Birth is Magical Experience for All Humankind
Last week, Feminists Advocating Change and Empowerment put on Breaking Ground, the annual monologue show written by Whitman students, professors and alumni. I wrote and performed a monologue about my experiences working as a volunteer doula in a hospital’s birth center. Doulas are birth attendants who support and advocate for the mother, making sure she is in a good physical and mental space throughout the course of her labor. I’ve done over 100 hours, working 12-hour night shifts in the delivery ward. When not needed in the delivery room, I helped take care of the newborns across the hall. My monologue was called “The Miracle.”
Despite being very passionate about birth and more than happy to share anecdotes of weird delivery room shenanigans, I’ve found it surprisingly hard to talk about these experiences at Whitman. Many people seem to be too disgusted by the process to want to hear about it, even though I have funny stories about fussing patients and weird placenta rituals. I try to respect people’s sensitivities and not bring it up if it makes people uncomfortable, but I’ve never understood where this taboo comes from. Yes, birth is bloody, painful and stressful. Yes, it involves lady-bits. But so do lots of things. I think the miraculous aspect far outweighs how painful and “gross” it is.
Birth is one of very few experiences that everyone shares. Every single person alive on this planet was pushed, pulled or cut from a uterus. It should be relevant to everyone, regardless of gender or if they ever plan on having kids of their own. In the hospital, everyone—doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas, students and family all come together in solidarity with the mother. Working in the birth center has changed my life because it has showed me how birth is a celebration of new life and a chance to empower women at the most natural level. As Laura Stavoe Harm said, “There is a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.”
As I said in my monologue, it isn’t the pain that stays with me after I see a birth. What really stays with me is when, suddenly, after pushing and pushing, the baby slides out and a transformation occurs right before my eyes. There’s triumph and panic, exhaustion and excitement, desperation and familiarity, and in that moment of relief the mother recognizes what she’s done. Birth doesn’t always go down all natural and complication-free, and people’s lives aren’t perfect—all the babies and mothers and families are going to face hard times, and some won’t stay together, nor should they all. But the moment of birth transcends all of that. It’s a glimmer of hope and new life that gets straight to the heart of human potential. It shows me, again and again, that there is magic in the most biological and physiological processes, and there is empowerment in the rough. It shows me that being a woman is a miracle.