I know nothing about birth

This month, I celebrate eight years since my DONA International birth doula training! In those eight years, I have had the privilege and sweet responsibility of supporting more than 70 births. My husband and I have added two more babies into our own family in that time. I have achieved and maintained certification through DONA, completed certification as a Hypnobabies Hypno-Doula, volunteer with the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) Lincoln chapter, volunteer with DONA as the Nebraska state representative, and serve locally with Doulas of Lincoln. I have completed training and taught other birth professionals as an Evidence Based Birth(R) Instructor. I have completed training on Rebozo techniques, Spinning Babies, techniques to alleviate back labor. I have brought new doulas with me to births for hands-on training. I have read and read and read some more. And yet. On some level. Despite all the knowledge. I know nothing about birth.

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I understand the physiology. I understand the anatomy. I understand the symphony of changes that must happen in birth, at least as much as is understandable. I understand the emotional changes that birthing parents go through as their birth draws nearer. I understand the physical needs common to birthing women. I understand the psychology. I understand the medical considerations. I understand the medical system and its power structure. I understand that my clients will make choices that I would not, and I accept and honor that. I understand how to support women in childbirth, from the early stages to the first weeks postpartum and beyond.

Yes, I have lots of knowledge about birth. And birth surprises me. Regularly.

Photo by nata_vkusidey/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by nata_vkusidey/iStock / Getty Images

In those 70+ births, I have seen a woman go from 3cm to pushing out her baby in an hour. I have witnessed a mother going through the emotional signposts of labor during her pre-op for her scheduled Cesarean. I have held space for a woman to process her fears of becoming a mother while her cervix waited at 9.5cm for over 1 hour, and then cheered as she pushed out her healthy baby. I have supported women through inductions, natural births, epidurals, Cesareans, and more. I have been present for external cephalic version. I have experienced the stillness of breath, the concentration, the skill, the hope in the caregiver while resolving shoulder dystocia. I have held my own breath waiting for that first cry of life, and sighed in gratitude and relief when it comes. I have been astounded. I have been afraid. I have been amazed. I have witnessed miracles. I have had prayers answered moments after I prayed them. I have had prayers answered in a way I did not want. I have been allowed into sacred space. I have witnessed the moments that will live within a family forever. I am grateful.

I have made mistakes.

I had a client who was negatively impacted by seeing the clock, and I wished I had taken it down. I then had a client who was paying close attention to the clock, so I took it down. She lost her focus, and needed me to put the clock back up. I know nothing.

I had a client who was bothered by me explaining things in detail during her birth. I then had a client who wanted more detailed explanations during her birth. I know nothing.

I had a client who loved the bathtub. I then had a client who hated the bathtub. I know nothing.

I had a client who needed to smell peppermint oil to alleviate her nausea. I then had a client who found the smell of peppermint nauseating. I know nothing.

I had a client who needed her support team to be extremely quiet to feel safe. I then had a client who felt safer when her support team was chatting and talking around her. I know nothing.

I have lots of knowledge about childbirth. But when I go to a birth, my only hope to do my job well is to listen to the birthing mother. To read her. To ask her. To trust. To let go of my knowledge and myself and simply serve. I know how birth works, but I cannot know this birth before me.

Only the birthing mother knows birth. It is my duty, my joy, my honor, to serve her.