When I was pregnant with my first child 10 years ago, I went through the normal pregnancy rites– picked a doctor and stuck with her because she was “nice”, took the crappy hospital classes that were nothing more than an L&D nurse reading a bunch of PowerPoint slides to us, and filled my baby’s room with a bunch of
crap stuff, most of which I barely used. I went to the brand-name hospital. I assumed that, since I wanted a med-free vaginal birth and was planning to breastfeed, it would all end up being a breeze. I read all the books, felt smugly informed about my choices, and figured that was about it: Decide what kind of birth you want, get all of the baby items, and that’s about it.
I’m not one for regrets or guilt. Most of us do the best we can with the information and resources we have. After my daughter was born, I realized that maternity care, birth, motherhood, and breastfeeding were a hell of a lot more complicated than people want to admit. So, I kept reading books about birth. I scoured the internet for clues to why pregnancy and birth aren’t straightforward issues. I had a friend, also a new mom, who encouraged me to read, who loved to talk about the many “why”s floating around in my head. She slowly encouraged me to dig into evidence based birth and parenting practices, and helped me make choices that made parenting and breastfeeding easier for me an my daughter.
That summer after my daughter was born (she’s a fall baby), I was sitting with my best friend from college when it hit me like a thunderbolt: I had to become a doula. I had to become a childbirth educator. I spent weeks on end, while my daughter was down for her afternoon nap, scouring the internet, looking for information on becoming a doula and a childbirth educator. I connected with another woman who was a doula and childbirth educator in my area, and she proved to be a wonderful friend and fantastic mentor.
I chose to certify as a doula through DONA International; I’m a huge fan of doing things the right way, and I loved that DONA had been in existence the longest. It was important to me to have an in-person training, too– the smaller organizations either only offered online trainings or I would have had to travel to other parts of the US for training. At the same time, I started looking at the different options I had to become a childbirth educator. I don’t know if it was their focus on normal birth, or that they specifically mentioned the roles that doulas play in improving birth outcomes, but my heart was always set on becoming an LCCE.
Pregnancy, birth, and parenting is a journey. I’m always honored to be asked to walk even a small portion of the path with families. This morning, while visiting a new mom in her home and holding her sweet daughter, I at once felt so grateful to do what I do– to support and educate new families. It is my calling. I’m exactly where I am supposed to be.