who's the ECL?

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Portland, Oregon, United States
I'm not BAD evil, more like devil's food cake evil.

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Leave Of Absence

I announced last month to my doula group that I wanted a leave of absence for the remainder of the year. I am obligated to attend one birth in early September, and that will be my last of 2007. I don't know about 2008.

I haven't had much fun being a doula these days. I did as many births in the first half of this year as I have in the 3 years before I joined my doula group. It was great, but I stopped enjoying them. I started wondering when some of these moms were going to get their epidurals so I could go home and sleep. I started not caring if I wasn't able to make it to their births. I began to have a hard time wanting to connect with some of my clients. I felt more and more emotionally distant from this work.

Part of it is that this job is hard. Being on call sucks ass. Working for 12-24 hours straight, without sleeping or taking more than 30 minutes off can be hard.

But for me, the hardest thing of all was not being able to help these women do it naturally.

You see, I have a lot of personal investment in birth. I believe all women, well most women, could have a natural childbirth. The majority of them don't, because of modern medicine, modern society, modern lifestyles, lack of good support, lack of belief in oneself and the process, lack of determination, too many choices, blah blah blah. In short, I think most women opt out of doing it.

Don't you see the problem with that line of thinking? I am judging all women who don't have the kind of birth I think they should have. I am placing my values on these women and expecting them to live up to my beliefs.

So birth has become a disappointment for me. I've been to too many medically managed births. And it is sapping my love for this job.

A part of my brain can see how whiny I am being about all this, but I have to honor the fact that I have a problem with my job, because I have a problem with me. I need to feel helpful. I need to feel important. I need to feel necessary. I chose the healing professions because my jobs could give me those feelings. Which are all the wrong reasons to be in this field, anyway. These jobs I have shouldn't be about stroking or validating my own ego.

So being a doula was about me being helpful to these women who have a very real need. I wanted to save them from themselves, I wanted to save these women from the managed, medicalized birth. I wanted these women to emerge victorious after facing their deepest fears and doubts, and I wanted to help them do it.

That's the problem, kids. I wanted to save them from themselves.

In a way, it is every doula's dilemma, for all doulas believe quite passionately in natural childbirth, yet every doula finds more work supporting couples who have hospital births. This means that most of the time, a home birth/natural birth believer and supporter will be working for women who do not share that belief.

So I know I am not the first to be feeling this way about this job. I am not the first to become disillusioned by the reality of birth in America today. But I am quite the dreamer, and more fragile than you think, and it hurts me to the core to see all these families start life in what I believe to be such a disjointed way.

I don't know how to reconcile my beliefs about birth with the reality of birth. I could do only homebirths from now on, I could apprentice with a home birth midwife to provide more opportunities for women to choose a gentler, more feminine kind of birth. I could shelter myself so. I would still see hospital transfers and the like, but a much smaller percentage.

But to do so, I have to deal with this burning desire to save women from themselves. Because to turn to homebirth only would me make feel like I was turning my back on the women and families that needed me most.

I have a lot of work to do around this issue. It goes right down to the core of who I am. I've always needed to be needed in order to feel safe, solid, human. Otherwise, I'm just a whisper of a fragment of a memory, nothing real, nothing present, nothing important.

See, lots of work to do.