Every time I meet an expecting mother I hope she’ll find there’s space.
Space for me, despite the fact that, in the case of the newcomer mother expecting her sixth baby, she is more than well aware of her body’s power.
Every time I meet her I’ll look to draw out her insights about her prior births, because it is me that has much to learn from her, hoping only that by providing the new Canadian context, her heart will be set at ease in terms of what to expect.
Every time I meet with her I will sit on the floor with her children, letting them laugh at my limited language. Letting them know I’m interested in them too, letting them know I care.
When we visit, the Interpreter and I, I will happily educate her about the pain medication options she never had the option to choose from- letting her know the benefits and the risks of each. And when she decides for herself that for baby six she would prefer to have the epidural, I let her know I will support her in that choice. I let her know that she is in charge of this birth.
I let her know I can’t predict outcomes, nor can I ensure which staff will be working, but that I will do what I can to advocate for a quiet and calm space, like the small home in which her previous children were born. I will play gatekeeper if that is what she wishes.
And I’ll offer to take her to the hospital to see the space, to drive her to the hospital when she tells me it’s time, and to drive her home when all is said and done. I’ll help her find the resources she needs close to home, when she finds herself feeling isolated with a handful of kids and a screaming baby throughout the day.
I’m her doula but I won’t teach her about birth or the signs of labour because that’s not what she needs. I won’t teach her at all. But I’ll open a dialogue.
My questions are for her. She is in control of my learning, certainly not the other way around, because she will always have more to offer me than I to her.
So I’m hopeful she’ll say yes.
I am a doula, but in terms she may understand better, I am an interested learner of her culture, I am a listener of her feelings, I validate her fears and her concerns. I help her finish off a pot of tea and at the same time, help her to understand what to expect at our hospital, and explain how the magical epidural works. I aim to protect her space and her right to be heard, despite language and cultural differences. I am her confidante, absorbing her story into my very pores, where they are bound by contract to stay. I am her driver, and what she asks for and deems important drives me. My role is to know her when others don’t.
I am the auntie, the sister or the friend who attended her other births that she no longer has in her life. That is what it comes down to. And it would be my privilege to do so, if she finds there is space.
And so every time I meet my expectant mother, I allow my role to be fluid. A doula is an informational, physical and emotional support to a woman expecting a baby, yes. But the ways those things may manifest within a relationship don’t happen in any textbook sort of way.
What I tell her is I’m willing to be her person. That she isn’t in this new birth, in this new country, alone.
And when I meet with her today I hope she’ll decide there’s space for me.