I leave behind me both my failures and accomplishments. What I do today will create a new and better future, filled with inner joy.
-J. Donald Walters, Affirmations for Self Healing
I debated whether or not to write this post.
However, writing helps me to process things, and often takes some of the sting out of challenging situations. This practice of chronicling my experiences is a part of who I am, and facilitates my journey towards self discovery, path finding, refinement, etc., and I hope that perhaps someone out there will find encouragement or comfort here.
As a doula (in a city that is home to many amazing and qualified doulas), I struggle profoundly with “birth interviews.” This said, I am making a valiant attempt to convince myself that the fact that I do struggle is not a “failure” on my part as a person. I’ve gone down that road before.
I’m an introvert, sure. I’ll be the first to admit it. What does that mean, exactly? I’ll stick with the “pro’s” and focus on the “doula side of things” here… It means that I have the capacity to deeply connect with individuals. I commit. I “live it” with my families, and will support them, no matter what. I will call-in every resource and drain myself to the last drop to make sure that a mother has an experience that leaves her spiritually whole, even if it means that I have nothing left. (For a more detailed post about introverts, I’ve always liked this one over at the Atlantic.)
Oversensitive. That’s been my life long descriptor. I prefer the more accurate, “energy absorber,” that a mentor once threw my way.
The flip side? In an interview, I’m still there 100%, but I’m under a microscope. There is a constant dialogue in my head. I’m acutely aware of every look, every emotion, every wave of energy from the family who is evaluating me. I know I’m not alone in feeling that interviews are uniquely stressful and exhausting. When I’m not in “tip top shape” going in (chances are high that I won’t be – I’m a working mom with two little ones, after all), they have the potential to turn me into an approximation of myself; a weirdly “overcompensated” or “insecure” version of who I am. I lose some of my ability to be articulate. I exude nervous energy. Granted, I never present myself “horribly” – in fact, I know that I usually do “just fine” – but I also know that it’s most often not “it” and that I’ve misrepresented myself personally and as a birth worker in the process.
The inevitable result is that I am rarely chosen to support the families I interview with.
Getting past it takes serious effort, especially after the time spent investing in learning and preparing and traveling and connecting, followed by the time afterwards that is spent rehashing the entire experience, analyzing my words, my energy, my movements, and then the waiting, hoping that I’m being more critical of myself than what is truly warranted. Doula work is not work where you can say “it’s not personal.” It’s always “personal” – from that very first interaction.
Part of me loves being on an “on call” list – I am anonymous until I arrive at the birth – and that is when I’m at my absolute best – I tune-in, focus, and serve. Unfortunately, that situation only exists as a volunteer!
I’m sure that I’ll never perfect the art form of “the birth interview,” though I’ll always do my best and strive to be better. I’m also fairly certain that I’ll never completely shake that need to be chosen and respected, nor the feeling that I am a failure and somehow inferior when I hear that I’m “not the one” for whatever reason.
I don’t deny that every family should choose a doula who best meets their needs, and I’m not sure of another way to make a truly informed decision apart from some type of interview process. I’m also not sure if families often realize the impact that an interview has on their initial interaction when a doula knows or suspects that she is merely one of many.
I suppose my hope is simply that eventually, through my ongoing work and my writing, families will come to know me apart from that singular interview, to be able to surmise the person I am as part of a birth team, so that they can make their first analysis before we ever meet. I’m not truly “me” when I’m on the proverbial table.
I’ve also noted that, for some reason, the same intensity doesn’t exist when it comes to discussing postpartum or placenta encapsulation services. I’ll wager a guess that it’s because those events, even if in the future, feel more settled for everyone; a time after that pivotal moment between mother and baby has been realized, of a more gradual transition, calm, nurturing, nourishing, and healing. As easy as it is to apply some of those words to birth support, the reality is that it never lacks a distinct and very separate intensity.
In writing all this, I wonder if I’ve just stumbled upon some clarity. I truly love supporting families in birth when it’s the right situation, and I trust that we will always find each other. Nevertheless, a persistent undercurrent continues to draw me to postpartum and placenta work, first and foremost. Perhaps this turmoil is simply a catalyst in pushing me towards some much needed focus.
*If, for some reason, my post makes you feel angry or hateful, please refrain from commenting and move on. Thanks!