Sunday, August 06, 2006

There's a pattern here

Possibly the funnest part of doula work is the moment when you talk with a prospective client for the first time. The conversation is all potential and no action. You get a call (or e-mail) and the woman says she's pregnant, she's due at this time, she's looking for a doula. You ask further questions: Where is she delivering, what number pregnancy is this, why is she looking for a doula. Very often by the end of this conversation, the doula-client relationship is well underway. In fact, I have several women with whom I interviewed to be their doula and based on that one contact -- they ultimately hired someone else -- have formed a fond acquaintance.

Saying it's all downhill from that point is far too strong. However, with each subsequent contact, the level of doula-ly obligation, commitment and responsibility increases. Prenatal meetings are more weighty. The client shares her questions, her health history and pregnancy complications, her anxieties. Talking about these things and making sure she's getting the information she needs is a good challenge, but not without some drain on one's personal energy.

Then comes the birth. Typically this makes heavy demands on one's physical and mental reserves. No two births are the same, which keeps it interesting. And by this point, there is usually a strong enough doula-client relationship that the doula has a personal interest in seeing that the client has a good birth experience. These same factors make it all the harder when a labor takes a frustrating turn or external circumstances thwart the family's best intentions.

There are births that end with less than satisfactory outcomes for the mother or the family. The most extreme of these would be a baby's death or the birth of a very ill baby. Then there are the unplanned situations -- Caesarean, hemorrhage, induction -- that leave women grieving the birth they'd hoped to have. And even births that appear wonderful from the outside can be, somehow, not what the mother expected and therefore disappointing. It is hard to drive home from these births with any sense of accomplishment, let alone a desire to do it all again.

Of course the vast majority of births go well, even by the mother's standards. There is almost always the high watching a new life enter the world birth at the end. The real reward of this work comes in seeing the pride and satisfaction on new mothers' faces or in hearing them say, "I did it!" Playing a part in that doesn't make the work easy, but it is what keeps this doula coming back to it.

The truth remains, though, that the idea of doula work is often more "fun" than the actual business of it. It is very easy to commit to attend a birth and very hard to follow through on that commitment well.

I suppose a lot of things in life are that way. Certainly that's how legal practice was for me. And now I find that if I'm honest, knitting follows the same pattern. The funnest -- and certainly the easiest -- part of knitting is hooking up with the yarn and the pattern. It's so easy to say "YES!" to a beautifully colored hand-dyed yarn or some unbelievably soft cashmere blend.

It takes a bit more resolve to actually start a project, to commit THIS yarn to THESE needles as directed by THIS pattern. One starts to realize this is more than a lark -- you are planning to see it through to the end.

And then there is the monotony of row after row, slow building of sweater sleeves, scarf bulk, or hat depth. The temptation to walk away grows. You ask how could this ever have seemed appealing? Did I really imagine I would want to be doing this with my time rather than reading? Sleeping? Spending time with family?

Granted, there is the rush of a finished project. To see yarn transformed by your patience and care into something that can be worn is deeply fulfilling. But by then you're already involved with another clie -- I mean project. You're hopeful and enthused again. You've forgotten it will get long and unbearable and exhausting. It will. And then you'll do it again. And again.

Is this my particular pathology or have others of you experienced this?


Blogger I am a Milliner's Dream, a woman of many "hats"... said...

What a powerful analogy! And true to life with projects, etc. Typically with pregnancy the initial excitement gives way to nausea, weariness and the novelty has worn off! Or in labor, that early excitement then is followed by active labor, transition and events, foreseen or not, which cause reality to set in.

GOOD post.


10:19 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Yes, yes, yes! That is absolutely true for me as well. I love the dreaming stage, the getting to know you stage... the actual follow-through is much harder. Thanks for putting that vague feeling into words!

9:40 AM  
Blogger doulicia said...

oh good. I don't feel like such a freak now! others feel this way, too.

12:55 PM  

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