Enter the Doula

A nice woman.  A self-proclaimed “cat person,” which is good, as upon entering our house she was immediately accosted by Dengue the Cat, about whom Kelly blurted out: “Her name is Dengue. Like the disease;” which is both true (yes, dengue fever, aka “breakbone fever,” is a horrible disease and yes, that’s where we got the name) and not true (I like to think it’s more of a cool name from a euphonic standpoint rather than that we were insensitive enough to name our precious little kitten after a disease that  kills thousands of people every year…like, what, we’re going to name our next pet Syphilis?), but regardless it being maybe not the best thing to reveal, unasked, to a woman who practically burst into tears at the thought of circumcising a hypothetical male child.

At which point I restrained what is probably the same insensitive and self-centered impulse that went into the naming of our cat, and only inaudibly muttered to myself: “Well, I’m circumcised…” But refrain I did, because 1. we’re having a girl, so no need to even wade into those waters; 2. if we were having a boy we wouldn’t have circumcised him; 3. the first thing I noticed, when our doula sat down, is that she had brought a burned DVD titled “Orgasmic Birth” which reminded me of a doula’s perspective of work and world, a perspective, perhaps needless to say, which does not look kindly on the genital mutilation of infants.

But she didn’t cry at the hypothetical procedure, and, to her credit, said that though it can be difficult she strives to remain neutral about such matters. She also, later, said “But I don’t want to make you anxious or nervous about non-issues” which I greatly appreciated, as, to be honest, the only other preconceived notion I had of doulas besides associating them with orgasmic births was that they may do a bit of fear-mongering about hospital births.  Which is an unfair criticism—not because they don’t raise a little fear and doubt about hospitals, but because such doubt and fear is almost wholly justified.

(Kelly and I just watched the documentary The Business of Being Born which was quite good, and which I recommend to all, especially if your initial reaction was to argue with my last point about the fear being “justified” (as I might have done before we conceived.) Or just watch this:

I mean, look, at one point in our talk, the way our doula was describing the hospital’s birthing nurses made me think that every nurse in our progressive little Oregon town was some version of the tyrannical Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (needless to say, I spent the

Nurse Ratched, ready for delivery

next few minutes daydreaming about how I’d fill the rebellious McMurphy role, which involved stealing Kelly out of the hospital, ditching the doula, and retiring to a nice cave to deliver the baby myself, which, despite the fact that my knowledge of childbirth is limited to boiling rags, urging her to “push,” catching the baby, and biting through the umbilical cord, would still have been a smashing success*), and even though I do enjoy the opportunity to indulge in the occasional heroic daydream, my natural tendency is to say:  sure, some of the nurses may be a little “by the book” but c’mon, they’re not going to straightjacket her and pump her full of sedatives and, in Kelly’s seared-onto-my-brain phrasing “cut her open like a cow.” But the thing is: they might!

It’s pretty funny looking over my notes of our meeting with the doula: at first, true to form, I noted how the doula might be some sort of numerologist because she proclaimed to “love” my phone number; I noted (with a certain calligraphic flourish) that the hospital offers food to the father-to-be; I added three question marks and an exclamation point to the words “placenta print”;

Placenta print?!??

and even noted instances of my own distracted nature, as when I started smiling in memory of the previous night, when Kelly screamed out loud and flailed her arms at one of the scenes in Jaws; but as soon as the doula mentioned “stripping your membranes without informing you” all daydreams and distractions  burnt away and I entered a hyper-vigilant, Dirty DancingNobody puts baby in a corner/Nobody strips Kelly’s membranes without her consent” state of righteousness, and the vast majority of my notes thereafter focused on the task at hand—determining the specifics of our ‘birth plan’ and prepping for the seemingly unavoidable power struggles between our valiant attempt at a natural birth and the allied forces of evil nurses and corporate-brainwashed midwives.

I don’t know. I really don’t. We’re both very happy with the pre-natal support we’ve received from the hospital, and we both really like (and I, at least, trust) the hospital’s four midwifes (even the fact the hospital has four midwives is a pretty damn good sign), so it basically boils down to not wanting to have to fight, step-by-step, for a “natural birth,” especially as we’ll be so exhausted by all the orgasming. So maybe it might be better to give birth, if not in a cave, than in our living room. But even that boils down to our insurance. Well, Kelly’s insurance. So, we’ll see. Stay tuned.

*I just realized, as one is want to do in daydreams, that I was somewhat loose with my hero archetypes, switching from the Coyote-like McMurphy to the  Neanderthal hero of Quest for Fire. So maybe there is something to this pregnant-men-are-cavemen thing…

Kelly and I, after we flee from the hospital (what's fucked-up is that I actually kind of look like that guy...)


3 thoughts on “Enter the Doula

  1. Oh Brodie! How awesome,,,both the baby news and the blog. The pic and caption above will have me laughing for days. I’m a huge advocate for doulas and midwives and used them with both of my boys births. I know my husband really appreciated the extra support for him as well. When it came to picking our doula the first time, I asked a good friend how you know it’s a good “fit”. She gave me the most honest and most true advice ever. She told me – “Ask yourself if you would do acid with that person”. Good luck and be sure to enjoy the ride! Much love and many blessings –

  2. Brodie, I’m so happy that you and Kelly are having a baby! Figuring out the ins and outs of natural birthing (especially here in NC) required more research than some graduate courses. We were lucky enough to give birth at a free-standing natural birth center, which helped a lot. And though we considered having a doula, John and I found that once we had taken the Bradley Method birth class, John felt pretty confident to help me through the birth without a doula.

    Loved your reference to The Business of Being Born. I also really liked the film, once I came to grips with Ricky Lake. It took me a few minutes to take her seriously.

    Wishing you both the best with your new little girl! Jajotopata!


  3. What this boils down to Brodie, is that you Have to walk the fine line between your natural cave man instincts and your 21st century learned tendencies. All the while surfing the emotional wave of your beautiful child bearing wife and her delicate needs. I also agree that steeling Kelly from the hospital, ditching the doula, and retiring to a cave to deliver the baby, would be a smashing success. Think about it, 180 years ago which is not that long in the history of child birth, that wouldnt have been so far fetched, granted the percentage rate of success was a fraction of what it is today. But…. As huge as this may seem now, and yes it is huge, the next child you concieve will be a breeze. Iam happy for ya brother.

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