So much of my Becoming Crunchy journey has been about learning to value the natural, normal and real over the chemical, the technological solutions, the fake.
And it’s not that I hold zero value for those things – I think we have an amazing capacity as a race to be creative and come up with discoveries and solutions to things that truly need it; our problem is that we have the tendency to move on to bigger and better while simply throwing away whatever was before.
Of course, when I say we, I mean I – it wasn’t until the past year or so that I really started finding merit in being a ‘crunchy’ type, and as always I must give the caveat that I still have a ways to go…but it seems like I’m always finding new ways to move back into valuing what is natural and real, and lately the focus has been on pregnancy and childbirth in particular as I work toward certifying through DONA International as a doula.
Over the past week I’ve had the amazing opportunity to attend a childbirth education class and a 2-day birth doula training course as part of the steps required for DONA certification.
While certification is a route that I’ve chosen toward becoming a doula, I do want to make note that not every doula is certified and that there are different organizations out there who offer certification – and that basically a piece of paper does not necessarily a doula make.
I chose the route of certification through DONA for several reasons:
- I admire the founders of the organization, and they are the oldest and most well known certifying body for doulas
- I am the type of person who would prefer a ‘certified’ doula, though I would also consider many other factors and it wouldn’t be an automatic deal breaker for me (though for some it may be)
- It fits my learning style
- As someone who is really just starting out in this type of work, I need the guidance. While most of the DONA certification is done on one’s own timescale, they do have quite an extensive list of things to complete that in the end will help to make a well-rounded doula (though I know that even after the completion of my training, I will never stop learning!).
The childbirth education class was one of the first requirements I was able to fulfill; the class was taught by an amazing woman who’s been a labor and delivery nurse for many years, as well as a doula and doula trainer (she was also one of the trainers at our weekend course).
I was surprised at how much there was to learn – even after having attended childbirth ed for my own first pregnancy and actually giving birth, there was plenty I didn’t know at all to be discovered at the class! Part of it could be put down to pregnancy fog, I’m sure – there’s a lot you can pick up on when you’re just observing rather than expecting – but part of it is just that birth is so amazing and varied and different every time that I have the feeling I’m always going to find myself being surprised…but that’s OK.
The next step was this past weekend – a 2-day course attended by 17 amazing women, taught by 2 trainers – one I mentioned above, the other a full-time doula who’s attended well over 100 births (mostly homebirths) over the past 11 years – truly an awesome combination of teachers when one had most of her experience with hospital births while the other was able to give a lot of input from her homebirth experiences.
And the women taking the class – oh my goodness! It was an incredible, astounding combination of people, ranging in age from 16 – 40, all different backgrounds, there for different reasons – but completely united in an incredible heart for helping and supporting women through the most amazing and vulnerable time in their lives…it was truly an honor to be a part of this group and to learn with them as well as from them.
I just wanted to share a few gems from the course…my experience along with some of the things I learned…it was so awesome that I can’t help but gush about it but I’ll try not to be too chatty…
One of the comments that really stuck with me the most was the idea that 19 women spent 2 entire days together and there was no competition, no attempts at one-up-manship or feelings of inferiority, no drama…there was just so obviously something bigger there that totally united us – and that is not something that happens very often!
It was so cool for me to hear that put into words by one of the attendees – because I know that that is something a doula can create for the families she works with – where there might normally be conflict or fear or competition, she can come in and bring that focus back to the mom and the baby and the breathing…and while in some ways it seems idealistic and almost naive, it really can happen!
Another incredible experience of the weekend was the fact that at one point, as a group, we cried together. A mom was sharing a story and while I can’t divulge details, it was heart-wrenching. I couldn’t hold back my own tears and was kind of afraid to look up; I thought I would be the only one…but it wasn’t long before I heard sniffles and looked up to see pretty much every woman there had tears rolling down her face.
I, personally, have never had such an experience before. It is powerful – and intimate – to cry with someone; it has happened in my life but never on such a large scale. That more than anything to me was a window into that heart of compassion that a doula can have for a mom…she wants to get right in there and feel for that mom and give that truly empathic support that a medical professional like a doctor (or even a midwife) cannot give – and that is priceless.
I already knew I wanted to have a doula at my next birth but after that, I’m more convinced than ever – and I hope to be that for people as well…it’s a gift beyond pain relief techniques or information…
Of course, there were also a lot of practical things we learned – how to conduct our prenatal visits, what we can and cannot do for a client, all kinds of pain relief techniques and suggestions, how to help a mom speak for herself and feel empowered about her birth – no matter how it ends up going.
We learned to prepare ourselves – ask the questions of what would I do if labor started right now? Keeping a doula bag, taking separate cars to the movies, that sort of thing.
One of the most essential aspects of our learning was the importance of not superimposing our own ideals/experiences/beliefs on others – there is a fine line between listening and educating and suggesting or imposing too much. In the end, we’re there for the mom and nothing else – certainly not our own agenda.
We also got to watch some great videos, including Orgasmic Birth (which was quite a surprise from what I had anticipated it being), a video on the insane amount of things you can do with a rebozo (or shawl) to help mom during labor, and another on the different ways moms move through and cope with contractions.
We were able to get some teaching from some of our fellow students on things like hypnobirthing, babywearing, massage.
One of the other biggest lessons I took away from this weekend was to watch mom’s body language for cues to what she needs. I have to admit, this is something that doesn’t come easily to me – and it’s a hugely important part of being a doula, so it’s something I’m going to need to work on!
There was all kinds of other stuff we talked about and I know I’ll be going back to my notes over and over again, but those were a few of the highlights that I just had to share.
I also want to add – being in a room full of people who are passionate about the same things you are is just indescribable…if you can get the opportunity to do so – whether it’s birth or AP or being green or what have you – DO IT! I was feeling so out of things and stressed and even though nothing’s really settled down any, I feel completely rejuvenated and excited and empowered – and LOVED! by all these amazing women…it’s just been an honor to have this connection with them – and to learn from our trainers – and I am excited to be able to continue to do so…
Among my next steps will be more reading, creating a resource list, taking a breastfeeding course, and attending births!! My heart starts beating a little faster at that last one – but I’m trusting that I’ll find the perfect people and be able to support them and I just can’t wait to see how it all works out.
And may I just end by saying…women are awesome!!!