I remember the first time I asked the question "what is a doula?" Little did I know that this word and the profession associated with it would change my life. I was a junior officer in the Coast Guard. I had been deployed to three different continents and on my second assignment as a command member of a cutter. I loved going to sea; I loved its unbridled spirit...it's uncertainty and my ability to navigate it. However, my love of spending months at sea dwindled, especially after a year long deployment to Manama, Bahrain when my husband and I spent our whole first year of marriage separated. Not to mention- I always felt something was missing. That being a sea-going officer was not my ultimate calling.
When I first heard the word doula- I was in a Pensacola, Florida Starbucks talking to one. She had mistakenly been referred to me as a local midwife and I had asked her to coffee to talk with her about her work. At first, I was sorely disappointed that I was meeting with a doula-whatever that means-instead of a midwife. But the more she described her work with such passion the more I realized her work spoke to my heart and lit a fire in my soul. I came home after that meeting on fire, full of excitement and ambition. This was it. This is what I wanted to do!
In retrospect, it should have been no surprise that I would find myself in this field of work. As a child I grew up surrounded by animals and animals giving birth. In fact, as a child I often proudly referred to myself as the dog-midwife because of a scenario where I attended to my beloved dog Tessie as she birthed her first litter. I remember trying to learn as much as I could about human pregnancy and birth as a child, frequently sneaking into my mother's room to read her books on pregnancy and birth completely fascinated by it's miraculous nature and anatomy.
With this new fire in my belly, I did some research and found that Doulas Of North America (DONA) was the first and largest doula certifying agency in the world. I found a training and started doing the prerequisite reading. The required reading opened my eyes to the brokenness of the birth industry as well as the beauty of physiologic birth. My journey had begun.
Attending my first (human) birth was an experience I'll never forget. I remember the father looking at me and asked if I was 'ok' as the baby emerged and made its first leap into the world. I must have looked quite humorous...I was silent and stood there with my mouth slightly ajar. Stunned in awe and wonder at the strength of the mother and the way which the baby made her grand entrance. I remember tears of joy falling down my face as the mother acquainted herself with her child for the first time. Now years and births later...I still cry tears of joy every time.