How is a Doula Like a Glee Club Member?

Remember the nonsense riddle from Alice in Wonderland –  “Why is a raven like a writing desk?”  There was no answer to the question of course, but since I love analogies and tend to understand my world from drawing parallels, I ask the question, “How is a doula like glee club member?”

I have a very talented son-in-law.  He is talented in many ways (like loving “my girls” and being perpetually “outdaughtered” day-in and day-out,) but one of the first things I knew about him was that he was a singer and performer.  My sweet daughter connected with him around these talents in college, but now it translates mainly into some pretty incredible bedtime performances for the kiddos.

However, I recently watched him in a men’s vocal ensemble during a talent show for my daughter’s performing arts studio in Raleigh (check out Field of Dreams Performing Arts!)

The other two singers were without a doubt talented, but three talented guys on stage with three different vocal qualities (and not much time for preparation) can sometimes go terribly wrong with a three male egos involved.  They were great, but I noticed something that I hadn’t thought much about before (full disclaimer – I can’t carry a note in a tin bucket.)  I noticed my SIL was not the standout in the vocal trio.  Rather than singing louder and stronger than the others, he allowed his voice to sink into the gap between the other two and somehow the entire trio was suddenly working as one.  Everyone sounded better because he could skillfully harmonize and wrap around their voices.  I could not pick his voice out of the mix, but the entire performance was so much better!  He easily could have been the front-and-center star, but instead of asserting himself as the standout, he made the trio a star!

A good doula should be just like that.  You should not think of them first when you remember your birth experience.  You should remember your partner, think fondly about your whole powerful birth team, and most importantly – the parents should remember themselves as the “stars” in the beginning of this epic story of their family.  A good doula does not sing louder than everyone else.  A skillful doula creates harmony in the experience and does not shine the light on herself.  Without her, perhaps the team would not function as fluidly.  She should offer alternatives, help mom and dad communicate with caregivers, and support their decisions – both physically and emotionally (and maybe spiritually.)

Personally, I consider it a small victory when there are no pictures of myself from the birth.  Your doula should provide a healthy snack and lip balm that appears out of nowhere, stop the partner from throwing their back out with the wrong position, and encourage the family to meet their goals in the best way they can within the circumstances at the time. She doesn’t hold your baby without a need, and the pool takedown and cleanup will happen without fanfare.  She makes the birth team shine and facilitates the epic beginning of this family.

And that is how a doula is like a glee club member!.  They are that one person who chooses to create and enhance harmony, rather than becoming the standout.  And like any good glee club, you should hold some careful auditions!  Ask your doula about the role that she plays and the skills she brings to the ensemble (does she carry a TENS machine?  Is she trained in acupressure or aromatherapy?)  Make sure you find the right fit that will enhance the harmony in your ensemble. When that important day comes, you will make beautiful music together!

Wizard of Oz and Childbirth Ed

When I was little (long, long time ago) we had a couple TV channels and that was about it.  No VCR, no DVR, no on-demand anything.

(Wow!  I am now one of those people who says that!)

Anyhow, once a year the Wizard of Oz would come on and it was a source of great excitement in our family.  My parents were older and remembered the original release in the theaters.  If you have not seen or loved that movie, I am not sure that we can be friends.  Go watch it now, and then we can talk.

As I was saying, if you remember the basics, the main characters all had a specific need – Scarecrow needed a brain, the Tin Woodman, a heart, the Lion lacked courage and Dorothy wanted to go home in the worst way!.  They undertook a dangerous journey to follow the yellow brick road, go toe to toe with the Wicked Witch, and get to the Wizard who held the power to give them all the things they needed.

Sort of like some people who feel uncertain about childbirth attend a class in hope that there will be a magical piece of information or a chart or video that will suddenly make them ready to face this monumental task.  Here is the hitch in the story – the twist in plot that makes the whole thing work: The Wizard was not a wizard at all and he really had no power.  He was just faking it.

Sure, he was a fake and a sham, but he was also a brilliant salesman.  He sent them on another mission to kill the wicked witch (a very convenient advantage for everyone, by the way) and, surprise, surprise, in the process they found what they needed within them – Heart, Courage, Brains and Dorothy eventually found her way to a home that she never knew she loved.

The wizard used the journey to bring out and develop the assets they needed most.

A good childbirth class will give you evidence based information and strategies, and hopefully some referrals to the resources you need.  A great childbirth class will lead you on a journey to find not only information for your brain, but heart and courage as well, and like Dorothy, you will find yourself coming home to a family full of love!

My Love-Hate Relationship With On-line Learning

I find myself this morning putting the finishing touches on a somewhat rough, but hopefully useful, childbirth class that is alarmingly brief.  Just 2 short months ago I was defending vehemently that out of all the passive and distance ed classes offered through every possible electronic platform these days, the one class….the sacred class…that should never be offered on line, was childbirth training.  It is hands-on,  it needs time and breath, it is about relationship. It is about humor and uncomfortable questions and relationship!

And yet here I am.  COVID-19 has changed everything in a blink of an eye.  As a public health professional who retired  just a month ago, it snuck up on us while in full view.  We saw it coming and we have run exercises for this, but I don’t know that anyone would have guessed at the strength of the necessary restrictions that would quietly change every aspect of our daily routines in ways that we hadn’t imagined.  We didn’t know what we didn’t know.

And here I am talking to people I have never met on the other side of my recorded computer screen, trying to form a relationship and straining to think about how to communicate strategies without my hands, without looking in their eyes and without knowing their history.  Did they have a difficult first birth?  Do they use the word, “terrified?”  Do they have experience doing something physically challenging?  I don’t know, so I have to speak in generalities and hope that somewhere in a spray of words I hit the mark.

Yet, these are different times, and different times call for different measures.  It calls for taking control of your own learning…looking inside yourself and taking what I can offer  as your starting line and running with it.  The truth is, it has always been about you.  YOU must do your own research, and use your own discernment (What?? Not every website or link is legit?!)  You must find the strength and confidence inside to face this journey as a family-in-the-making.  The truth is that you had always been in the drivers seat on this journey, so here we go!