Why I Became a Doula

I never, ever thought I would be doing everything that I am doing today.  Birth Photography…Baby & maternity photography…Making & teaching art….Now, being a doula!

I got my art education degree but knew halfway through college that I didn’t want to teach in a public school.  When the opportunity came up, I started working part-time as a community arts teacher at the YMCA, while I finished up my degree.  When I graduated, I started my photography business as a way to do something I enjoyed while also supporting us financially.

And then came Patrick.

Even before he was born, my interests in photography start gearing more towards anything to do with babies.  I fondly remember the first baby session I ever did because I knew with a little one coming that I didn’t want to be away from him/her for hours and hours at weddings.  I also started reading and reading and reading, asking questions, and looking for the answers….and it was all about birth (or breastfeeding)!  I thought I was soooo prepared and ready for my baby’s birth.

Nope.

Everything I had read I pretty much forgot while in labor.  I had back labor for most of the 31 hours I was in labor.  Honestly, I don’t even remember what any contractions felt like on the front side of my body because my back pain was so intense.  I definitely remember the back pain!  I had very little sleep, having gone to the bathroom close to 3 am on September 14th and discovering my water had broken…then finally giving birth at 10am on September 15th.  What I wish more than anything was that I would have told the people around me that I needed them to do certain things….I needed them to press harder on my back.  I needed them to shut up!  I needed them to stop telling me “just one more” when I knew it wasn’t going to be JUST one more.  Oh, a shorter labor and less back pain would have been nice, but what I needed most was to find my voice.  I needed to communicate.  I need someone who could tell I was being bothered and could help me figure out my needs.  I needed help but was too afraid and timid to ask for it.

Doula Rebecca Block in Springfield-Branson MO

Doula Rebecca Block instructing on techniques with pregnant mother & father. Image Credit: Lacy Tomlinson Photography

I needed a doula.

Around the middle of 2010, I felt like God was leading me to pursue becoming a doula.  If I can be open with you here…God was revealing qualities and talents to me that I hadn’t previously known about myself, but He needed to refine those qualities in me.  One of my “clues” was a growing skill level in the kitchen & an interest in real, nourishing food.  And I started to realize at births I photographed that I had this ache in my heart to help these birthing women….well, I think it might be called Love.  :-)  I would do helpful things at a birth when there was a lull in photography action, because I knew how much it helped to have someone do those things for me.  From those births, God showed me that I was an Encourager…I knew my role was their photographer, but I whispered quiet words of encouragement or cheered them on when appropriate.  Sometimes, shortly after the baby was born and when the birth attendants were focusing on inspecting the placenta, or sewing tears, or other we-just-caught-a-baby tasks, I would hear the mother say something that nobody else noticed.  And when I did whatever it was she needed, or gave those positive words, I felt like I was fulfilling God’s calling in my life just by that one simple act.

So now I knew I wanted to be a doula….that my whole life was going to revolve around babies.  And I also knew that Matt & I wanted to go back to Haiti (we had felt a calling to Haiti for a few years before we went in 2006 with our church).  I don’t know for how long, but I want to minister to pregnant & laboring women through doula assistance and health education….I want to help families bond & be healthy, and break the cycles of abuse that occur all too frequently there.  And in the meantime, I wanted to empower families in my community to become informed & make educated decisions for themselves, rather than accepting what the norm is for birth in American culture.  All too often, birth practices are not baby-momma-family friendly, or healthy, or backed up by scientific evidence.  I want people to become self-educated about their birthing decisions rather than accept what is thrown in front of them.

I held off on taking the training workshop for a year because it cost $400 and we just didn’t have the money.  The summer of 2011, I saw a little line on an email from The Doula Foundation that scholarships were available for the workshop!!!  I couldn’t believe it, but I applied, interviewed, and was given a scholarship, Praise God!  It was an amazing, intense weekend & I formed bonds with other lovely doulas with similar passions in their hearts to serve women across all cultures and beliefs.

My heart leaps for joy and I feel like I changed the world when I hear of even one person who thought something I posted on Facebook was interesting or made them think differently about birth or parenting.  I am very much looking forward to all the unique adventures that birth brings, and empowering families to take charge of their babies’ births!  I am thrilled to be doing what God has called me to do, even if I never, ever expected it to be this!