The Birth Worker Journey

The Birth Worker Journey

It's a funny thing that I have spent the last 10 years blabbing on about how awesome childbirth is. The journey has been an interesting one. It was also quite a progression, which I notice is pretty typical for those that stick with birth work for an extended period of time.

The birth work crazy cycle usually goes something like this:

  • Have an incredible birth experience.
  • Tell people.
  • Tell lots of people who want to smack you. (Those among us who are of a hotter nature may even lose a friend or two on the journey.) Your Facebook friends may start hiding you. In-person friends stop asking what your t-shirts mean. No, they don't want to know about "sphincter law." It just sounds gross.
  • Say rude stuff. (My favorite was telling someone that she didn't need her c-section. I actually said that. I hang my head in shame at the very thought of this! Gag!)
  • Act offended, nay -BAFFLED when people don't want your advice. ("Do you want to know WHY you shouldn't bottle feed?!")
  • Decide you should probably only tell people this stuff who want to pay you for the privilege of hearing your melodic voice, raised in righteous indignation.
  • Become elated when you discover there are such professions! Wha?! Life is good! Career change!
  • Become certified as a childbirth educator or doula, forthwith.
  • Temper your passions somewhat because you have a healthy outlet for all these things you need to share. Yay! Nobody is as excited as your spouse for this development. He was considering hiring a stand-in for all future business lunches and wondering if the family would notice if you stopped going to reunions. If you have teen children, they are also thrilled with this shift that makes your home safe, once again, for visitors.

    Unless you start encapsulating placentas... Even the trampoline is no longer a draw for the neighborhood kids.
  • Begin birth work excitement. I'VE FOUND MY CALLING! Others just have a job. You make a difference.
  • Realize, with horror, that this means you are also a business owner. What?! Is there a book about that. (Yes, there are a few. A few thousand.)
  • Learn how to be a business owner.
  • Second-guess yourself. Maybe you should be a waitress instead! This is hard!
  • Whatever.

    You gave birth. How much harder can this be! (Sometimes it does feel harder. And longer. Birth is pretty short compared to the rest of life.)
  • Discover, in the course of several years of birth work, that things can go super wacky in birth. Perhaps you can't always trust everything! Say what?! Shall illusions be shattered? Sometimes relaxing your throat isn't a cure-all?

    You mean the double-hip squeeze didn't fix it!?

    Say it ain't so!
  • Develop empathy. This takes many forms. You learn not to make sweeping statements. You give care providers more grace. You take gossip with a grain of salt. You recognize that people interpret their births in a variety of ways, sometimes very different than you would interpret them.

    Finally "get" that this is OK.  You realize you may have given some bad advice, said the wrong thing, believed the wrong thing and even done so with gusto.

    You find your passions tempered once again.
  • Begin to listen. Hear the birth stories women tell. Be a safe place for them to tell them. Realize that they don't necessarily need advice- that having someone who actually hears them is far more priceless than being told what they could have done differently. Feel sad when you realize that you may be the only person who has ever really cared about their story, even though it happened decades ago.
  • Stand in awe of birth, just as you did when you first caught the vision of the beauty of birth. But this time your awe is deeper, more mature, and more real. You see now the power it has and how long it lasts.

  • You teach, talk, and share differently. You listen more. You offer options. You share information. You build up. You encourage confidence.

    You don't even give advice anymore.

    Sometimes people have a hard time even knowing what you think. But they discover what they really think. And they find confidence in themselves and their unique choices.
  • You reach nirvana. Or something like that. 
What a long, strange trip it's been. (Did I just quote the most hippie band of all time? How very stereotypical of a birth worker. Sigh.)

I am pretty sure I haven't reached nirvana. But this has been a wild ride. I have found passion, then humility. I've learned a lot. I've gained some skills through birth work that I don't know if I ever would have found otherwise. I've grown, changed, and gotten older. I've felt dumb, defeated, angry, tired, and hopeless. 

I've wept for women and their experiences. I've met and loved people so different than me I don't know if I ever would have known otherwise. I've cried, been frustrated, been thrilled, proud, and elated. I've been deeply grateful for the power of birth to bring people together. This isn't just something that changes individuals. It can be something that binds us closer to one another. 

Birth work isn't that different than birth. It's a journey, and not always an easy one. It's memorable, rough, and yet beautiful in its raw, guttural purity.

It's a privilege.