The following is an excerpt from Vis Companion Heidi Govenik’s recent blog post, “On Being A Doula”. We share this with her permission as part of our exploration of Salesian Virtues in our Second Monday Salesian Spirituality Series. Heidi spoke about patience in light of her work as a doula, or birth coach, at our Monday, October 14, 2013 evening at the monastery. We are grateful to highlight her inspiring thoughts and experience here.
Doula: The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period. (Definition taken from the DONA International website.)
“[As a doula, I’m learning] to submit to something larger than myself. I like to say I do this in my relationship with God on a regular basis, but the truth is I have a certain measure of control over my life that I daily choose to submit to God or cling to. ( I usually am doing the latter.) In birth, there is nothing you can do but be present to what is happening in labor and wait. I just wait. I watch. I am there, fully there…with no control but to choose to succumb to the steady, often slow, rhythm of labor. It is truly the only area of my life that I submit fully to patience and have no measure of control. What unfolds is incredible…every birth follows the same pattern somewhat like a song. Each is different, but follows the musical pattern of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge….chorus…maybe a doxology in a hymn. Each birth is different, yet I usually can expect a the steady pattern of early labor, the intensity of contractions as active labor takes over, the peak of emotions and physical motion in the transition stage, and the overwhelming anticipation as the urge to push takes over. And then I know, without a doubt, that after all those hours of patience and the steady beat of a woman in labor, a baby will in fact come out. Just like that.
During a birth this winter I was sitting on a chair in the corner of a dark room, well into the night, watching the monitor steadily go up and down with each contraction as the mother slept deeply with her epidural. The labor had been long and I was coming into the awareness of the lack of control I have in being a doula, and how much patience I was learning in turning off the rest of my life for a time to be present during a birth. I was thinking how I fail so much at doing this in my faith: resting in God’s presence and His timing. I know He is unfailing in His love, and He is faithful to His children…so why can’t I trust that if I am submitting myself to Him that I can rest in His truth? I always try to make my own way, make my own plans and ask God to come along. In the process of birth, there is something so beautiful and so sacred when the baby comes out….whether it was 35 hours of labor or only 2, I know the labor needed to happen for the gift of life to come. I always am full of joy as I leave the hospital, knowing that the long hours were worth being able to witness the miracle of a little boy or a little girl emerge from a woman. I want to learn that same patience in my life submitted to Christ. His Kingdom is worth it. My prayer is that I can have the strength to surrender to labor in life, to dwell in the moments, and the grace to wait for the joys to come.”