By Juanita Sawyer
I wasn't the girl who grew up dreaming of an ornate wedding and tiny toes in satin cradles. I wasn't ever sure what I wanted in my adult life. It took many years lived as a pseudo adult, learning from mistakes and falling in to incredibly obvious traps before any sense of self or future came in to focus. I don't think my story is unique but it helps set the stage for my current life and this quickly evolving pregnancy of mine. I got here by feeling it out and making decisions based on gut checks informed by a life of very real experience.
I came around to my role in the world as a doula through some very tough self exploration. I had waited so long for any sense of calling that I wasn't about to take this journey lightly. I realized that I'm capable of standing at the gates and crossroads in life with folks and offer some true connection in those times that can be a miasma of emotion. What a relief to know my purpose and have something to walk boldly forward in to.
When I met my current husband, while living in Eastern Asia and imagining a life of autonomy and travel, I wasn't even sure I wanted children. My ethic base and global consciousness was in over drive and I wasn't sure I deserved the luxury of having my own child. He was certain that we were to be together and make babies and I have to admit that there was something very sexy about his certitude. When he asked me to marry him, I promised to do my best and walked boldly forward.We returned to the states and started life here; he in nursing school and myself as a doula exploring birth work. We agreed that putting pressure on baby making wasn't going to offer either our marriage or our pursuit to be parents any help so we went forward in the spirit of 'not not trying' and trusted synchronicity and biology to do the rest. Starting a new life in a new inter-cultural marriage in a place completely new to both of us proved stressful enough. We finally found our way to my husbands graduation day and some traction in my work enough to move in to a home that provided a greater sense of stability and comfort. We were pregnant a month later. And so we walk boldly forward.
You may have started wondering why I'm telling you all of this... By no means am I trying to paint the picture that big life decisions come easily for me or that 'walking boldly forward' is always been my go to in life. I'm also plagued with seemingly insurmountable fear when heading in to the unknown. Here's the thing though... this 'having a baby' business has, in many ways, thrown me for the biggest fucking loop of my life. It doesn't help that I'm a doula and can't unknow the things I've seen and learned. It also doesn't help that I'm not able to pursue a blissful, natural midwife guided home birth due to some health issues. So... here I am, walking into a medicalized birth having been trained in the natural model. And, ya know, that's all fine. I'm game to do whatever I have to do to bring a healthy baby in to this world. The problem is that I don't want this experience to be wrung of all of that beautiful, empowering juice that all momma's and babies deserve. So.. I'm on a mission. I'm gonna make this a beautiful birth. It may not be ecstatic or surrounded by candles and chanting while I moan my baby in to the world through water. There will be beeping machines and harsh lighting and perhaps scalpels and masks. There will be drugs and a hospital stay and rules. But there are things that I can do to advocate for that will draw me back in to the deep truths of the transformation that my baby and I are having together. And ya know... fuck some of the rules. Cause that's how I do.
I say all of this BUT you'll notice that I didn't invoke my catch phrase in the last paragraph. The truth is... I'm not feeling so bold yet. And I am hesitating in my steps forward. I'm on the hunt for the right OB and boy has that been an adventure so far (more on that later). In short, I've found that a practitioner that isn't the right fit can really throw a wrench in to any bold, birthing empowerment one tries to summon. Also, I'm looking for the right doula, although, that process hasn't started ardently yet. I need someone who can help me to completely honor my birth for everything that it is. So often, doulas come with a set of bias that our training can instill in us. And, though it's true that a natural birth is, as shown by a lot of evidence, the best for both mom and baby, what matters most is what remains in momma's memory and baby's bones. What was her work and how did her brave show up? How did she invoke the deepest parts of herself to bring this life into our realm? What are her memories of those redefining moments? Was she treated like the warrior she brought? Was she given a warriors welcome?
Sharing these thoughts with you is emboldening my outlook. Let's get this conversation started and keep it going! What do we need from our birth workers to make birth ours again even when they happen in an environment that can be alienating? How do we bridge the gap between the perceptions of a medicalized birth and a birth modeled after midwifery standards so that honor is showered upon every birth? When we give birth, we are approaching the very vale between life as we know it and the beyond. We are encountering the very essence of what makes us human and links us with the ancient and posterity. What do we need to avoid a complete irreverence of that? What tools do we need to walk blindly and boldly forward into the deep unknowing that makes life a miracle?
I know now, through experience, that life's big moves don't happen because I have calculated every thing perfectly. It happens because something larger than me moves me forward into some potential shit storms only for me to emerge a more complete version of myself. Never has that been truer than now as I bring this child into the world. And so, one bold step at a time, mommas.
Juanita is a birth and postpartum doula, supporting families in Austin, TX. To read more of her work, visit her website Vine Doula Services.