-A YtheDoula Story-
At 2:33am her labor intensified and she was now in Trans. The look on her face was psychedelic. It was as if all of her fears had whispered away as she began to surrender to her godliness. In that moment she began her transformation into this fearless warrior whose body was no longer hers but belonged to all the women who once walked in her footsteps, crouched down on their knees, and birthed nations across the oceans.
THE DIVINE INTERVENTION
I met Arlene and Charlie through divine intervention is what I like to believe. Just days before Arlene’s predicted due date, her original Birth Doula, my former classmate who trained as a Doula with me; had to leave for Africa to embark on her 6 week journey of nursing and midwifery studies. Like any responsible Doula does; Ashlie decided to contact me and refer me to the couple as their back up Doula just in case the baby came after Ashlie boarded her flight. Ashlie and I did our Birth Doula workshop together and she believed that my philosophies of birth were parallel to hers and I would be a great stand in for her if the unfortunate situation happened where she would miss the birth of the Baby. In the beginning of the week Ashlie had us get acquainted via Group chat and email. I was briefly educated on the journey that the soon to be mum and dad had been through with Ashlie. I began to feel as though I was called into this birth for a reason. My spirit guides told me that I should meet with the couple as soon as possible because I would soon be the chosen Doula for their birth.
On a Friday night after a long week, Arlene and Charlie arrived at my Harlem office with Poppa Charlie’s mother and loads of questions and apprehension up their sleeves. I was so excited to meet them but felt a weight of responsibility to be ready at any given moment to support this couple as a Doula with knowing little to nothing about who they were, how they loved, and what I could possibly pull out of their souls to provide them with the strength they needed to get through this miraculous experience. I literally had 24hrs to meet them; their souls, their spirit, and the spirit of their unborn baby through the love they expressed towards each other.
THE INITIAL CONSULTATION
I left that consultation feeling inspired by Arlene, after conversations with her and husband about her fears and joys, anticipations and expectations. I learned that there were so many warrior spirits that surrounded and raised Arlene to be the woman she is today. I wondered to myself how I would gather all this power to assist her through what I knew would be the biggest transformation in her life. With much privilege I took on the responsibility of being chosen to be her gate keeper of life and death as she welcomed the new life of her baby onto this earth and departed from herself as a woman who was not yet a mother. I gave Arlene and her husband Charlie a few days to consider hiring me as a Doula, because after all; my belief is that the baby chooses the birth Doula not the parents. They went home that night, meditated on it and emailed me way before the 24 hours to inform me that I should be ready because the baby had chosen me.
THE CASUAL YET NECESSARY CONVERSATION
My practice as a Doula is based on how I can be this woman’s keeper. My goal is to dive deep into her psyche and learn her in depth feelings about the journey she is on as a woman. I often find myself asking mum’s who are fearful of labor if, “They are ready to be a mother to this specific child.” Through my observations I have gathered that all births are different for mums and that often times when a momma is worried about her delivery it is based on a fear of what life would now be like after the baby becomes a little human right before their eyes. Therefore, I tap into my client’s emotions with genuine curiosity in search for guidance on what will be needed of me as a Doula toensure this woman is empowered by this experience. I remember asking Arlene if she was ready to be a mum. This was Arlene and Charlie’s first baby. After our in person consultation, I went home concerned by Arlene’s fear of not living long enough to see past the birth of her baby girl. She expressed that one of her fears was not being able to see far enough into her future to witness her baby grow up. I wondered if her mentality sprung from a societal repression of the Generation Y2k, whom see the world for the scary place that the media makes it out to be. I wondered what made this strong, vibrant, and joyful woman hinder her own ability to believe in the hope she had for a wonderful future with her new family. As a Libra myself, I decided there were so many layers apart from strength and perseverance that made up Arlene’s character. I learned she was a Libra who was in the process of working tirelessly to bring both sides of her family together in love and unison before the arrival of her baby. Arlene was joyful about meeting her baby but was anxious about welcoming her baby into a safe and loving environment. I assured her that nothing happens as a coincidence and that baby would be what would remind her, her family, and all who are a witness of what love, life, and adventure is truly about; the unexpected and the inevitable.
FROM CONCEPTION TO CONTEMPLATION
Around 9:00am Arlene began to update me with what her body was undergoing. Charlie was more excited with letting me know every new phase Arlene went through in the beginning of labor. I asked Charlie to keep me updated. But also to go about their day as normal as possible. The two of them began their Saturday morning with loving vibes, a stroll in the city, grocery shopping, and even having a good ole slice of pizza at a local pizza parlor. As a Doula, I was 40 minutes away with my phone attached to my hand going along with my day working my 9-5 with the readiness to come up with an excuse for my supervisor if at any given moment I had to leave for the birth of the baby. I asked Charlie to track Arlene’s labor moods, and contractions as the hours went on in order for me to know exactly when I would have to leave for Harlem from White Plains NY. It is always better to be near the laboring mum. Not necessarily with her all day, but nearby just in case the baby wants to rush into this world without notice. By 1:00pm I decided to take the train ride into the city and hang out at a local coffee shop since the text messages from Poppa Charlie were getting more dramatic by the hour. Just as new parents would react in a situation not knowing what to expect; I wanted to assure them that I would be near them for whenever they needed the in person support. By 6:00pm, Arlene’s contractions were going at every 5 minutes, 30-40 seconds long. At 7:30pm I arrived to their home. My favorite part of my Doula career is the reaction of the parents, especially the mum the moment I arrive at their door. Like most mums in their homes during labor, I walked in to Arlene cleaning. It is almost an innate reaction that a woman has while laboring at home to begin cleaning to get her mind off labor and keep distracted from the process. However from a birth worker’s perspective; I know too well that this kind of behavior is anxiety manifesting its form of cleansing out the old energies in preparation for the new energies and new life coming into the home. Then again Arlene is Colombian; historically many Hispanic and African cultures the woman always cleans when they have a lot on their mind. Can you blame us? It is extremely therapeutic. A clean space equals a clear mind.
Upon Charlie opening the door, Arlene saw me and my bright cheesy smile that followed with a joke, “What are you doing? Cleaning? Why? Wheres the party? I asked. She smiled with joy. A spirit of peace came over her. It was such a privilege seeing her sweep the broom across the living room so calmly as if she had no care in the world because now her Doula was there. Little did she know she was going to be the one doing all the work; the cleaning included. It helps for a mum to be active during contractions and I wasn’t going to be the one to take that away from her. I made this very clear to her through many jokes. The night progressed smoothly as both mum and dad insisted in catering to me as if I was a guest of honor. I had to remind them that I did not need anything to drink or eat but that I was there to serve them and make sure they had everything they needed to be comfortable and Zen. During Arlene’s contractions, Charlie would tend to her like a Lion romancing his lioness, gallantly protecting and nurturing her yet secretly adoring her with all his gratitude as she labored their unborn baby.
THE EFFECTS OF AN UNEXPECTED GUEST
At around 9:40pm unbeknownst to me the unexpected happened. As a birth Doula and future midwife I have strong beliefs about who should be present at a woman’s birth. Most pregnant women don’t usually conceptualize how spiritual the birthing journey can be. Nor do they consider how powerful each individual presence involved during the labor can be. It is highly important for all of those who are in the presence of the laboring mum to be invited and to only be there to serve the situation with physical, spiritual, and emotional support. That being said, no one who is fearful of the processes of labor should ever be in the presence of a birthing woman. Energy is very real and while a woman is laboring she is literally in between two realms; the realm of life and of death and as she travels spiritually in and out of this dimension she gathers strength and purpose from all her ancestors and all her predecessors in order to birth her child.Therefore it is my duty as her Doula to protect the space for her to travel freely and peacefully.
Suddenly I heard a key turning in the door of the apartment and my heart dropped. I didn’t want to believe what I knew was already manifesting. After all, Charlie and Arlene made it very clear to me that Arlene’s mother in law; Charlie’s mother was not going to be in attendance during the laboring process of their baby. That she would only be allowed in the waiting room during the delivery as she expected her first grandchild. Arlene was doing so well during her contractions that we all found it so comical how she would be telling a story and sharing jokes but then in a split second she would close her eyes and disappear into a wave of energy that both Charlie and I could only imagine what kind of roller coaster ride it felt like. Like clockwork, Arlene was at a steady pace of 40 second contractions every 3 minutes by now but then the door opened.
It was Charlie’s mother. All of my attention was glued to Arlene when I noticed her shift in energy the moment she saw her mother in law come into the house. I quickly accessed the situation and realized that the couple was not expecting her arrival to the home before they went to the hospital. As I continued to look at my watch in monitoring Arlene’s contractions I became worried when I noticed that she was no longer contracting every three minutes. She had stopped contracting for 10 whole minutes now and I quickly decided she needed a change of environment away from her mother in law. I asked her to come with me to her bedroom and I brought it to her attention; how her energy became bothered and unsteady the moment her mother in law walked in. She shared with me how she loved her mother in law but that her cigarette smoke scent and the past week full of horrifying birth stories from her was what she feared having to experience at that moment.
FROM A WARRIORS BELIEF CAME BABY CHARLIE
It was in this defining moment that I realized how much value my work as a Doula truly has. As I paint this picture I wish for all to imagine for just a moment this beautiful yet chaotic energetic chain of events that led to the minutes that introduced baby girl Charley into this earth.
By 10:30pm mum had progressed in labor and the energies of the home felt a bit more peaceful. Mother in law was staying out the way by suddenly picking up the responsibility that every Afro-latina woman is graced with during any moment of anxiety and she began cleaning every inch of her son’s apartment. As I monitored Arlene, she began to not be able to voice her labor progression and the jokes were now one sided. It was then that I prepared mentally to schedule our next moves. My duty was to keep calm, and get poppa to order this Uber, make sure mom in law continued to scrub the floor somewhere in the back, and help Arlene feel safe every time she transitioned further and further away from her natural state of consciousness in order to bare the labor pains.
No surprise at all when I was approached with the duties of ensuring mum would stay mentally in the birthing zone. It almost became a game every time Arlene will have a 3 minute break between contractions and start asking everyone if they had everything they needed. She asked if we had her IDs, did we have the suitcase, did I have everything I needed. I was like, “Arlene, focus on birthing this baby and let us handle everything.”She even suggested we all take a selfie in the elevator on our way to meet the Uber. I couldn’t wait to tell the Uber driver about how important this ride was for him as much as it was for us. Shout out to that Handsome African Uber driver who was so impressed by Arlene’s powerful handle on the situation she was dealt. It made me so happy to be apart of a man from Africa witnessing an American woman labor so gracefully with no complaints. The whole ride to the hospital he kept affirming her ability to do it. We all became Doulas in that car ride!
Upon arriving to the hospital I had to mentally prepare myself for the worst. Being a birth Doula in hospitals can be very challenging when working to keep mum at peace in a very chaotic and stoic environment. Arlene was 4 centimeters when we arrived and the nurses suggested that she leave for two hours and come back when her labor had progressed. Imagine the disappointment when we hear this after thinking we did most of the work at home. It was game time for me.
My job was to make the best of the situation at hand which was the reality that Arlene and her husband would have to labor in this hallway waiting room with other expecting families staring. I quickly positioned her crouched over a big medicine ball, pulled out my headphones from my bag and activated her prepared playlist. She was officially gone. By 1am she had advance a few centimeters and her contractions were getting stronger. There were moments where I had to coach her like a sports player to get up off the floor or switch positions in order for her to keep her blood circulating and get the baby to move downward. I had to make sure she was comfortable and not cramping her legs by being on her knees for too long.
Charlie was so loving throughout the whole process and only wanted to ensure that she wasn’t in too much pain. Charlie kept Arlene comfortable the whole time and would kiss her and keep his hand on her to remind her that he will never leaver her side especially in their toughest moments. It was magical to bare witness to a poetic love story I was just beginning to read. Many moments occurred when I would look away from Arlene and see her mother in law right behind her rubbing her back the whole time, while we were on the floor, when we moved to the middle of the hallway against the wall. I realized that mother in law understood why I was there. Here was this 60 something year old lady whose had traumatizing births in the same city was now witnessing her daughter in law have an empowering experience with a dream team who was supporting her every time she moved, had to pee, or needed us to hold a cubby for her to throw up in while we stood in the middle of the hallway. It was in that moment that I knew my job was to be the Doula for this whole family who was learning the true beauty of natural labor.
By 2am Arlene’s moans made a roaring entrance into a very quiet scene. It was time. Charlie had Arlene come off the elevator after a walk alone together around the floor below us and as they stood in the elevator she had to step out because baby was coming. In the elevator hall way they stood and Arlene let out a roar like a warrior who had led all her people to the promise land but was tired as heck. Her body collapsed over the arms of her husband and her water broke. I stood watching everything from the glass doors confident that this was my place just making sure they knew I was close enough to assure them that all of what was happening was completely normal.
It took only 2 seconds after her roar for Mother in law to flee to the scene while asking me if she was okay. I explained that she was fine. Her water just broke and there is amniotic fluid on the floor and its time; but she’s doing great! Mother in law rushed to get through the door just like a momma bear wanting to protect and save all and anyone in distress. I almost had to box out mother in law from the energetic bubble the couple was in to make sure that her fears wouldn’t freak out Arlene or Charlie. I knew I had to watch out for mother in law the moment she rushed in asking if everything was okay which transmuted into Charlie taking all the napkins he had in his pocket and started cleaning the wet floor while trying to hold up his wife. I laughed. And quickly gave everyone a small speech in our hallway huddle, “Charlie leave that there, I am sure they are use to having women’s fluids everywhere around here. Mother in law, this is normal. She is now ready to deliver baby. Arlene, you did it! You are at the end of your marathon and your so close to meeting your baby.” Within minutes we get her admitted into her room and Arlene delivers a beautiful baby girl in which no one knew the sex of before meeting her.
They named her Charley in honor of her daddy. I never seen a love so quiet yet powerful between two people the way I have witnessed between Arlene and Charlie. That morning I had battled more negative spirits and transmuted negative energy into positive than I ever had in such a short period of almost 12 hours. I wrestled with mother in laws negative experiences and fears and watched her transform her birthing beliefs by watching how calm and graceful her daughter in law was during her whole labor. I then had to tame the energy in the room while comments of a prejudice P.A. insisted in telling us how well women of color delivery babies because “Our bodies were meant to reproduce.” I, as a Doula have been honored to be asked to create a sacred space for this family to welcome their baby girl no matter what was happening around them.
After two hours and smiling faces and a now topless Father Charlie, I knew my job that morning was done. After a twelve hour shift I was ready to go home, rest, and regroup. Baby was beautiful and healthy and grandma was overjoyed and impressed beyond belief of how well her daughter in law and son went through the journey of childbirth.
A week later I visited Arlene, Charlie, and Baby girl Charlie at home. Mother in law had gone back home to puerto rico and the home smelled like love and new born baby. The couple remembered everything except some of the funnier moments I would have to keep out of this story because I can easily make this into a novel. We shared pictures and drooled over how adorable baby Charley was. After making sure the couple was in high spirits and in love I was overjoyed especially when they confirmed their gratitude for my Doula services. To make a long story short, we are good friends now and I can’t wait to see Baby Charley the warrior princess grow into a Queen like her mum one day.
~ YtheGarcia Q1-2017