5 Things I've Learned in 5 Years as a Doula


Today marks five years since the arrival of my first doula baby. And today also marks five years since the birth of my profession, my career, and (eventually) the Family Ways agency.

To mark this illustrious birthday, I'd like to share with you five things I've learned (so far) on this amazing journey.

1. Everyone needs a village.

I like to think of myself as a strong and independent woman. I like to think that I can do everything on my own without asking for help for inconveniencing anyone. And while neither of these statements is false, I have also had to learn that in order to be strong I need people supporting me and I need to be willing to ask others to do things for me that I am not able to do for myself.

I'm not going to lie -- this has been a really challenging lesson for me. I'm probably still not very good at it. But not only has my life gotten easier as I've learned to ask for help, my life has also gotten richer as I've given others the opportunity to show me that they care for me and my family.

It's also been really good for me to learn to take some of the advice that I dish out so readily. I tell the families that I work with that they need to allow others to do for them, but what kind of role model am I actually being if I won't take the same advice myself?

Mm-hm. I sure love me some humble pie.

2. One person cannot do all the things.

Along the lines of #1 above, I've really had to learn to prioritize my goals and activities. There are so many wonderful opportunities out there, and so many different situations that need attention and for which I feel I could help. But even with a team of amazing women working alongside me, I've had to learn to prioritize that which we can do well and that which we can do right now.

There seems to be a prevailing myth that if you're not doing everything possible, you're not doing enough. This is not true at all. Everyone can do a little bit. And everyone can do a little bit each day. But each person cannot do everything every day. We need to learn to cut ourselves some slack, as parents and professionals.

P.S. I blame Pinterest.

3. Never say "never."

I remember sitting in a training session one day and hearing another woman talk about how she could never do this or that. And I remember thinking to myself how judgmental that made her sound (and then realizing that I was just as judgmental for judging her for her own judgments). Anyway. We all have those things we say we could never do. But the reality is that there's always circumstances under which that might change.

For me, I was sure that I wasn't strong enough to support a family through a stillbirth or other tragedy. I didn't think I had the fortitude to be the kind of support she needed, and I didn't want to compromise her experience with my own weakness.

But then a friend of mine experienced a tragedy and I realized that if she needed me to be there I would be there -- no questions asked. And when I realized that, I realized I was a lot stronger than I thought I was and that my never had turned into a definitely yes.

4. It's not about me.

I was once talking with my husband about my goals for my business and where I wanted to take it. I remember telling him, in a particularly pompous moment, that part of my 10-year plan was to "change the way Rockville births." I mean, why not aim for the sky, right?

Why not? Because it's not about what *I* want. It's about what's best for the families I'm working with, and about making sure their needs are met every step of the way. Sometimes this means I need to extend my own boundaries or accept things that I'm otherwise uncomfortable with.

I'm not here to change you, or your birth, or the world. I'm here to hold your hand, hold space, and hold back the fear. The moment is yours. That you are willing to share it with me is a tremendous gift.

5. There is beauty everywhere, if you only slow down to look.

I'm not sure when it became popular to be constant critics, but we seem to have arrived at a cultural moment in which it is trendy to identify flaws and failings -- and sometimes even to do so loudly, or with all the power of the Internet. (If you need a case study, just look at the Mommy Wars. Then look away quickly, and go sit in a garden somewhere to decompress.)

At the end of the day, I think it's not about finding the rightness or wrongness of a decision or a situation, but about finding the beauty. And there is beauty everywhere, if only we take a moment to look.

Let me give you some examples of beauty I've seen:

  • The compassion of parents of a teen mama who only want what is best for their daughter and her new baby.

  • The patience of a nurse who has had an incredibly long and trying shift but still responds immediately each and every time her patient calls her.

  • The joyful tears of a brand new father who "wasn't sure he was ready" but now knows he is.

  • The love and compassion of a community that folds in around its hurting members.

  • The smile shared by four generations.

  • The gentle touch of a warm hand.

  • Every kiss.

  • Families.

  • You.

It's been an amazing journey these five years, and I am excited to see what the next five years (and the next and the next) will bring. Thank you for being a part of it!

#empowerment #reflection #community #doula #growth

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