As a doula I attended births right up until I was 34 weeks pregnant. I needed to sit more, eat more, and take more frequent bathroom breaks, but other than that it felt normal. Thankfully no one was due during that exhausting and nauseating first trimester.
During my pregnancy I had the opportunity to work with local midwives quite a bit, and felt like I was really developing a professional rapport with them. I was busier than I had ever been as a birth doula and I turned down as many births as I attended. Some of the last births I attended before giving birth to Levi were intense, but thankfully the very last birth I attended was a calm and beautiful homebirth. Either way - positive or negative - I reminded myself often that 'their birth story is not my birth story'. I wanted to remain open to whatever our story was going to be, and not spend my last days of pregnancy wondering if my birth would be just like those of the women I knew. Our story would be our story, with its own struggles, wonders, and discoveries.
I haven't been at a birth since April 2011. I've done some private childbirth education in the meantime, brewed up some herbal infusions, creams, and tinctures, and even helped catch 10 miniature goldendoodle puppies last week. None of those carry with them the same pressures and joys as a birth though.
I go on-call a week today for my first 'post-Levi' clients, and may have a second couple due around the same time. I've never been this kind of nervous about attending births. I love it. I miss it. I believe that what I do makes a significant difference in the lives of women, babies, and their families. I'm looking forward to providing doula care once again. And yet, I'm nervous - that Levi won't cope well without me; that my family won't cope well with a potentially hungry & unhappy Levi. The sort of things any mother returning to work is nervous about I think.
I tell myself that I could just wait - refer clients out to other fabulous doulas in the area and take more time with Levi before returning to birth work. But I know myself. I know there will always be a reason for me not to do it, even though I want to do it, so I may as well jump in now as later.
I know that the nervous butterflies aren't ever going to leave me now. No matter where I am, or what I'm doing - thoughts of Levi will flit about the edges of my consciousness, and even wiggle their way to the forefront of my mind. I'll see the sweat and effort of a mother pushing her baby into the world, and remember what those final moments before Levi emerged were like. I'll see a new baby and remember how it felt to hold Levi the first time. I'll help a new mother bring her baby to the breast, and my own body will remind me that Levi hasn't nursed for a while.
Their story is not my story.... and yet they are the same story: struggle and emergence; joy and heartache; becoming and loving.... All women who have carried life within, even for a brief moment; all women who have wished and prayed and hoped for that spark within to take life but haven't yet had it catch, share this story.
We each have our own story, and we're all part of the same story.
In going back to births, I feel like I'm journeying into something that is both comfortingly familiar, and scarily unknown. Only time will tell how it all unfolds.