“Next time, do bring them in sooner; will you?” Dr. Poster turned to me, the doula, as he readied his supplies to deliver the shaking, first- time mom I had just accompanied. Now with one centimeter left to her labor, I had done what my lady asked of me— to keep her at home for as long as safely possible. My head nodded agreeably toward the good doctor, while my inner resolve flatly refused: No sir, we aim to keep them away from the hospital tumult as long as safely possible.
The process of birth is exciting for the whole team: the soon-to-be parents, the medical staff, and other attending support people. Being this close to the birthing mother is an expansive moment in time. And being in the presence of a blameless baby just born cannot be experienced as anything but the show of G-d at His kindest. Witnessing up close the exquisite combination of a woman’s pain and purpose, resulting in the magnificence of a life newly born, was extraordinary—very often bringing all in her proximity to reach for the tissues. All were touched by a force way, way beyond our own.
While overwhelmingly exciting, I never dismiss how demanding this process is on everyone, even the unborn soul who has to make its way from dark to light. The woman does her best to embrace the joy of this calling, while she struggles not to concede to the overwhelming pain tearing into her bones. And to remember that the travail is bringing into being that which she deeply yearns.
As her doula, I offered the laboring mom physical and emotional support. My job was to help her manage both pain and fear, as one new life struggled to emerge from inside another. I used various maneuvers to alleviate her mounting physical discomfort. Hip squeezes and hot showers assuaged her contracting spirit. And addressing her waves of fear, I reminded her of what she already knew: your pain is productive, it is passing, and it will present you with remarkable joy. And this admirable human spirit could endure the pain because she clung to its purpose. Because she selflessly surrendered to this innermost aloneness, a new human being could now uncurl into our world— a baby with a new, G-d given breath of life.
Alongside the physical and emotional demands, the spiritual side of it all was very present. Many laboring women, and their men too, asked me to assist them with saying some kind of prayer for themselves and their soon- to- be born, especially as the labor progressed. They spoke of these moments as sacred, revered, removed from the far end of mundane. It was both earthly and Heavenly, a supernatural process. Women, as the channel through which life enters this world, hold unparalleled power. Here in the cauldron of contraction, her belly is the nucleus of the world, powerfully unleashing the force of life.
And now in my doula’s soul, as I attend the world’s pandemic-induced labor, I sense I’m watching a birth. We, like my first-time mom above, are laboring at home. Our world, pregnant with purpose and possibility, is always in some stage of laboring towards better, bigger, and brighter. But something has shifted in our collective labor. The pains are stronger, less relenting, and all encompassing. As our world trembles in this transitional stage, we who are laboring cannot easily breathe. As the birthing mother, we take hold of the spiritual, of the purpose in this pain. And we refocus our weary eyes on the prize.
Clearly, our world is crying out. It is shaking in turmoil. So many truths and justices are struggling to emerge from the chaotic convulsions of the Corona pandemic. As the pain pushes on us from every direction we turn, we hold our breaths with audible inner sighs of confusion and uncertainty We are in dark hours, clutching at the great hope that the dawn’s light will soon give way to our new collective human pulse. These contractions that beset us are the ones that both terrify and gratify us, because their frightening vigor will “get this baby born.” We are in our inner spaces now, physically and metaphysically. And there is no turning back.
And we, as the birthing woman, bespeak our travail, “Let us behold the joy of our laboring efforts. Release this new life, agitating inside, into a world pulsing with wholeness. Can you unmask us so that we may breathe a Divine oxygen?
Something is being born by us, in us, and through us.
We humans are now all creators. We are carrying the pain of a new world wanting to be born. And the promise, too. And if we are at the point that all we have left is a prayer, then we know how to do that. We can pray it forward. Until our Creator delivers the promise of a new cry that we have been desperate to hear: Congratulations, it’s a healthy new world!