“What led you to doula work?”
This is one of the most common questions I am asked during interviews with potential clients. I think clients ask this question because doula work is fairly unknown. Most couples do not learn about the term “doula” until they are expecting, and some not until they’ve delivered and are looking back at their experience. I also think the curiosity comes from the intimacy of the work. I don’t ask what drew my mechanic to her work, but that’s because she’s working with my car. I understand wanting to know the story behind the lady who chooses to spend her days in the dark, private, and vulnerable spaces where babies are born.
My previous career was in theater. I worked backstage (another dark and private place), supporting the actors as they told their stories night after night. In 2015 I decided to step away from theater work, with no clear idea of where I would be stepping to. I spent some time thinking, reflecting, and writing. I decided to make a list of things that made me happy. (It was brief.)
So I took this list and set to work. I spent a year investigating lines of work in these three fields. I took friends out for coffee and picked their brains. I hung out at distilleries, learning about whiskey recipes (for real, y’all, it’s fascinating). And I read. Books are my first resource, always, and they’ve never let me down. In May 2016, I picked up a copy of Peggy Vincent’s “Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife.” I couldn’t put it down.
Mrs. Vincent (what? Let’s not do that – )/ Peggy describes beginning her career as a North Carolina labor and delivery nurse, trained in the era of twilight sleep deliveries, and eventually becoming one of the first legal home midwives in California. Her memoir is written in individual birth stories, interwoven with details about own life. I devoured it. I let it be my captain: “Baby Catcher” lead me to “Spiritual Midwifery” which lead me to a tour at Birthingway College of Midwifery in SE Portland. My tour guide mentioned that a prerequisite for admission to the midwifery program was attending the labor doula workshop. I had no idea what a doula was.
My workshop was like lightening in my brain. I was ravenous for more. Everything I learned made me inspired, galvanized, and angry. I was so happy with my class, I was thrilled with my classmates, and yet I was so angry that this material was new to me. I felt like the type of person who should know this information already. I have always been drawn to pregnancy and childbirth – I was the eleven-year-old girl whose mother had to stop her from staring at pregnant bodies in the supermarket. I was fascinated and I was active about it. I spent so much time with my friends through their pregnancies and their postpartum periods and somehow I was still learning so much for the first time. Why wasn’t this information readily available to me? Why was so much of pregnancy and childbirth a secret? Why didn’t I know this already?
The truth is, my labor doula workshop changed me. I suddenly wanted everyone to know. I would show up to drinks with friends and ask if they knew what the fetal ejection reflex was. No? What about the use of laughing gas as a pain relief option in childbirth? Have you ever heard the term “husband stitch”? Does it make your blood boil? I told my then-boyfriend/now-husband that if we ever had babies, I wanted to invite every woman I knew who had never seen a baby be born. I wanted EVERYONE to know.
So I guess this post, this blog, this website is dedicated to my good friend Peggy Vincent. Her stories sparked me, pushed me into motion. I haven’t stopped running yet, Peggy! There are more stories yet to write, more people to tell.