My second pregnancy was 30 odd weeks of dread and panic. It was one of those pregnancies where one drama followed another – bleeds, panic attacks, flashbacks, incontinence, hysteria and anxiety, tests for growth and diabetes, possible DVT, mental health speculation, and (literally) crippling SPD/PGP as my pelvis gave way. Even I was bored of the drama way before it escalated.
It is not a time I remember with much fond nostalgia, and at some points I wondered whether I could possibly continue with the pregnancy. I am ashamed about this, as now I actually know my son I know I would do anything for him. Anything. Even be pregnant again.
But there was a turning point, of sorts, which arrived at my house one summer eve in the form of Marcia Lord. A doula who I’d met before but who arrived on our doorstep, chatted buses to our three year old (boy does she know three year olds, and North London bus routes), and listened to us recount his birth.
She listened, and soothed, and talked about other women she’d worked with. Her ladies, who she seems to love and delight in. She said she would love to be at Newborn’s birth (we’d already named him and she always got it right). And from that moment, from the minute she said she would like to be involved I felt better. Only a tiny bit better, but better.
I can’t explain what she did for us really, she was mainly a warm and firm and soft pair of hands, bossy enough to handle errant taxi drivers on the rush to labour ward, thick skinned enough to take in very good grace my immediate demand for an epidural and or c-section when I was told I wasn’t dilated on our arrival, very quick to hit the red button when my waters went and the clear voice which let me know ‘thatwoman, are you ready to meet your baby?’ when he flew out a few minutes later.
She says on her (fabulous) blog that she’s a doula not because she loves babies, although she seems to, but because she loves people. This is abundantly clear and beyond reassuring. She’s hilarious and straightforward too – at one point I asked what would happen if I died in labour, she hugged me tight and said, if you do that, I’ll kill you. Adding that she and Mr Thatwoman would be there, but it wouldn’t happen.
She’s realistic, clear and calm, it isn’t about an idea she has of idealised natural birth with her, though she is bang on about the benefits of labour without intervention, it is about supporting the birther in all her choices where possible and helping out when not. She didn’t tell me what to do, she reminded me what I could do. On our first meeting she seemed struck by how disempowered I felt.
She also freed up Mr Thatwoman, who was also incredibly anxious about the d-day and still a little strung out from our first extended push. She allowed him to just be with me and did everything else, whilst making sure he knew that just being was important. We fell into her arms and were held and contained.
I wish I was a poet, and I could write her a song. A love letter of gratitude for shouldering so much. Instead I’ll have to share a brilliant poem I wish I’d written instead, which has all the rhythms of childhood chanting and again demonstrates a love of people, all people. These are the hands.
*These Are The Hands one of my favourite poems, written by Michael Rosen about the NHS (another of the few things which makes me feel very, very proud, and very, very lucky).