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The Way of the Doula by Jody Richards

As doulas we experience that each and every birth is so vastly different, but there is something that remains the same. When we walk through the door, be it the maternity ward in the hospital or into the familiarity of your own home, our role remains the same.

Sometimes our lenses catch glimpses of candlelight, cozy pillows supporting weary knees, the familiarity of one's own bed. Our ears capture sounds of water filling the tub with the sound of slow, deep breath, music from another room, the galloping heartbeat sounds coming from one of the many tools the midwife has brought with her. Our nose smells the fragrance of some home cooked meal waiting to be eaten, in a glorious, well earned, post delivery feast.

We feel with our hands, with steadiness or rhythmic massage, just how hard she works to carry this new life into our world. Our voices carry messages to remind her that she is doing it; she can do it, one contraction at a time.

We rely on our body, our heart, our senses, to soak in all these details to helps us attune to her every need. Other times we are welcomed by elevators and bustling hallways. We enter rooms that many have birthed in before. The busy world left to do it's thing beyond these walls.

We use buttons to move beds in all kinds of ways. We sometimes hear beeping and electronic sounds. Again we hear that ever so familiar galloping heartbeat of baby.

We make space for nurses to do their ever important work. We find all the spaces and cracks that we can slip into in order to offer a hand to hold, a refreshing wipe of the face, another sip of water.

Sometimes we sit silently as she gets a rest from the help of medicine. There are times we patiently wait in hallways as babies are birthed with surgical help. We are aware of the technology being used to keep her and baby as safe as possible. No matter what the walls look like, or even whom or what they contain, our work stays the same - our focus is on you.

We witness great love between couples and help them embrace and harness what they so effortless create, the hormones of labour because of a love the share. We see the awe of a new grandparent's face as the anticipate the emergence of a new generation.

We hold legs, squeeze hips, our hands are squeezed. We use our breath to help her find hers. We give reassuring glances to partners, between offering our eyes to her, as they are different to gaze into; they don't carry the same worry, history, or attachment to her birth and her decisions, as others sometimes do. Our eyes are a link to our hearts, which are holding space for her, holding the wisdom, experience and intuition we have gained from every birthing woman we have held before her.

What we do as doulas always looks different, because everyone births in different places, in different ways, with different kinds of care. Sometimes we hold space for joy, sorrow, laughter, sadness and fear. The thread that carries through every birth is our presence and being, calmness, knowledge, intuition, experience, and ability to attune to every moment, no matter the way, no matter the outcome, no matter the walls or what unfolds inside of them.

Words by Jody Richards

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