Originally published in International Doula
I write these words as the sun rises across acres of fields in central New Jersey. Tree tops turn pink on this cold December morning. The earth awakens. How blessed we are for her faithful spinning around the sun. I write these words as I enter into the final stretch of pregnancy with skilled and gifted homebirth midwives supporting me along the way.
I’ve always been drawn to thresholds, those magical doorways which link worlds together. As a young adult, travel and scholarship took me to India, Jerusalem, Egypt…. lands far away from the Utah mountains I called home. I lived and studied abroad. Romance, adventure, and philosophy filled my 20s. I loved dancing, exploring, and being outdoors. Deeply, I was called to those doorways where what matters most in life suddenly bursts forth as a bright sunrise calling all to awaken.
In my 30s, the thresholds of birth and death were brought to visceral, intense, bloody, earthy life. While I taught comparative Religion and Philosophy to curious and beloved adolescents, I became a certified DONA birth doula and assisted dozens of women through childbirth. The sounds of women opening, bodies swaying and shaking with the power of birth, the emerging wet infant, the vagina as gateway, the cries of joy and pain…. yes, the power of this threshold transformed me. I also worked as a hospital chaplain and held the hands of the dying, the grieving, the scared. I stood humbly in awe of that Great Threshold and I will never forget the deaths I witnessed. Slowly, my fears of birth and death began to melt like ice in my warm hands. Yes, they still held their edge, their sting, their power. They always will. Yet, I saw how the waters of life moved fluidly between the two in ways that extended far beyond my capacity to understand.
And now it is my turn. The waters of new life move in me. At 38 years old, I am nearly 41 weeks pregnant with my first child.
The cervix, the gateway is 50% effaced and finger tipped open. The baby at station -1. I have five days before a likely hospital induction. Five days to walk, rest, breathe, move, dance, meditate, watch sunrises and sunsets, practice natural induction techniques, and pray that in this time… my body is transformed by the natural pains of labor into a doorway for life.
So what is it like to transform from doula to mother? Most of us entered this doula path after already becoming mothers. I realize I stand in the minority here. I´ve supported women as a birth doula and prenatal yoga teacher for six years now and loved each moment of it. Given this, it´s easy for me to imagine the support and care I would bring to a client in my own situation as a doula. But I am in this situation and as my midwife reminded me “I don´t have to be my own doula”. I am called to surrender into a new identity. Besides, I am surrounded by loving support. Even my wise friend and former DONA doula trainer will be at my side massaging tired muscles and encouraging me on.
Plus, this is my cervix.
My possible induction.
My husband who holds my hand.
My hoped for homebirth.
So, the tables have turned. I will be the one pushing and bleeding. I will be resting between contractions and diving deeply into labor land. I will look into supportive eyes and draw strength from my husband´s loving kindness.
Yes, I am called to surrender one identity to embrace another. In quiet moments like this, I glimpse of an even deeper level of surrender. Because this isn´t only about “me” at all. It´s about the mystery of life moving through me. It´s about becoming a threshold, not just walking through one. While sunlight pours over naked winter trees, I stand at the precipice. My body itself becomes the doorway for this life which has grown inside of me. A life I love beyond words. No matter how this birth ultimately manifests, this love is the bedrock. For the hands that hold the waters of birth and death are constituted by love, permeated by love, and embedded in love.
This is what I have learned so far on my path from doula to mother. It is the love we offer women as they transform into thresholds of mystery that counts. Yes, our techniques and skills and knowledge… all matter. They matter a great deal. But what counts in the end is our ability to stand in awe and support the emergence of a consciousness which is aware of this love. Now, my task is to practice this wisdom on the deepest level I can—in my own body, heart, and mind.
As a doula I become a mother and both identities merge in love.
In her feature articles, blog posts, and advice column responses, Amy reflects upon yoga, birth, death, motherhood, ethics, and religion/spirituality. She is a regular contributor to PhillyVoice and has blogged for Attachment Parenting International, The Birthing Site, Philly.com, and Holistic Parenting Magazine.
As renowned natural mothering expert Peggy O'Mara notes, "With her triple identity as yoga teacher, doula, and chaplain, Amy Wright Glenn brings a one-of-a-kind tenderness and empathy to her writing and she's not afraid to talk about the difficult parts of life."