getting used

December 12, 2009 § 5 Comments

i keep starting new posts and then putting them in saved.  so i am going to try to finish some of them…

i have been thinking alot about this since i read it a few weeks ago:

Doulas, whether they like it or not, are being USED by the medical establishment. They are being used to keep the laboring woman under control. Even though WE feel we are helping women, the medical establishment uses us to give the woman the ILLUSION that she has some control, to help keep her calmed down so she is no trouble. Believe me, I have attended hospital births in the form of a hospital support person, and unless you are going to get aggressive and get in people’s faces, you are just NOT going to be able to accomplish anything, because you are not seen as a professional who knows anything, and you can suggest nicely that the laboring woman wants this or that, and you will be overlooked and told no because you aren’t seen as an advocate, you are just seen as someone to pamper the mom so she will be quiet and no trouble. The hospital sees your role as totally different than you do, and they use you in that role. I refuse to be used by them, so I choose to advocate a radically, totally different option for women.

source link: are doulas a good thing?

#1  when i first heard about doulas.  they didnt really interest me.  im not sure why.  probably because the description of doulas made them sound like nurse assistants and i was *not* interested in being a nurse.  but then three years ago i got into a convo with angela from mama luna doulas.  and first off, angela is awesome.  second, she described being a doula in a way that i ‘got’.  a doula was accompanying a woman, a mother, when she is most vulnerable, while in labor, through a violent medical system.   a doula gives the emotional and psychological and physiological support to the mother.  a doula is the one by the mother’s ear softly whispering: take your time, your doing fine, you are so strong, even when the rest of the universe is yelling: push! push! push! a doula helps to create the space, to hold the space, so that a mother’s voice and body is heard and respected.

this made sense to me because i understood accompanying vulnerable people under the threat of violence.  i had done that in west bank.  so to me being a doula was accompaniment.

and when i started working as a doula.  it felt like accompaniment.  the adrenaline, the need to hit the right tone with one’s voice when talking to authorities with weapons (ob’s), the way that some of the authorities are annoyed with your presence, and others are kind of grateful cause now you can do their job.

&there is a baby at the end of birth most of the time.  in the west bank after accompanying someone for eight hours.  you (hopefully) get to go home and sleep.  but there isnt the whole oh-my-god-miracle-of-life just happened when i am accompanying palestinian shepherds.

#2  now, here is the question: was i being used?


that is what i figured out in the west bank.  the israeli army was using us.  we, human rights workers, were doing the job that the israeli government was legally obligated to do.  when israel bombs an apartment, they are obligated to provide shelter for the now homeless occupants of said-apt building.  but, do they?  no.  the red cross does.  and the united nations builds and maintains the schools that israel is obligated to provide.  and doctors without borders provides the medical care for palestinians that israel is required to make accessible.  and we, human rights accompaniers, were spending our time negotiating with soldiers to allow palestinians to do, what they had a legal right to do anyways: herd sheep, walk to school, pick crops.  we kept the detained palestinians calm.  we made the israeli occupation a little more tolerable, a little more comfortable for some palestinians–and this was on a good day.  we were the illusion of control, of external power for a community that had very little.

#3  which leaves us with one of those questions that haunts any human rights worker (and i consider a doula to be one)–even if there are all these (unintended) effects consequences, aren’t we helping?

well, im not sure if that question is relevant.  i dont think it matters all that much whether or not i am ‘helping’.  i think it matters whether or not people are being treated with respect. and mercy.  and dignity.

(unfortunately?) i cant control anyone else’s actions.  not the doctors.  not the nurses.  not the soldiers.  not the judges.  not the mothers.

and whatever good i do in the situation is in spite of my privilege and external power (my badge, my education, my passport).  because if there is one thing i know, is that those are the master’s tools.  and you cant destroy the masters house with the masters tools.  the good that i do.  is inspired.  at moments i too am an instrument, getting used, by fate rather than doctors or soldiers.

#4  a quick story: i was assisting a birth in a hospital.  the mother was 10 cm dilated after being in the hospital for over 12 hours.  she had spent the last six hours on an epidural.  all of her friends and family had come to the birth.  so there were almost twenty people in the room.  the nurses came in saying she was ready to push and we needed to get most of these people out.  but no one wanted to leave.  everyone was bitching that they had waited all this time and now we were making them leave before the ‘main event’.  i made a very un-doula-like decision.  i announced that i was going to leave.  after i made my announcement other visitors finally left.  the nurses took me aside and said: are you sure you want to go?  i mean… (the nurses were very doula friendly) and i nodded and me and the others sat in the waiting room down the hall.  smallville was on the tv.  the mother in law stood and said that she was going to see what was happening.  she came back after a couple of minutes and said that the nurses said that the mother was fully dilated but there was a lip still hanging on.

i imagined her laying in bed, under the white sheets, writhing slowly and mute.

i said: tell her to relax her jaw.  she hasnt made a sound this whole time.  no matter how much pain she has been in she keeps her mouth shut.  tell her to relax her jaw like this (i let my mouth hang open) and moan loud.  and see if that helps.

10 minutes later the mother in law came running back in.  the baby boy was born.  ‘it worked!’ the mother in law said.  ‘i told her to do what you said with the jaw and the moaning and then the baby came out in like two pushes! i was there! i got to see it!’ she was so so proud.  she had gotten to be a vital part of her grandchild coming into the world.

#5  now. yes. i broke doula protocal.  i left.  when the rules say that i should have stayed.  but i followed my intuition.  yes, i like seeing babies come into the world.  but i love, adore, worship  mothers to giving birth to their own power as well as their child’s earthly life.

see, any good that i did that day, wasn’t about me being in the role of doula.  i actually did the very thing that doulas aren’t supposed to do.  the entire premise of being a doula is based on the evidence that says that having someone empathetic next to the birthing mother increases the chances for an empowered mother/child.

any good i did that day.  was about me being a sister.  that in the midst of all that crazy family and friends and take out food and soap operas and music videos and the babies playing on the floor.  i watched the mother.   i was on her side.  and for a moment when she was pushing, but couldnt fully relax and open.  the universe gave me a tiny vision.  i could *see* the very page in ina may’s maroon book that had the sphincter rule: if one sphincter is relaxed, the other sphincters will also relax.  in other words, relax the jaw, mouth throat, and you will relax the cervix.

#6  we are being used by the systems of violence.  denying this won’t change that fact.  and what will protect all of us, mothers and birth workers and families, is if we remember to center mothers in birth.  not the birth worker, not the nurses, not even our own protocal, scientific evidence and good intentions.  but the mother, her voice, her choices, her autonomy.  because it is her life on the line.  her body.  her birth.  her baby.  and when we do center her, the universe (like the mother herself) may show us how the slave’s tools (such as imagination, miracles, and moaning) are stronger than any of the master’s houses.


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