Life Lessons Hosting a Birth Doula Training

I’ve been a birth doula for 8 years and last weekend I hosted a birth doula training. What did I learn?

Learning about birth impact on breastfeeding from Linda Smith.

Learning about birth impact on breastfeeding from Linda Smith.

The week before the workshop was overwhelmingly busy for me. I had to install my break room kitchen cabinets for the birth center, as well as put in the kitchen sink and counter. The night before the training I stayed up till midnight putting in the kitchen sink! I discovered putting in a kitchen sink by yourself is quite empowering! Working as hard as I was, too hard in fact, was difficult for my body. I was worn out!

At the beginning of the workshop, April Kline, doula instructor and founder of Birth With Spirit, spoke about the meaning of the word “doula”. She spoke to the power of being present with someone through difficulty, that it will change lives and heal trauma. “Everyone in this room is very intuitive and empathetic. That’s what draws you to this work. One of the greatest gifts we can give someone, is to be empathetic and feel what they feel, but when they are down in the weeds, we can be on the shore. When we are good at practicing boundaries and self care we can do that for people. We can make it safe for people to tell their stories.”

One of the greatest gifts we can give someone, is to be empathetic and feel what they feel, but when they are down in the weeds, we can be on the shore.
— April Kline

It was a powerful image.

After the workshop I had time to focus on my health. I took time off to process, meditate, and enjoy nature. I was able to tell my story to myself and my partner. But our stories resulted in conflict, as he became defensive, and I felt misunderstood and unheard.

The next day, I went to a meeting where a friend shared about the “right to make decisions”, something which was spoken much about in the doula training, as regards autonomy, informed consent, and birthing. During the meeting it all clicked! I realized when I had felt unheard by my partner, was when he was feeling emotional about his previous experiences. This led to me not listening and validating him. We were both in the weeds!

With the realization that we could both listen and validate the other’s experience, without becoming defensive or feeling lost, came the hope that conflict can be turned on it’s head. Listening and empathizing, while maintaining healthy autonomy and boundaries, is magical. It can transform conflict in even the most difficult situations.