Thanksgiving has me reflecting on my work as a doula & birth in general. I have to start with first of all giving thanks to my family, especially my husband, as the primary supporter of my work. Birth workers are said to have one of the highest rates of burnout. There are lots of reasons as to why (and I will get into that in another blog post). One of the reasons is that it can be incredibly hard to find work-life balance in this field. Without the loving support & patience of our partners, most of us would burnout and fail in this profession. If you have been lucky enough to have a doula by your side for your birth, know that someone else was likely behind the scenes, keeping the wheels moving on the doulas other commitments at home, and possibly even other work. It can take a village to have a baby, even though you don't want the whole village at your birth. Join me in a collective “thank you” to the partners of our communities doulas. I am thankful for mine.
This Thanksgiving my extended family decided to try something new. Normally, we would gather at one of the siblings home and be graced with much food of the homemade variety. Our families dynamics have changes over the years and with that we have made changes to how we celebrate - natural progression in a way, but we have always kept a homemade, in home gathering as a part of it all. This year we did something much different. We were going to go out for lunch, 13 of us, Chinese buffet. Fabulous idea, right? No clean up before, no meal prep, no clean up after. We can leave all that work to someone else.
We begin to arrive at the restaurant, one or 2 family members, or 6, at a time, only to discover, there is no lunch buffet. Some become disappointed because they wanted Chinese food, some are disappointed because it means loading the car back up and going somewhere else, some are becoming annoyed because finding new place for 13 people isn't all that easy, some are relaxed and happy to go along for the ride.
We continue with the plan and head over to a family restaurant known to have a great buffet. We get seated at a huge table, spread out our family (for the record, my immediate family is half of the whole family, as visually seen as my kids and husband, sat in chairs on the outside, while my siblings and their family filled in the other side). We are eat and enjoy the food and company. All is well, this is a success.
As we head home, I am feeling unsatisfied. I am physically full, but can feel an emotional void. It just isn't the same as other gatherings. Now what? I can't just leave this feeling. My approach is to plan a meal for my immediate family for the next day (which is now today). It shouldn't come to any surprise that I like tradition & rituals. That is exactly what was missing yesterday. That is what was leaving the void. Interestingly, traditions and rituals are what I enjoy most about birth work. There are “things” that just work.
Today I meet with an expecting mother to discuss being a doula at her upcoming birth and one of the terms that came up was “wise woman”. “A wise woman is considered to be knowledgeable in matters such…traditional lore.” There it is, tradition, again. There are rituals that just work and that is what makes the difference emotionally. For me to feel satisfied in the holidays, I need to have that ritual of the work of prepping the home and the meal with expected dishes that taste as good as they feel good for the heart. Just like labour is work, it is a ritual that serves us emotionally as we prepare to give birth and become parents.
We have lost birth in our community as changes have occurred, just like the changes that have occurred in my family over the years. My lesson this weekend is that getting back to rituals and understanding of the holidays and what truly leaves us fulfilled still needs to be there, as we work with changing family dynamics. Just grabbing any meal in any place served us as far as being feed, but left us emotionally empty.
If you are expecting, grab yourself a doula, or someone who understands traditions and rituals in birth. They will protect that emotional space of having a baby because that is just as important as a healthy mom and healthy baby.