A year ago today I supported my first birth as a doula. And just a few weeks ago, I attended the most recent. It’s very fitting that I reflect back on a year’s worth of births as a doula as we enter a season of gratitude.
I’m writing this to say thank you.
Thank you for your faith, and for welcoming me into a very private and sacred space.
Thank you to the partners, who trusted I would know when to step back so they could step forward.
You are amazing in how you dealt with your challenges. You labored for days without a single complaint. You worked and learned and planned, and brought together a community of women who surrounded you as you achieved the homebirth you dreamed of. Your wild roller-coaster of a birth surprised everyone. You were strong as you welcomed your baby a week before finishing school, and formed a family of two; you’re going to be a wonderful mother. And you, who gave birth via Facetime, and were still cracking jokes that had everyone laughing while you gave birth with grace and beauty and humor.
Thank you for showing me the varied ways women experience labor. Thank you to the seasoned athlete who said, “That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done” with tears in her eyes. “But she’s here. And she’s perfect.” To the one who said in surprise, “That wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.” And to you, who analyzed every option, weighed all the pros and cons, and were so calm during labor no one realized you were nearly ten centimeters.
Thank you to the partners for trusting me. I know some of you were skeptical at first, though I like to think I won you over eventually. Some of the most beautiful moments were those involving you. When you and your wife paused before entering triage to offer up a quick prayer. When you watched your wife intently and breathed through every contraction with her in order to be completely in tune. When you were so excited to hear your daughter’s heart beating strong on the monitors. My heart broke when you watched from half a world away as your daughter was born; I remember you stayed up all night to be sure you didn't miss the call. When you were ready to fiercely protect her against any perceived threat. When you were there, every moment, putting pressure where she needed it to make her more comfortable. When you left your car running at the curb, keys in the ignition because nothing was more important to you than making sure she got inside as soon as possible. When you welcomed your baby into your own hands, and reassured her that he was really here. And even to the father who wasn’t there, and doesn’t plan to ever be there, for giving her the baby boy she’ll love more than you can ever imagine.
You are all incredible. I have never seen anyone look as beautiful as you looked when you labored and birthed your baby. I know you don’t believe me—your hair was falling around your face and your makeup had worn off, if it was even there in the first place—but you were. You were strong, and stunning and I don’t have enough adjectives to describe how in awe of you I am.
At the end of each birth, there’s a moment when I’m getting ready to leave in order to give you the privacy to get to know the tiny human who has turned your life upside down. I’ve packed my things up. The nurses have cleaned the room and left. It’s quiet. I let you know that I’ll be in touch in the next day or two.
You say some version of “Thank you.” You’re barely looking at me, you’re so enamored with your baby.
And I say, “It was an honor and a pleasure.” It’s not planned. I always think I’ll say something different, but every time it slips out, just the same, just as true as the first time a mother thanked me for supporting her through her birth. It comes out, and it’s completely sincere. There is no greater honor than to be able to do what I do. I get to witness incredible strength. I get to see miracles occur. I get to see raw beauty. I get to see women tap into something they didn’t know they had.
So, thank you. It’s been an honor and a pleasure.