Do You Doula?

While at work riding the 3 p.m. Internet wave, I came across a fantastic blog, Radical Doula. As is my habit from 3-4 p.m., I promiscuously hop from blog to blog unwilling to commit to any in particular. Somewhere – I don’t even remember where or how I came across a site devoted to mid-wivery or is it mid-wifery? Because I am sucker for punishment I decided to click deeper and deeper in to the site. I say sucker for punishment because my partner and I tried for two years and spent a lot money (enough money that we could have bought a bigger home on the northfork of LI – or at least even closer to the water ) trying to get pregnant. Our dream was to have a little boy or girl and the three of us would happily ever-after in our little casita on the northfork. I also wanted a home birth with a doula. After 10 inseminations, 7 IVFs and no baby we decided to travel (so far, we have only traveled from our house in central Suffolk county to our getaway on the northfork). Anyway…so you see..sucker for punishment. Back to my copious clicking…it was not long before I happened on Radical Doula, by Miriam Perez also of Feministing. Miriam discusses what she intended by Radical Doula and how her views have evolved over time and experience. Specifically she discusses how she believed being pro-choice and a birth activist were not mutually exclusive or contradictory. Read for yourself, but here’s what I think.

Since I could remember I have always been pro-choice. It just made sense to me. The only time I ever second guessed myself was when we were trying to get pregnant. When your entire life revolves around getting pregnant, your perspective is a little skewed. With every vial of sperm purchased and with every hormone injection our hopes grew. With every picture of my uterus, my partner’s uterus or the little ova growing in the “blisters” on our ovaries we let ourselves get excited. We saw our cells divide in a petrie dish and injected into either my partner or me. Over two years we were disappointed 24 times. With each successive disappointment, you begin to doubt yourself and your worth. Was I being punished by God for all my pro-choice beliefs? Or for not believing that life begins at the moment of conception? (Or of course the really obvious sin…being gay).

Thankfully, our hormones normalized and our relationship is a sound one – we have each other after all! And I am proud to say that I am still very much pro-choice.

My reason for wanting a doula if I got pregnant (my partner never took a strong position for herself), was to have a complete birth experience. I have always wondered how over the centuries the act of birth became so sterile stripped of it’s earthiness and femininity. Pregnancy is treated like an illness. A women is checked into a hospital, hooked up to wires and machines. A doctor comes in every so often for a peek then leaves. Finally the doctor returns deems the woman ready and delivers a baby. (There are many stories from women – my sister included who complained that their doctors rushed the birth of their babies. My niece had big blue and purple bruises on her little head from the use of forceps). Let me be clear – the best place for a high risk birth is a hospital. In no way am I suggesting that women should forgo sound medical advice and regular doctor visits throughout her pregnancy. But the truth is, women are healthier than they were 100 years ago and with the aid of medical technology problems can be found much earlier in the pregnancy. So assuming a normal health pregnancy why not a home birth?

One of the great advantages of a doula is that her assistance is specific to the mother at hand – one birth at a time. She is with you from beginning to end. She acts as guardian while the mother to be labors her baby. Yes, labor folks – it ain’t going to be easy! But, let’s face it, our bodies were made for this. It is our birth right so to speak. I have always believed that the bond between mother and child is really formed during the birthing process. Anything worth working that hard for is worth protecting, no?

So, how does this all tie into Ms. Perez? Seems to me those that are pro-choice and those that are birth activists have a common goal – the physical and emotional well-being of women. Yes, the birth-activists include the baby as a charge, but I posit that to have physically and emotionally healthy babies, look at the mother. How can we reasonably expect women to protect and care for children to the fullest extent if she feels that her partner, husband, community, religion make the most important decisions for her? I don’t know when life begins. I do know that conceiving a child is a wondrous event that the medical profession admits they do not fully understand. I do know that a child once conceived is dependant on the mother for protection and sustenance. This is a tremendous responsibility. Truth is, that protection and sustenance doesn’t end at birth and some would say continues for a life-time – both mother and child’s. I want to make that decision for myself. I believe all women should make that decision for themselves. So you pro-choicers and birth activists, you are not at odds. Both groups are protecting women – one protects her ability to choose whether she wants to embark on this long and complex journey, and the other provides her with the ability to experience the her decision to the fullest.

In closing, I have decided to commit to Ms. Perez’s blog. It is intelligent, well-written and informative. Because of it, I am here at my laptop writing this post. I also leave you with this video from Good Morning America this morning.

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