Baby Lena made her way in at 2:25 pm on January 7, 2019. I was there as MotherDoula.
Everyone gushed about how excited I must be to become a grandmother. I was really excited that I finally was going to have a “take my daughter to work day”! But I couldn’t really know what it would feel like to become a grandmother. I’d never been one. What I did know was that in my lifetime I deeply hoped for the opportunity to usher my three daughters into motherhood.
Right from the beginning of Indy’s pregnancy, I realized that there was an inherent conflict in our circumstances. Indy wanted my support, guidance and expertise as a doula and as her mother. Yet I know both professionally and personally that daughters need to separate from their mothers in order to become mothers themselves.
As a birth worker, these roles are inextricably intertwined. Doula IS mother. I am, essentially, a professional mother; mothering mothers. How would I gracefully navigate this very tricky space; a nuanced combination of input and no-put and know when to do which.
I started to learn that when there was pushback, I needed to let it go; sometimes with palpable frustration and sometimes with grace. And as a professional, responsibly follow up with articles and research, signing off with “let me know your thoughts”.
When Indy wrestled with getting an epidural in labor, she said in a moment of frustration, “Just tell me what to do, Mom!”. As her mother and her doula, having been asked this very same question many times over the decades, minus the “Mom”, I gently, knowingly and lovingly told her, “I cannot do that, Ind. Only you can make that decision for yourself.”
Knowing how terrified Indy was of getting an epidural, I knew from that very deep Mother place exactly what I needed to do. I went out to the nurse’s station, where they were all sitting around. I had specifically decided not to wear scrubs as I always do to show up as mother. One nurse swiveled in her chair toward me and asked in that tone I have heard too many times throughout the years; the one that implies you are a nuisance and why are you interrupting us? (Interrupting what is debatable…). “Can I help you?”. “Yes”, I said nodding my head slowly, “Yes. You can. The patient in room four; she’s my daughter. And I am also a doula of thirty-five years. She is waiting for her epidural and she is absolutely terrified of the procedure. I don’t know who is on for anesthesia tonight and I am not sure what the policy here is for support people in the room, but I cannot leave my own young without either me or her husband to help her through it. So, I am asking all of you, as a mother and as a doula, to do whatever you need to do to make that happen. Please.”
Both Dave and I were in the room to help Indy get her epidural.
After Indy gave birth and was resting, she asked me if I wanted to know the baby’s name. She and Dave had kept it secret. I get this because I did the same thing with Indy and her sisters. I wasn’t interested in hearing people’s opinions about their names for nine months. In fact, the girls were given the honor of being the first to hear each sister’s name whispered into their ear just after birth and then announce it to all those gathered. Only this time, twenty-five years since the last sister was born, the name Indy was sharing was her daughter’s.
I wept. After keeping it all together to navigate Indy’s glitchy birth, the baby having to go to the NICU and Indy requiring medication that would keep her bedridden for twenty-four hours, I lost it.
Lena was my mother’s mother’s name. My mother had to leave her parents in the middle of the night when she was seventeen. With the help of the Jewish Underground, she escaped Nazi occupied Vienna, but she never saw her parents again. My mother didn’t have her mother to help her become a mother…
Lena is amazing ?! And, she is a joyous reminder of the extraordinary gift that Indy, Lena and I have been given; that we are all here, together. We get to experience and hand down motherlove, learning how to balance loving and letting go, a life-long process that begins at birth, from mother to daughter, new mother to new daughter and grandmother to granddaughter.
And this was just my first “take my daughter to work day”…