As I go sailing past a milestone, I am taking a moment to reflect. Most couples celebrate their 10-year anniversary and organizations will spend a whole year marking their first 10 years in business. As adults, the beginning of each decade is a significant birthday - we move through our 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond.
What inspires us to stop and honour the number 10?
In my case, I have recently completed 10 births as a doula. I no longer have to explain to potential clients that I am a "newer doula" and I'm supposed to be able to say with confidence that I am experienced in what I do.
And so, I would like to celebrate this moment by reflecting on the process of moving forward as a doula. I admit that it's easier to see this process as non-linear, but our world tends to operate more on the basis of ABCs and 123s!
Birth 1: the honeymoon stage. Ah, love and bliss. In the birthing world, we hold steadfast to our strong (and often naive) beliefs in birth as a beautiful and natural process** (see note below) Our first birth either reaffirms or shatters these beliefs.
Births 2, 3, 4: the honeymoon begins to fade away into the dark recesses of our minds. Doubt creeps in. We begin to pick away at ourselves and our imagined failings as a doula. At 4am, after being awake almost 24hours, we are wishing we never became a doula, and pray for a warm bed to lie in.
Births 5, 6: Something "big" happens. We leave a birth feeling confident; the outcome of the birth was especially good; or we receive high praise in an evaluation form.
Births 7, 8, 9: we begin to see our role in a whole new light. We are not the director of a woman's birthing experience - we are the guide. A natural birth is not always possible or desired. A birth can be beautiful anywhere, with any caregiver. When the woman holds the power, she is the director of her experience.
Birth 10: a new confidence emerges. We are calm and careful - we speak less, and listen more. With each birth comes a new lesson, and we are eager to learn. We realize that no amount of books, conferences or research papers will make us into "experts." We will always be learning, growing and moving on.
Thanks to all the mommies, daddies and babies who gave me the opportunity to witness their personal and awe-inspiring journeys. Here's to the next 10!
**I'm not trying to argue here that birth is not beautiful and natural. But I think new doulas start their careers with rose-coloured glasses on, and the belief that our mere presence will result in positive outcomes. This is not always the case, and there are many, many factors that play a role. Regardless of the outcome, our continuous support has given Mom a sense of choice and power in her birthing experience, and THAT my friends, is what makes our role so important