I've been a self-proclaimed "birth nerd" for nearly a decade now. Birth is a part of my lifestyle at this point. My Facebook, Instragram, and Pinterest are all curated birth and pregnancy information meccas. I open social media and am happily flooded with photos of women laboring, breastfeeding babies, articles on the latest research regarding conception, labor, and postpartum. I'm friends with countless other birth professionals who are also sharing their passions with the world. It's not at all odd for me to be dissecting a photograph of a placenta while eating lunch, or watching a video of a woman giving birth with some tea after dinner. I live and breathe this life.
And the videos. Oh, the birth videos. They do something to us don't they? I think especially as mothers ourselves. I can watch the most 80's, permed hair, out-dated fetal monitoring, dusty birth video of a mom laboring and still my stomach will tighten in a contraction along with her. There's something about having been there, and watching someone else BE there too, it unites us on a primal, carnal level as women. As mothers who have labored and birthed as well.
And then there's the videos that aren't outdated. There's the birth videos that play like real life, like a movie, or a documentary. And I so connect with the mother. I watch her sway, I hear her breathe through the wave, another wave, her doula putting counter pressure on her back and my own lower back tightens along with her. I watch her husband diligently pouring pot after pot of hot water into her birthing tub, and kissing her lips softly and she's sweaty and working and laboring. That alone is enough for me to get a knot in my throat. The intimacy, the love, the tender care from the baby's daddy.
Then it's like watching my own version of a sports game. The pushing starts. Oh, mama, breathe, bear down, just one more breath. The world stands still. I remember this out-of-body phase of my own three births. The anticipation, the doubt, the hope, the fear, the pain.
And like magic, a fresh, soft, magnificent newborn comes floating into the mother and midwives waiting hands and up onto a sobbing new mother's chest. And dad's eyes are overwhelmed with wonder and awe and the newness of it all.
It's enough to make any mother, doula, woman, downright sob right? I mean, along with that I'm a Highly Sensitive Person, I cry when my coffee tastes too good. Ya know what I mean?
But I have trained myself not to cry.
Why? Oh boy. Well, because I'm not just a person watching a sweet birth video any more. I'm not just a spectator in this crowd of labor and birth and female empowerment. I'm a player in this game. I'm a birth professional. This is my life's work. Work. Work, not in a sterile, punch-in-punch-out way, but in a very reverent way.
In the way you are in a beautiful church with stained glass windows and candles burning up prayers to a higher being. There's a feeling that when I witness a woman give birth, I am on holy ground. I'm there through meeting a lovely, put-together, articulate expecting mother at a coffee shop, to frantic pregnancy related texts in the middle of the night, to THE call, the labor call. From there I am ON. I am rubbing backs, massaging shoulders, I'm using acupressure, I'm talking to nurses and OB's. I'm rolling out birthing balls, I'm leaning over the cold, hard edges of a hospital bed, and coaching a goddess through this passage.
I'm involved y'all. I'm so invested in my clients. When that baby comes out-- dammit do I sometimes want to just bawl my eyes out and cheer and cry and hug mom and hold that fresh new baby and cry on dad's shoulder about how GREAT his wife did.
But I can't do that.
I can't do that and I won't do that. Because this isn't my moment. As much care, and time, and effort, that I've invested, this isn't my time. This is her time. This is mom and baby and partner's time. It's their time to sob. Or laugh. Or look stunned.
My job of holding space doesn't end when baby comes out. My job continues and not only does it continue but it needs to shift quickly. It needs to shift to holding a different kind of space. What if there's an issue with the baby? What if there's a sudden health issue with the mother? I'm then the go between and support for mom, partner, AND baby. I need to have a clear mind and space to monitor what is happening and notice if it's aligned with my client's birth plan. If not, that's maybe something I should see if she needs doctor or nurse clarification on.
I can't do that if I'm having my own moment. I can't do that if I'm inserting myself into this space, as my own story, and projecting my own feelings, (even though they're feelings of happiness and love and support!) onto this new family. That's simply not what I'm there to do. That's not what's needed.
Will I maybe shed a quick tear? Oh totally. Will I need a couple days in silence, talking to another birth worker, and processing my experience? Oh absolutely, and that's vital. But my processing time isn't at her birth. That's hers.
So, there you have it. I've trained myself not to cry at birth videos in prep to not insert myself into someone else's process. I'm there to hold space. I'm there to be the solid ground. I can't do that in-between ugly cries. Oh, it's hard. It's not easy. But I think it's necessary, and vital, and a part of this sacred work.
What do you think? Is it approperiate to show emotion at births?