This morning I was sitting here at my desk in this glorious sunlight tinkering with my website when my phone rang.
It was a lady who was looking for a doula, we chatted about imaginary 'due' dates, (I book my clients in for a due month) and about how I became a doula and whilst chatting I could hear her loosening up, I could feel her relaxing into the conversation and then all the words fell out of her mouth in one hurried sentence "my first birth was terrible, nobody cared, nobody spent time with me, nobody explained anything to me, I felt like a number, I bowed down to the healthcare providers knowledge and followed their lead." It was like a involuntary release of a birth she has been mentally battling with for going on 4 years!
I sat, I listened, I listened some more, I allowed her the space to say what she could no longer hold onto, I listened some more, I then said three simple words "I hear you" and her relief was audible. Her pace slowed, she paused and then like a child who had finally been understood she whispered "I've never spoken to anyone who has shown such understanding for how my birth affected me."
I hadn't 'done' anything, I hadn't waved a wand and made it all go away, I hadn't come up with some half arsed solution of how to rid herself of these demons, I just listened.
The really sad thing is, that in my job, I hear this story so often. Women all over are holding onto sad, sad memories of their previous labors and birth, and if not worked through, they are taking them with them to the next birth and the one after that, never freeing their mind to the idea that it could be different next time.
For us to be able to birth without fear, without direct negative memories we need to re-frame how we see our previous births. This isn't easily done on your own, you're fighting with the memories you have being true to you (as they are) but, by talking to someone else, someone who hears you, you have the opportunity to get it all out of your head, give your thoughts a good shake up, maybe start to view your experience another way and at the very least, by talking to someone who understands birth and can empathize (not sympathize), you'll be making peace with your previous birth, leaving way for a whole new birthing experience next time.
When I get calls like this, I want to scoop that fragile mumma up, wrap her in a warm hug and promise her I'll make her better. But it's not my job to make her better, it's my job to support her and offer her ideas to help her make herself better. I want to promise her that her next birth will be beautiful and all she hopes for it to be, but as we know, birth is unpredictable and nobody on this planet can make a promise like that.
But what I will promise her is that I will listen to her, I will hear her, I will help her to make peace with her previous experience, I will support her and I will do all that is possible to prepare her, so that when her time comes to birth, she'll be going into it with a clear head, free from the past birth experience, strong, willing, able and ready to birth again.
And that may be all she needs to come away from her next birth thinking, I bloody well owned that, that was MY birth and it was bloody awesome.