My work with birthing women began unexpectedly, shockingly, and beautifully.
I’d like to share with you the stories of the very first two births that I attended. I was working as a translator for my mom (a labor and delivery nurse), on a birth floor in a very dirty hospital in rural Honduras.
When I walked in, I was in shock at what I saw, and wanted to cry. It was one long room, with beds lining the walls, no curtains, no sheets on the beds, except for the very few families who had them to bring. It must’ve been 50 laboring women in various states of dress, most with nobody there to support them. I didn’t know where to start. So we started with the mom who was beginning to push, and helped walk her into a private delivery/birthing room with walls made of concrete blocks. I watched my mother serve as nurse, and doula, and mother all in that one space. My translation was hardly necessary, as my mom’s kind eyes and hands did the calming work. (This next part is embarrassing, but will never happen again I promise!) I had never seen a birth before, nor even knew what an episiotomy was. The doctor performed it quickly and it was a long deep one without any warning. The sight of the blood, and I straight passed out! Luckily into a chair right behind me. The baby was born healthy, the mother was congratulated, and then moved immediately back to her sheet-less bed alone.
Another birthing woman followed. This baby was born totally blue and not breathing. That’s when my real respect and awe for my mothers skills and heart of steel came out– she told me, calmly, to grab the oxygen tank while she began compressions and rubbing the baby’s back. The doctor was managing what was becoming a postpartum hemorrhage. I grabbed the oxygen tank, but when we tried to connect it to the tubing, it was empty. So my mother continued the compressions breathed herself into the tube, and soon the baby was crying and breathing and it was beautiful. I was amazed. Nurses are amazing! The mother was crying, and so relieved when we put the pink crying babe back on her chest.
I think that moment was when my heart was first really called to this work. Those laboring women needed so much more than they had. More than I could give at the time. They needed comfort, love, care, privacy, food. And the emotional and practical skills that my mother had made such a huge difference.
So here I am, a doula working in “first-world” hospitals or homes, and those needs for comfort and love and support are still the same. Still making a difference for each birthing person and babe. With each current client, I remember one of those Honduran women who I couldn’t give enough help to, and I send an extra bit of love her way. Her life, her birth matters too.