Saturday, August 21, 2010

Answering the Call

Eight o'clock Thursday morning, my phone rang. A lady, who had emailed me days prior looking for a doula, was in labor. We hadn't met. I had things to do. I wasn't "on-call," as I didn't have any clients who were due soon, but there was a need.

We talked a little on the phone and I realized that if I didn't go, it was entirely possible that she would be having this baby alone. In a hospital, yes, but without someone who was there to support her. So I chose to literally... answer the call.

I got people to watch my children, called my husband to let him know I was leaving, stopped to put gas in the van and drove the hour from Syracuse to Watertown, to the hospital to sit with her. And sit I did. I stayed from 10am Thursday morning until 4am Friday morning. Thankfully, her husband was able to come Thursday evening, and the two of us supported her through the birth of their baby. Driving home Friday morning, I thought about how I felt called to support women and their families during this life-changing experience.

What I did was something that doulas all over the world do every day. Someone calls, needing support, and they go.

Penny Simkin, who may well be considered the mother of the doula profession, teaches her doulas that how a woman feels during her labor, how she's supported is something that she never forgets. Details of the memory may change over time, but the feelings stay the same. What I do, and what doulas the world over do, is try to protect that memory, to help women and their partners feel nurtured, supported, empowered and loved.

I'm grateful for other doulas. The ones who started years ago when the idea of labor support was unheard of. The ones who are practicing today. Who serve families who can afford to pay and those who can't. Who can make teen moms feel like they're being taken seriously. Who hold the hands of moms who are in the hospital alone. Who serve dads by getting them a drink and suggesting ways to help their partner. Who show hospitals and OBs that quietly supporting laboring women makes a difference in birth outcomes. Who "answer the call."

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