifice.
I’ll remove my headband and remember applying the cool cloths to her face and neck, in appreciation for the life altering work that is pushing a baby earthside, and realize the small irritation on the outside of my head is nothing compared to the inspiration she has supplied me on the inside of it.
So as I lay my head on the pillow tonight I will certainly rest well.
You can call the feeling exhaustion, but I call it feeling alive.