Monday, June 15, 2015

decentering the self

During the doula workshop a couple weeks ago, one of the most valuable lessons I heard, over and over, was this: it is not about you.

That sounds obvious, right? You're there for support. It's the birthing mother who is the center of attention, and everyone knows it. Or should.

But learning to decenter the self, in order to place someone else at the center, is always harder than it sounds. It is obvious. And never easy.

For me, this means two distinct tasks. First, it means working very hard to deliberately drop the "prove myself" attitude that has been my lifelong default. I don't know when it started, because I don't remember ever not trying to prove myself to everyone around me. At school. At church. At home. On the field. I'm good. I'm smart. I'm capable. I'm fast. I'm strong. I try harder than everyone else. I know more than everyone else. Watch me and see. Tell me I'm awesome. 

But being a doula isn't about proving yourself, to anyone. Not to the mother and partner that hired you; not to the nurses or midwives or doctors around you; not to yourself, even. It's about being there. It's about paying attention to what's happening with someone else, so closely that you anticipate needs and meet them as they arise, without needing any acknowledgment because it's not about you, what you know, what you can do, or even the lovely selfless noble reasons you're there doing it.

Second, it means identifying, owning, sorting through and leaving at the door all my own emotional baggage around sex and relationships and bodies and pregnancy and birth--baggage both good and bad. You can't leave it behind if you don't know what it is.

You can't decenter the self if you don't know who you are.

Okay, fine, yes, I just went and feminist-cyborg-philosophized on the simple profound "it's not about you" message. But that's how I roll. :)

Monday, June 01, 2015

behold, I am doing a new thing

Hi, everyone.

Yes, behold: it's a new thing! A blog post for the first time in, what? A year? It feels like it, anyway.

I know that the world does not depend on the regularity of my blog postings, and that no one is waking up asking themselves, "I wonder if there's anything new on that blog I used to read," or anything like that. It doesn't matter, because frankly, while I enjoy the notion that there might be a small audience out there, this blog has always unapologetically been for me, primarily. It's been my outlet for frustrations and passions, my training ground for speaking my mind without fear, my dumping ground for the tangents and preoccupations that otherwise would clog my mental processes, my crowdsourcing for questions I didn't know how to begin to answer. And it's been wonderful.

But for the last year, this blog has gone silent. It wasn't intentional. It was simply the result of having a brain too overwhelmed, too preoccupied with the business of just making it through each day, to even be able to use the little dumping ground I'd constructed here on my little nook of the internetz. And not just that there wasn't time to write--more that I didn't have the time to even generate the kind of thoughts that normally would have found their outlet here.

And yes, that's not a good thing. I thrive on intellectual tangents and ruminations, and I've missed them. This space for personal expression has gone untended, because I've had very little of myself to express for some time. And that's an indication of stress and unsustainable hunker-down survival mode kind of living.

So, behold, I am doing a new thing.

For the first time in a very long time, today I thought: "I'd like to blog this, this new thing." And that in itself feels so healthy, so new, so energizing. :)

This past weekend I attended a birth doula training workshop--three days of intense learning, coaching, and practicing the information and skills needed to emotionally and physically support a woman through laboring and birthing. It is not a medical profession, but a pastoral one. It is a vocation of presence, touch, listening, accompanying and empowerment.

It was after Clare's birth, where my doula's presence was so crucial at so many points, that I first thought, 'I want to know more about this. I might want to do this.' I waited until defending my dissertation to look up DONA International and start learning the requirements for certification. I even started the process for certifying as a post-partum doula, but that process got sidelined a bit by my second pregnancy (and publishing the book, moving, my first full-time teaching post...all those things that happened basically all at once, four years ago).

So now I am returning to this interest, but this time with the intent of certifying as both a birth and postpartum doula--and with the long-term intention of making this more than simply a set of skills I can occasionally offer on a volunteer basis. Ideally, I eventually want to bring the expertise I've worked so hard for in the academic world to bear on this fascinating, complex, sacred reality of pregnancy, laboring and birth. It's not, perhaps, the most obvious way to use my PhD in Theology & Science--but it may be that it proves the most effective, most relevant, and most satisfying way to use everything I have to offer, in the hope of making this world a better place for all of us who live in it..including those who enter it, bloody and beautiful and squalling, with no idea what's ahead of them.