Tonight is the eve of my "Doulaversary." I am filled with so many emotions right now and I hope I am able to convey them coherently to you. I write this as my phone sits next to me on loud as I await the call of a client due tomorrow July 3rd.
Last year I decided to become a doula. I put myself out there and immediately I got inquiries. My first inquiry ended up being my first booked client. I had known her through our local naturally minded moms group and I had once picked up some of her pumped milk to feed my son, Gunnar, when I couldn't feed him myself due to night weaning and a pregnancy. She and I met quickly as her due date was impending. We went over everything, I helped her prepare some last minute things and I listened to all of her and her husbands concerns, wants, and needs. She called me around 8:30 am on the morning of July 3rd, and said to me " I think this is it, I asked her if she needed me right now, "i think so" she replied." So I quickly got up, changed my clothing and grabbed my bag, as I headed out the door my husband said "have fun and good luck." I remember hobbling down to my car (I had a broken foot) and my chest was pounding. It was the same adrenaline rush I used to get when my fire department pager would go off and I would hear the words "house fire."
As I was pulling up I saw the midwife walking into her home. I gathered my things and headed in behind her, introducing myself to her. I let her know that this was my first birth, Im a believer of openness, so telling her that made me feel more at ease. She excitedly said "oh how nice, don't worry this will be fun." I brought my camera; she and I discussed me taking photos for her as well. At this point I had only ever shot my own family and children, although I was asked plenty of times, I chose to keep photography to myself. My own children were my passion and inspiration and I only shoot things that inspire me. I have come to feel that birth photography shouldn't be a luxury, it is necessary and important for the parents to have these images to remember, to decompress together, and to be able to put the puzzle back together from that day.
My client was laboring beautifully, her husband was busy getting her older children ready and setting up the pool. I watched her sway through her contractions, never much looking like she was in pain, I watched her hug and kiss her sons between the waves, I stopped a few times and offered some gentle support on her hips. I reminded her how to breathe and I stepped away when she was distracted to take a few pictures of her laboring so peacefully.
Looking back, I felt deeply connected to this woman I had only previously met a few times. I felt her contractions, my heart fluttered watching her tenderly loving on her boys, the connection and calmness her husband brought into the room was calming to my nerves; it was almost as if this wave of stillness and happiness rushed through the room. I believe the oxytocin had an effect on all of us. Something happened to me. I fell amazingly into this caregiver roll. I was so happy there, I knew exactly what to do. I knew how to advocate for her, I knew how to touch her, I knew what her heart and head needed. I stepped back to take photos of precious moments of her; moments she never knew happened and moments she never knew I disappeared to capture for her. My heart needed this and all along I had been directed to this.
I believe it all started back to Harpers birth. I had a medicated vaginal birth that ended in me begging for a c section and at one point Im pretty sure I wanted to die. After she came out she spent a week in the NICU where I was bullied into consenting to procedures and feeding mechanisms I would never have consented to had I known I had a choice. This experience led me to become deeply protective of laboring women and their babies. I became sort of an online patient advocate for people who had babies that were in the NICU and even counseled in real time mothers and partners in their delivery room through text and facebook messages. My phone was always available for questions and support. I helped countless women successfully breastfeed their babies this way and even visited friends in the hospital to help them nurse their babies. Every time I would get a message thanking me I would cry and thank Harper for the things she taught me. I don't wish that experience on anyone but I do thank her for being my rock and giving me the strength I had never known was possible. After having two very uneventful and easy home births I was able to compare a medicated birth to an unhindered birth. Although I had a midwife present at my home births, she was very hands off and my body did what it was naturally made to do. My two home births were extremely empowering and helped me heal from Harpers birth and NICU stay.
Birth is my passion. It's where I've found myself after 29 years of looking and reflecting. I am at my best when I am in the presence of a laboring woman or at the side of a mother about to meet her baby by cesarean. I hold no reservations, I follow my heart, I become a free spirit following intuition, love, and some divine natural thing hidden deep inside of me. Each and every time my phone rings to head out to a birth I get in my car and cry basically the whole way there. I don't cry during your birth or after, but I cry before. I cry because I know the power of what is about to happen, I cry to cleanse my soul to be completely free for your experience. I cry to feel things that I simply cannot otherwise. Now I cry for my son, Porter, I cry because I am thankful for what he has given me, he without a doubt has helped me to connect deeper, love sweeter, and live fuller. I cry because I miss him too.
Watching my clients get the births they want and need is like a drug to my soul. It's the adrenaline rush I used to get crawling down dark smokey hallways with flames rolling above my head. It's the same love I felt bringing my two home birthed children into the world. Its the fight I had in me when Harper was born. When I see something that is against my clients wishes the protective mama bear comes out to advocate for them. Their triumph is my triumph. This is where I need to be and where I will remain.
Thank you Kristen for setting me down this path, for helping me to be the doula and photographer I am today. For trusting in me and believing that I would be the person you needed; all while knowing you would be my first birth. Thank you Chris for showing me how important the role of a partner is and for doing it damn well. The photographer side of me thanks you for having a day birth and for the gorgeous light that shined so beautifully into your bedroom that morning LOL.