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The journey of being of doula continues on with the latest birth that I attended last week. Although all of the previous ones have been extraordinary and powerful, this one was incredibly special because the mama happened to be one of my very best friends.
I remember when I first found out my friend was pregnant, I was thrilled. We sat in my backyard and talked about all the exciting things that came along with having child. It was a beautiful warm day made better when she asked if I would support her birth as a doula. Ahhhh!!! I think I shrieked at the sheer delight at her request. We have been friends for years and have seen each other through so many of life’s challenges and triumphs. From bad break-ups to career changes, our friendship has been one big enjoyable adventure. And now, being given the opportunity to witness her become a mother felt like such a deep and profound honor.
The only complication was location. My friend relocated to a different city two hours away. We discussed the logistics of me getting there in time, including train schedules and possible bus routes. We played out different scenarios but ultimately recognized that there was a possibility that this may not work out. However, one of the commonalities we have always shared is trusting the universe. And that’s exactly what we did. Labor takes time, we agreed, and so we proceeded forward fully believing this would all perfectly align.
In the weeks leading up to the birth, we were in constant contact. Excitement and anticipation were building, especially since there were a few false alarms. Several late nights I spent investigating the best possible form of transportation which usually was a 3am train from Penn Station or a 2am bus from 11th avenue. Far from ideal. But luckily, baby decided to come when she was expected, right on her due date. I was fortunate enough to have borrowed my in-law’s car so to be able to drive myself there directly. Since this birth happened to start slowly, I made it to the hospital with plenty of time to spare. The whole time my heart was pounding with intoxicating excitement.
Upon arrival, my friend was already settled into her room and smiling. She was cracking jokes with the nurses and had an upbeat and positive attitude. There’s my girl, I thought, still happy as can be and finding humor even in this circumstance. Amazing! A powerful reminder of how keeping the energy light and fun can be extremely beneficial in creating a positive atmosphere.
Hours pasted by and things started to intensify. As with all births, regardless of planning and intention setting, visualization and hardcore vibing, things almost never go according to plan. And this birth was no different. However, mama, her husband and myself were a really strong team, adjusting and adapting to the constantly changing experience. In the early phase, we played music while rocking and swaying through each contraction. I massaged her back while he held her close, managing the sensations with steadiness and ease. I coached her with words of encouragement and strength, reminding her of the temporariness of the situation. We focused on breathing, deep and slow, to relax and calm the body.
At some points, we were able to take short rests to help rejuvenate and restore our energies. Dad and I alternated getting cold water, ice chips and apple juice to help keep mama hydrated. When there was a lull, my friend and I reflected on our decade long friendship, how it all started at CRUNCH gym with some boxing sessions and everything else we shared leading up to this point.
When it came time to push, I was the first non-medical person to watch the baby emerge. What an honor to see this small, sweet baby girl enter the world already so beautiful with pink cheeks, alert eyes and a perfect little face. It was an extremely emotional moment once the midwife laid baby on mama’s chest for the birth of a new family was complete.
The most magical part of this whole experience was viewing my friend from a totally different perspective. I have always known she was a warrior – our friendship started out in a boxing ring – but this was a whole new level. Regardless of what was happening, my friend kept her smile big, her energy high and her spirits intact. Not only did she make jokes with the nursing staff but she also had the courage to speak up for herself when necessary. She trusted the process and her body, making clear decisions that honored what she felt was best.
When the contractions were the most intense, she remained centered, calmed and focused. Despite the pain and discomfort, she not only welcomed it but also embraced it, thus making each contraction a source of fuel and motivation. I witnessed every ounce of her being be consumed by this experience and was floored by her strength, endurance and power. Her hope never wavered nor did she ever complain but instead just kept pressing onwards with heart and mind set on the prize.
I was also fortunate enough to be the first person to walk out into the waiting room and share the baby’s arrival with all the parents. They bursted out into hugs, exclamatory noises and a million questions. I was bombarded with love and hugs as I delved into all the details of their brand new grandchild. It was a moment so full of love and as I walked back to mama’s room, I couldn’t help but feel the pure joy this young new life has already brought to so many people, myself included.
As a doula, this birth taught me a tremendous amount. As with each one, I am constantly amazed how a similar experience can be totally unique and different for each woman. A big lesson I learned from this is that birth can take time. I was there for 24 hours…and baby only came around hour 22! We were faced with a journey and I felt especially adept at remaining present, solid and ready. This time around, I took extra special care to stay fueled with snacks and water and to rest whenever the small window presented itself, something I seriously lacked in the past. My friend’s joyful and playful attitude reminded me of the possibility to keep birth as light and fun as possible, especially in the early stages. I also recognized the power of a strong team. My friend’s husband and myself were able to form a connection to help mama through the countless hours of labor. We communicated well and support each other in order to be solid for mama. Despite the length, the birth unfolded so beautifully and at the end resulted in a healthy and happy mama and baby.
A special thanks to my Mama, my dear friend, her husband as well as their incredible family for the privilege to share in this momentous occasion. I feel an extraordinary bond to this angel baby and look forward to cultivating a lifelong relationship with her.
Here’s to the newest and cutest family!