I remember very little from my high school education. I could probably count on one hand the memories of actual lessons taught. That's ironic because I eventually became a secondary education teacher. I do remember one day in a 9th grade life skills class. My teacher brought in a guest speaker, a midwife, who introduced me to the idea of a doula. She spoke and showed videos of birth that contradicted my media-formed understanding of it. I decided after she spoke that, at some point, I wanted to be a doula. I had no interest in performing clinical tasks, but I was enamored with the idea of being a part of a woman's journey into motherhood.
Fast forward to my first year after college graduation. I graduated with an English Liberal Arts degree and began a career in teaching. I had haphazardly chosen English and teaching simply because I knew I could tolerate it.
In truth, I did not at first pursue my desire to become a doula because I was scared of how society and my family would perceive this choice. I knew it would be a risk. I discovered, though, that I had a knack for the podium and truly treasured the pursuit of knowledge, so I left my desire for doula work, and started my journey in the world of education.
My first teaching gig was a "baptism by fire" at a local juvenile justice school for at-risk girls. At this school, I was assigned a handful of girls to advise and be responsible for. I grew incredibly attached to these girls and viewed them as if they were my own. I loved working with them as they navigated the insurmountable obstacles they encountered. Daily, I was inspired by their ability to rise above environment and conquer in order to make better lives for themselves.
An at-risk girls' school inevitably and unfortunately means teen pregnancy. After this experience, my desire to become a doula was reignited because I saw that these girls needed more support than anyone they knew could give them, they needed a doula.
I brought it up to my husband, but I just felt that my time as a teacher wasn't over. I taught at a high school and then a middle school before I got pregnant with my son. It took my husband and I a year to conceive. Months before conceiving, I had resigned myself to believing that it may not be in the cards for me to bear children. I decided that then was as good a time as any to start pursuing becoming a doula.
A few months later, on April Fool's day, I found out I was pregnant. I experienced an incredibly empowering, positive, but difficult to say the least, unmedicated labor. After I had my son, I couldn't shake the experience. I kept returning to the idea of perhaps preventing some of the things I faced and advocating for the positive things I also encountered. I taught the year I had my son, but the experience of being pregnant and delivering him was more than enough to catapult me into birth work.
Many doulas get into this work because of their own birth experience. While mine definitely contributed to my decision, it is far from the main reason. Having the personal reason of your own birth experience or simply being a birth enthusiast as some might call themselves is not enough to sustain the amount of work, passion, and sacrifice needed for a long-term career as a doula. The reason I do what I do and will continue adapts with every single client.
I love that I can cry and hold hands with clients as they make difficult decisions about themselves and their delivery. I love that I get to talk with the client's mother about her own birth experiences and that though it was 30 years ago, she can remember it with perfect clarity. I love that look that a father gets when he holds his baby for the first time. I love the look on a mother's face when she gets the perfect latch and can see her baby swallowing gulps of a life-giving substance SHE made. I love to witness carnal instinct, a mother listening to her body so completely that her movements work in tandem with her baby to bring him into the world. I love the overwhelming love that a family shows whether it's one or 20 members present in a birthing room. I love the drive to a birth, filled with expectation, and the drive home, filled with evaluation and pure adrenaline. I love the humanity that presents itself in its purest, most vulnerable state when a woman gives birth.
Truly, though, these are not reasons to be a doula; they are only perks that may or may not occur, and are not actually tokens of success for a doula. Being a doula is less about birth and babies than people think. It is about pouring your heart, mind, and body into being whatever is needed whenever it is needed. I became a doula because I needed to serve, for that, purely and simply, is what a doula does.