When you study the history of birth over the last 100 years, something becomes apparent. It’s not just where we give birth and who we give birth with that has changed. We as women have also changed. We have changed how we live, how we eat, how we move, even simple things like how we go to the bathroom. If we’re going to make birth better for women and babies, we can’t only point our fingers at a system that is in many ways failing women, but we also have to look in the mirror and take ownership for the ways that we could nourish and care for ourselves differently too.
This is not to blame women but to empower them. We are not our great grandmothers. On average, we are not 17 having our first babies, we are not squatting daily if at all, we are involved in very competitive sports as children, we eat convenience foods, we are not exposed to birth growing up and we don’t hear empowering and positive birth stories. These things affect our pelvic floor, our hormonal balance, our skeletal systems and muscular systems, our ability to clot, our mindset and so on.
I am grateful for the doula training I received. It was great confirmation and gave me a foundation that set me on a path to great success as a birth support person. Having said that, in the many years since I took my training, I’ve learned so much more about birth. It is being with women and getting to know who they are, what their experiences have been, what their lives entail, what they fear, what they believe, what their history is and then being present with them for their birth that I have really learned what matters. It is being present with women who have long difficult labours that end in cesarean followed by shorter (sometimes almost too short!) births with bigger babies that I really learn what is really effective.
My position about birth is fluid and always evolving and I know what I believe today will continue to transform as long as I am present with women at birth. My position today is that maybe birth isn’t easy for most women. Maybe by design we were “made to give birth” but there is a lot that modern life does that impacts how we give birth. Unfortunately, I think a lot of doula training programs and traditional birth wisdom can set new doulas up with the impression that birth would just work if we just left it alone. I believe there is a lot of truth in that belief but that it’s not the whole story.
I am grateful for the opportunity to once again be training new doulas who I will pass on my years of modern wisdom combined with traditional wisdom too. Great grandma never went to a pelvic floor physiotherapist, had webster technique, took hypnobirthing classes or any of the other tools I encourage different clients to use depending on their situation. I am grateful for the opportunity to influence new doulas that it’s okay to point the finger at some aspects of the system and be advocates in their communities when it’s appropriate while also educating the new mothers in their community about what they can do to prepare their modern bodies for birth.