birthing is divine work (doula reflections)

i got to be a doula this past weekend. i do this work rarely, for loved ones. well…sort of rarely, as i think of all of my work as having elements of doula in there – seeing power in others, calling forth intuition, supporting, listening, turning people towards each other.

but then there is the very tangible specific thing of being a doula to a person full of a child that must come out of the body.

i won’t tell the story of this birth, it is the parents’ story, but i’ll share my reflections.

i love the dynamic between people who have loved each other for a long time and are bringing life into the world. there is a preciousness, a knowing of each other. so much is allowed in the process, and so much happens in their looks, nuanced by years.

in every birth i have witnessed, there is the full breadth of human emotion and behavior available – the fear, doubt, pain, rage, love, exhaustion, hope, sacrifice. and with the actual person through whom the life is coming, there is the deeper calm, up under the pain, that breaks through every time. each time i see it i am amazed at the letting go of the past, even the very immediate past, and realizing the only way through is forward.

i love the skin to skin moment, the hungry way a parent touches and looks at a baby who was just inside the body, and is now on top of it, covered in all the substances of life. and the baby, screaming at the incomprehensible space around it, needing to hear through all the noise that familiar drumbeat of heart that has been the whole dark world for over nine months.

the tenderness i feel for the parents and the babies is good for me. i am a virgo, i can be impatient and judgmental with humans. to see then that there is this foundation of experience we all share, that we came into the world tiny, vulnerable and perfect…it is restorative. and to remember we were all created by people who knew some things and didn’t know others, and there is no right way to create and sustain life. but there are many many right ways to love.

grateful to scott and emily for letting me be a part of their miracle.

Reflections on miracle work

The most important things in life are breathing, sleeping, eating, and letting go of what you don’t need.

It really works to use the right words for the situation. ‘Yes’ ‘down’ and ‘open’, for instance, are great words, chants, guides for a birth.

Love at first sight is possible, in context. When I first saw her, I saw my whole lineage in her strong body swimming through the tub towards her mama. I started crying because love opened me.

There are ways to be strong even when you can do nothing on your own, even when you need many hands to hold you. This child has dignity, as do her strong and vulnerable parents.

The most radical gift one human can offer another is encouragement to listen to themselves, their bodies, their own knowing.

The beauty of children encouraged to feel – it’s a perfect tender beauty. Watching my nephew and niece fiercely miss their mama as she attends to their new sister, and be able to say so, is emotionally thrilling.

Some feelings are so big they require me to go outside. I keep going to bring in more wood so I can smile in the snow and let my body move around all this massive love in my heart.

Anxiety is not useful in miracle work.

It takes about two hours to heat enough water on a stove to fill a birth tub and have it around 96°.

An apron with pockets is a great uniform for a birth.

Delegation, done well, is an act of kindness. People of all ages and abilities long to be useful.

Patience is a gorgeous feeling. To actually feel unrushed at a cellular level, not urgent in your soul, is healing.

There are so many things we don’t understand. Lately I’ve been worrying about mortality, beginning to feel rushed and anxious about my life and my philosophies. But the patience generated as the baby was coming was a balm. She didn’t know where she was coming to, but still it was time to move beyond the known world. It was an active patience, she was not pushed only, she was working too, finding the way.

I have to think on this more, this active patience, doing my work in abundant time, with a respect for ripeness.

For the moment I am inspired by remembering my central work is like hers, to breathe/meditate, to sleep/rest, to eat/nourish, and to let go/have faith.

Welcome to my new teacher, Mairead Irene Brown Conway.

longing

i woke up this morning and was lost.

for the past 10 days i woke up in a room of windows that looked out on the woods, usually to the sound of my babies’ feet hitting the floor above me, or them bursting through the glass door separating my futon guest room from the kitchen, seconds before they jumped in the bed.

my sister is pregnant, and i am her doula. part of my commitment to her is visiting a week out of each month to support with kids/house/life – our sister april is supporting my travel, so it’s truly a sister-doula experience.

after the kids had me awake, we would have breakfast, and then spend the day looking at pictures of lava – nephew’s latest obsession (his first was the moon), drawing pictures of lava, going outside to play, learning together, processing boundaries, asking and answering questions, watching wildkratts and super why, posing for my camera, visiting their nona (my brother-in-law’s mom) who lives just through the woods, having bath time, reading stories and then i’d sing them to sleep.

when not with them, on the days they had school/daycare, i would write, cook, load up firewood for the fire, and, more often than not, find myself looking out the window and realizing i was missing the babies.

each time i visit them, my love for them deepens – deepens the space for love inside of me, makes me grow in order to be an adequate adult in their lives.

they are both so smart, so emotionally open and curious and testing everything…with the whole world before them. and they have so many adults around them who love them, the only privilege i have seen have universal positive impact in the world.

i thought my doula work, and even my auntie work, was about what i could do, be and give. but it’s also about what i need to learn right now, as a human – to listen, to feel, to be honest, to be gentle, to be radically committed to curiosity and seeking what is unknown.

when i am away from them, interacting again with adults and seeing where the lack of love leaves it’s ruts, patterns and wounds, it floods me with this level of compassion that feels like an awakening.

we were all of us children once. every single one of us. it’s so simple, but when i look at each person that way…it takes away my breath. it’s so beautiful to see people this way, as children, who sought love, who seek it still.

which makes me think of all these people who want to do right by their children, who want to leave their children something better than they had. this aspect of humanity that is about future generations – it feels so visceral to me right now.

as usual, on these first days after awesome baby immersion, i’m lit up and all the paths in my mind lead back to them. i am longing for them, with every known sense and some that feel new and unknown.

and what a blessing, what a gift – to love this much, to know such longing.

birth and revolution

when asked who is the leader, people in tahrir sqaure say, ‘we are’. we need a new concept of revolution to understand #egypt. it’s emerging from the people. leaders could only be midwives.
— grace lee boggs


Meet Asmaa Mahfouz and the vlog that Helped Spark the Revolution

i have been watching internet videos and sharif kouddous on democracy now, and al-jazeera non-stop for days, watching revolution catch and grow like a fire in the middle east. it’s beautiful, and i have been trying to think of ways to write about it without romanticizing what i see. i know that there are beautiful parts and mostly there are very very hard conditions that people there are in, and have been in, and will be in.

to me the beauty is in the self-organization, decentralization, and simultaneous strategic use of and independence from technology. its in the voices and leadership of women and young people who are all incredibly on message and uncompromising on their demands.

watching the people demand and create change in egypt and throughout the middle east is giving me that thing i have been longing for which is greater than hope – belief that change is possible in our lifetimes, in the present.

i had been feeling sort of hopeless not about the work of u.s. movements, but the internal dysfunctions and how that lays a shoddy foundation for any revolutionary work. i have felt myself wanting to shake loose of movements where i can’t feel the commitment to transformation, only feeling the loyalty to anger, critique and competition.

i have felt myself pulled towards healing and food and babies, cooking all the time, focusing on being a great auntie, and beginning to learn the path of the doula.

now its clear to see there is something universal in this longing, that it is not a moving away from movement that makes me want to attend to the health and the birth and body of people. it is another path to liberation.

we need to see, and feel, that there is a resilience which comes from saying no to traditional top-down leadership, from stepping up to take care of our own communities (whether that’s as security or picking up litter or marching), from saying yes to women’s voices and actions, from holding out for the true demand of participatory democracy (not “capitulating as Mubarak has done,” — Noha Radwan).

i see that one role of midwives and doulas at this moment is to present a new way to think of generating great transformation. you support the mother, you nourish her, you believe in the innate capacity of the child and the mother to negotiate that fine line of life and death, you give everything you can, you do your best, you stay with it no matter what, you don’t take the mother’s process personally, you know there is no single right path except the one taken, and no matter what, you believe with your whole heart that the change WILL happen.

this happens all the time. 30 years ago such a miracle happened and the love of my life was born. what she has taught me about love could fill many books, but the most important lesson is the simplest: love is expansive.

and love – of people, of family, of the right to participate and to live – is what is driving the rage and uprising and change in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Yemen, in Jordan.

it is possible. it will happen. it is, now.

good resources in addition to al jazeera:

http://twitter.com/sharifkouddous
http://twitter.com/monaeltahawy
http://twitter.com/atefsaid