A Mother Is Born: A Doula’s Perspective On Birth

| By Michele Rosa Gee |

In any given second of any given day, four human mothers are born on this planet. Isn’t it amazing to consider that each and every living person is the product of a mother’s hard work? No matter what her birth story is, she likely overcame many challenges to create this life. I doubt Tom Petty meant to do it, but his song, “I won’t back down,” is the perfect mantra for pregnant women: “I’ll stand my ground and I won’t back down… Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out.”

Photo: Olena Afanasova

Photo: Olena Afanasova

It is true – the only way for a baby to enter the world, whether via cesarean section or vaginal birth, demands a huge amount of physical energy, emotional perseverance, and bodily transformation. A mother must be prepared for her journey believing that she won’t ‘back down’ and that she cannot rely on anyone else to do the work for her. For some women, it is the only time their own strength and capacity for endurance is put to the test. To cross over the threshold into motherhood, she must walk through her own initiation, her rite of passage. This is how a mother is born.

As an expecting woman labors, the mouth of her cervix yawns open, and at it’s widest, she literally has a gaping hole in her body that was not there before – for this moment in time, her body and her baby asks her to be more open than she has ever been. Birth is a layered process of unfolding and revealing; it is the ultimate vulnerability. A woman needs a safe environment that encourages her to embrace her innate abilities. Those around her can influence her inherent power positively or negatively, which is why it is crucial that she surround herself with people who trust in the birth process. Birth is often messy, chaotic, unorganized, and unpredictable. Like every person, each birth is unique, and should be honored as such. Creating a narrow framework and strictly defining what is normal is not only unrealistic, but it compromises the integrity of a woman’s unique way of bringing her child into the world. By intuitively navigating her own path toward motherhood, and completely trusting in herself, she will find her transition into the essence of motherhood eased.

Birth is mysterious and represents the ultimate divine feminine principle, creative and immeasurable in nature. Largely, our culture does not honor the mystery that the feminine element embodies, creating a paradoxical setting for a woman to birth in. On one hand, she is fed the imprint of distrust through the various negative attitudes toward a laboring woman’s body, and on the other hand, her body is asking her to let go and swim in its most primal force. Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee expresses a woman’s inherent force beautifully in the article, “Reclaiming the Feminine
Power of Mystery”:

“The feminine is the matrix of creation. This truth is something profound and elemental, and every woman knows it in the cells of her body, in her instinctual depths. Out of the substance of her very being life comes forth. She can conceive and give birth, participate in the greatest mystery of bringing a soul into life. And yet we have forgotten, or been denied, the depths of this mystery, of how the divine light of the soul creates a body in the womb of a woman, and how the mother shares in this wonder, giving her own blood, her own body, to what will be born.”

In our fast-paced, workaholic culture we tend to live more in our heads and spend less time observing our bodies, but as Susan Mooney, local childbirth educator and doula says, “a woman needs to put her mind where her cervix is” to stay fully present with her birthing process. Getting out of her own way will allow her body to better move a child into the world.

As a birth doula, or as defined in Greek, a ‘woman who serves,’ I will wait in stillness on the outside sphere of a birthing mother’s world, as if I am watching a wild bird that might fly away if I move too quickly – I wait until I am called to come closer. Her senses are so heightened yet all she can focus on is her own inner world where she and her baby communicate wordlessly. She is empowered in her knowing and I seek to understand her depth of need. I am quiet when she is quiet, I breathe deeply when that is what she needs, I moan with her, I rock with her, and I listen intently as the powerful lioness emerges in her pushing roars. Unlike every other person who is present, my total focus is on her – not her baby. As a witness to her sacred transformation, I hold space for her to emerge as a changed woman. For all these reasons, it is no wonder that having a doula present during labor and birth has been shown to positively impact the way a mother perceives her birth experience.

Bringing new life in, healing from the physical and emotional intensity, and sustaining that life, often through the magical breast milk that her body creates, continues to be demanding on a new mother. How she is cared for in the delicate months after her transition into motherhood is a vital element in her rite of passage. Some would say that an entire culture could be understood or defined by the way postpartum care is given to new mothers. How a woman is cared for in her transitional time, and the quality of nurturing she receives, also translates directly to her newborn and onto the relationship between mother and babe. For her to surrender into the deep unconditional love that her new role requires of her, she needs to be surrounded by a strong container of respect and protection. Just as she needed to open up physically to birth her baby, she must remain emotionally open in order to release herself into the unpredictable nature of motherhood. The skills and awareness she acquired during her birthing experience will profoundly affect her mothering years.

Some mothers will be born through struggle and strife – fighting the whole way to be heard and acknowledged. Others will be born silently yielding to each and every force that is exerted on them, and yet some will be born supported enough to feel completely empowered every step of the way. Wherever the path leads her, she will walk through the gates of motherhood eternally altered. She will know herself more deeply and she will carry her own birth story with her forever, whatever the outcome. She is not alone though, because there are three other mothers being born every second in the world. She is not alone because her ancestors have walked through that same transformational portal, shaping the world that she has inherited. She will shape the world of her children and grandchildren and her birth experience will put its mark on her lineage. The birthing rite of passage affects our entire humanity and we are all responsible for supporting a woman through her important journey into motherhood.

What can we collectively offer mothers so they feel blessed and nurtured through their birth experience? How can we, as a community, ensure that each child is born to an empowered woman? This is real social change.

Michele Rosa Gee

Michele Rosa Gee

Michele Rosa Gee – CD(DONA), BSW is a mother of three beautiful children, 2 cats, and 17 chickens. She incorporates her massage and counseling experience into her doula work with Moonlight Express Birth Services and Labor With Love Doula and Birth Services. She can often be seen performing belly dance at Jerusalem Garden Café and she has devoted her life to understanding and uplifting the feminine spirit in all ways possible.

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