As a doula, I not only get to witness incredible moments between parents, but also between the parent and baby. Catching the expression on the dad or non-birthing partner’s face when baby is born is incredibly remarkable. Sometimes, this connection is felt before the baby is even born. I attended a birth several years ago that still lingers in my memory. My memory of the glow from the dim lights, the reflection of the water around Mom and Dad as they relaxed in the water- it’s as if my entire memory of the birth is in sepia. The mom had had a long, hard labor, but everything about the atmosphere, about her and her husband’s connection, was like an idyllic movie. When it came time for mom to bear down, the baby wasn’t moving down easily. Gently, dad pulled a small metallic box with a little crank lever on it out of his pocket. He slowly started to turn the lever, and the most beautiful music was being played. When he played, the baby’s heart rate changed (for the good) and she started to move toward the music. That dad played the music box until his baby was born, and she was born into the most beautiful soundtrack! He later told me he would play the music box every night while his wife was pregnant.
Not every birth looks like a romantic movie. But every birth has its moments. Sometimes it’s my job to catch site of them; document them with pictures or notes and share them later with the family. Often the moments that I see are forgotten or not noticed my the parents. They are consumed with the process of labor, are sometimes laboring so long (or so quickly) that they just don’t remember. Parents are usually quite grateful to have this documentation. I’m happy to share it and help them find parts of their journey they may have lost along the way. Even more, I appreciate hearing what stood out to them, what made them feel loved, supported, or confident. I know they will carry those feelings far into the future as new parents.
The long-lasting effect of those moments is why I keep working as a doula – living my life as a contingency (I’ll be there, so long as I’m not at a birth), long nights of no sleep, staying awake to help a postpartum family overnight. It is an incredible gift in my life to be present at such incredible events in someone’s life. So, sure, I love babies and welcoming someone to the world. Nevertheless, really, I’m there for the parents, the connection, the transformation, and to hold some of their story for them until they are ready to hold it all themselves.
Tiffany Decker is a Portland-based, DONA-certified doula and founder of Birthing Stone Doula and Childcare Services. She’s Mom to two rambunctious, and loving boys, Griffin & Grady. They enjoy gardening, heading to the beach with their dog, and baking. She and her partner relish in date nights together. As a doula, Tiffany is inspired by seeing women discover new-found strength in themselves through the birthing process. She is always honored to be invited to a birth to hold the space for families to have an empowered and positive birth.