People talk a lot about vulnerability these days. It is common to hear discussions about the need to practice self-care by allowing yourself to let go of perceptions and be vulnerable. Letting go of the expectation of being emotionally strong is a challenge for many people, especially people of color. The more we explore our mental well-being, the more we see the harm caused by never letting our guard down and allowing ourselves to just feel everything.
I experienced this many times over the last two years, no doubt because of the global pandemic and losing my dad. It was a tough time and we all experienced vulnerability that we did not ask for. However, I was a bit surprised that I learned a lot about vulnerability during my twelve weeks of remote doula training. I’m not sure what I expected, but I guess I thought it would be more technical and clinical, and less emotional and spiritual. I quickly found out during and after class one, that I would be asked to literally meet myself in the mirror and truly feel my way through this process.
Our instructor and mentor, Latham Thomas, the founder of Mama Glow, assigned us somatic practices that required us to center pleasure, use our voices, try movement, and explore meditation and breathwork. The way in which these practices informed our study of the sacred art of doula work was through being open to experiencing ourselves as our first client. Many times the question came up for my cohort, “How will I support someone else if I don’t know what it feels like to support myself?” In other words, if I am not vulnerable and open to experiencing both pleasure and pain, how will I encourage a birthing person to fully experience pregnancy and birth?
The truth is that birth work is intuitive and spirit-filled work. It is light work. It requires us to listen and be open. Latham shares, “Birth is our opportunity to hold hands and dance with God.” Whew! Such a powerful image and message. We are creators of life and with that comes an opportunity to be completely open and feel everything. Birth is pleasure and it is pain; it is an opening, as well as a new beginning. As doulas, we are guiding women and families through this sacred journey, holding their hands and experiencing this most vulnerable moment with them. We are not separate from their experience.
Through doula training, we learn so much about biology and anatomy and what our bodies are capable of. We also explore the hard parts – pregnancy and infant loss, abortion, maternal mortality, racism and bias in gynecology and healthcare, past trauma, postpartum depression, and more. Delving into these hard parts is difficult and can be triggering for some. Yet it is necessary to go there.
As doulas, during birth and postpartum, we must show up as grounded and ready for anything. If we have not been vulnerable in our own self-work, we are not quite ready. There may be healing work to be done. We need to share our own birth stories, whether they are empowering or heartbreaking. We need to face our fears and remove our doubts and personal biases, so we can move forward and be whole.
I learned that our own life and birth experiences prepare us to do the work of a doula in ways that reading alone will not. This requires us to dig deep and to relate to some things we already know while being able to learn what we do not know. Our pain has value. Our trauma has value. Our loss and disappointment have value. And our JOY absolutely has value.
The path to becoming a birth worker is filled with vulnerable moments and cannot exist without them. I love that I was able to be supported by my doula siblings and mentors, who were open and able to share with me. There is a space where I know I can be open to sharing with them too, and with my clients, as we all navigate life and birth together.
If you are interested, the next Mama Glow Doula Homeschool: Level 1 Winter 2022 Session starts in January!