As we celebrate the birth of the Light into the world in our various Pagan and Christian Traditions, it is fitting that we also get to know one of those women who help in the births of many into this world as well. This week, the author caught up to local Birth Doula Mrs. Jamie Parker. Though not a Pagan herself, her Spirituality moves her to fulfill her Calling to all of us, regardless of Faith or Religion. Let us hear what she has to share.
"So, I have known you for a long while and know a little about what you a Doula is, but most do not. So tell us, Jamie, what is a Doula?"
"The word "doula" comes from an ancient Greek word meaning "woman who serves". Doulas serve families by providing support during pregnancy, labor, immediately postpartum and during the long-term postpartum period. We are a woman's best friend during pregnancy and fill the gap between where the practitioner stops and the partner begins."
"And since you are a Birth Doula, what does that mean to you on a Spiritual and Personal Level?"
"This is where I put my faith into practice. In an entirely separate space, I found a faith in childbirth and our bodies unique designs that are able to accommodate our babies as they are being born. I also have tremendous regard for medicine when needed, but observing an uninterrupted birth will give you a spiritual connection beyond anything you have ever seen. I have felt the hand of God in the room, guiding people towards saving lives. I have seen dreams fulfilled and hearts broken. It runs deeply in my soul. When you stand in a room with doors and windows closed and you see the headcount go up by one (or two, or three), it is an incredibly spiritual moment, regardless of your faith."
"What lead you to this work?"
"I had an awesome doula in my pregnancy who taught me a lot. My midwife was even better than my doula. They made a great team. When I went into labor at 41w4d, it went on and on and on. 3 days later I gave birth to an amazing little girl and did so without medical intervention. But then the bleeding wouldn't stop. My doula stood up and asked the midwife for 2 more minutes before they paged the surgeon who would have removed my uterus. She saved my uterus. She saved our breastfeeding relationship several times. She was a friend when I needed one. She inspired me to enter this craft."
"How hard was it to get started?"
"It was harder than I expected to find clients, but then it goes off like gangbusters! I have attended multiple births for several clients. I have local midwives referring clients to me and several nurses who call and ask me to come for clients in need. But establishing those contacts was harder than I had anticipated."
"What is involved in learning and training?"
"So, it was a weekend workshop, then lots of reading, shadowing another doula, attending births and being evaluated by the mother/couple and their practitioner and a never-ending cycle of continuing education, workshops, research, conferences....lot's of learning! The more, the better!"
"What kept you going during the courses?"
"The end goal of providing support to women was my motivator. And coming home to a supportive husband and child helped!"
"What does it mean to be a Birth Doula right now for women in the current medical climate?"
"The changing world of insurance won't impact most doulas at all. We are not reimbursed under the majority of policies now and won't be in the future. Most FSA's can pay to doulas. The scary part is the continued pressure on midwives to conform or practice underground. They aren't given many options. Homebirth midwives are being forced out of practice in some areas, some even jailed for assisting at births. Also, I consider the forced medical management of pregnancy, and the diagnosis of pregnancy as a condition to be treated, a very troublesome epidemic in current times. The thought that pregnancy is a normal, natural event seems to be more and more rare in the traditional medical community. I'm spending a lot of time and energy on a couple pet projects. First and foremost, informed consent is a huge focus for me these days. And not just prior to surgery. Before a blood test, when a vaccination is recommended or administered, prior to taking the antibiotics...we need to know why. Another is genital integrity for all. I'm a huge proponent for natural term breastfeeding and the family bed. Plus we do a lot in the safe transportation space."
"What are some of the issues you are most passionate about right now?"
"These issues matter deeply to me. Lack of informed consent takes away our right to weigh the outcome against the risk. How many of us have thought, "The doctor knows whats best. I better not say no."? I know I have! We are conditioned to ignore our curiosity when it comes the wanting more information from people in power. Fear is not information! Telling a patient, "You will die if you tell me no" is not a way to gain their buy in on anything other than fear. That's due for change. Circumcision violates human rights. It's illegal to perform on a girl child but strongly recommended for boys. The primary reason being a desire for genital similarities. Should my daughter have had breast implants at birth so we could look the same? Should she have been tattooed to look like me? The answers are clearly no. Say no to circumcision! The other's seem like common sense to me...feed from our own bodies until our children don't need to nurse, sleep in the same room/bed so we can tend to all needs with urgency, keep kids safe in cars in the proper seat for as long as possible. Simple stuff. And it saves lives."
"Why do you think these are important?"
"It's hugely important that new mom's stay in, on and around the bed in the postpartum period. We can support breastfeeding, we can do laundry, we can hold baby while mom showers. Cooking meals, playing with other children, grocery shopping....we can do it all! Imagine the perfect sister....we will become her!"
"How much is advocacy and education?"
"I'd say 80% of my work in pregnancy is advocacy and education. During labor its about 50-50. Then after birth its about 20% education, 10% advocacy and 70% physical."
"When did you open your practice?"
"I started seeing clients in 2011. In 2012 I shifted from doing live births only to primarily working in with perinatal hospice/loss or babies expected to live brief lives. I still see all clients, but this is truly my fulfilling work."
"How is it going right now?"
"It's great! I don't take every client who contacts me, as I still work a full-time job, but I get to do births regularly and it feels like I'm always in touch with a client in one way or another."
"I know you are Pagan Friendly, but does religion come into play in the labor room a lot?"
"It can. I've had clients give me a verse for every contraction. I've learned prayers in Hebrew. I've lit candles. Attended births where absolute silence was required until the father prayed over the newborn. I've had clients refuse my service based on religious preferences. It's all about the client. Whatever your particular need, there's a doula for that. And it takes a little more to offend us than asking who, or how, we worship."
"What is the most important thing for a family to remember?"
"Keep calm and hire a doula. On a serious note, ask every question you can think of...and don't Google them instead of asking someone who is trained and skilled in birth work. You won't be the first to ask it and it's much better to get an accurate answer than guess!"
"When is it time to start planning to engage a doula?"
"I have a client on the books now who isn't yet pregnant and I've been called by nurses to come right now, they have someone who needs me. If you're pregnant & thinking about hiring a doula, do it now. If you aren't pregnant, most doulas do a completely free consultation so we can meet and get to know each other. We can even provide some guidance if conception presents any problems!"
"What is the most rewarding part about being this Path?"
"I share a life changing moment with every client. I'm in the first family photos. I see the babies faces sometimes before the momma does! It'd be so hard to choose just one thing...but I'd have to say it comes from those somber moments when a momma meets her baby who will be with us a very short time or has already left this world. Seeing her study baby...take pictures....make a lifetime of memories in a very short period of time...it's great to give her that support. Not too long ago she wouldn't have been able to see her baby."
"How did this affect your experience as a Mother?"
"I am so thankful for my daughter. Seeing babies born all the time just amplifies that. And if we are given the opportunity to have another baby, I'll be so excited to book my doula!"
"What would you like for people to know that most do not know about what you do?"
"This isn't something unattainable. EVERYONE can have a doula, regardless of what kind of birth you are planning, where you'll give birth, your finances...it's all possible! And you deserve it!"
"What would your advice be to those who want to get into this line of work? Is it a calling?"
"My best advice is to not become attached to your clothes...some stains don’t come out! It is every bit of my calling. It's hard work....2, 3, 4 days at a time, on your feet, eating hospital food...no fun sometimes! It'd be better to work for minimum wage when you break it all down. But it does good for my soul. It makes me complete!"
Jamie is the owner of The Hopeful Birth People, where they provide
"provide birth support and education services to women and families during and after pregnancy. Our services are the perfect compliment to any sort of birth in any setting, including natural birth, medicated birth and C-Sections in hospitals, birthing centers and at home. We also provide caring and compassionate support services to families facing pregnancy loss, stillbirth or other instances of fetal compromise. The Hopeful Birth People offer paid services and also offer community services to low-income, at risk women for no charge. Please use the form below to contact us to learn more! There is NO obligation and we LOVE to talk about birth, babies and beyond"
If you are pregnant, or considering pregnancy, and wish to find a good read on this journey, this author recommends checking out "Passages Pagan Pregnancy: A Spiritual Journey from Maiden to Mother" by Arin Murphy-Hiscock. It may just strike a note with you.
Becoming a Mother is one of the Blessed Mysteries. It is a gift that not all can experience. It is not a medical infirmity, but a position of most high favor. Be informed of all the choices available to you, and choose what is best for your family.