Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Simple Gifts

A completely unexpected benefit to my doula work has been the new music, writers, ideas and information I’ve gathered as a result of it.. It reminds me of living in the college dormitory. You could walk room to room and find something new in each one: designer perfume, The Cure, euchre, college republicans, “century club,” Kahlil Gibran. (If I seem sheltered, trust me, I was! Still am, I suppose.)

So it has been with births and the families I’ve met. From one family, I learned that Nora Jones was the singer I’d been enjoying on the radio. They played her first CD at during labor and I can’t hear “Come Away with Me” without thinking of them. The mother, an anthropologist, also introduced me to the writings of Robbie Davis-Floyd, as well as several other writers on Western reproductive anthropology.

At another birth, I read the mother a story while she drifted off to some well-earned sleep after getting her epidural. The story was “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” and its author, Henry Kuttner (writing as Lewis Padgett). Not being a scifi reader, I suspect I’d never have encountered the story. I am so glad I did.

I got to listen at one birth while the father read his wife poems, including one by Billy Collins (“Litany”) that perfectly captured their playful relationship.

A father told me as we awaited his daughter’s arrival that in Hebrew lore, babies in the womb are taught the entire Torah, but then right before they are born, an angel touches them right between their nose and upper lip (the evidence is that little dimple we all have), the babies go “Ooh!” and forget everything. Then they get to spend their whole lives relearning it. [ed. If I have botched the parable beyond recognition, I apologize. I think that came out at about hour 22 of labor!]

My bedroom is slowly becoming a memento of the births I’ve attended. I have a plaque that one mother made me, a beautiful picture from another. I have a pile of books I’ve either been given by families or have bought myself after discovering them at births.

I can’t find the quote I’m thinking of but somewhere I remember reading that you can never come into contact with another entity and leave the encounter unchanged. As far as births go, that is certainly the case. Obviously there are the memories and the birth experiences themselves. But I never foresaw that my physical environment would change as well. It is such a sweet surprise.


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