Our visit to the hospital over, it was time for a visit to the drum shop and then lunch. Sadie wanted to get the large drum used at Shanti bonfires re-covered, and I think we were all interested in perhaps purchasing a percussive souvenir. Drums are such a part of Africa. It is a stereotype to say that the entire country of Uganda has rhythm, but I’m going to risk it. I’ve seen folks drum on jerry cans when nothing else was available, and it ends up sounding just perfect.
I don’t know what the drum shop lady thought when a herd of mzungus descended on her; its entirely possible that she had never sold so many of her wares at one time, and it is equally possible that she was just sitting down to lunch, and we were a huge interruption. The drums, however, were beautiful, and we all picked out our favorites. Several of our gang’s had insects inside, so they set them outside their door back at the guest house, where they remained the rest of the trip. Some people have old room service trays. We have buggy drums.
Here’s the drum lady. She looks considerably happier than when we first arrived.
Drums bought, we were off to lunch. It was a buffet style on the Anglican diocese grounds. We ate here last year, and it was remarkable in that it was basically our only bites of animal protein the whole trip. I’m such a carnivore. I was completely looking forward to it again for that reason. No mattooke today for this girl! And, in fact, there it was, sitting in the covered dishes in all its glory” A piece of stewed chicken. I think it was a thigh. I’m not sure. I didn’t care. I was just so so happy to be eating it. i also knocked back a bottle fo the local ginger beer (non-alcoholic). It was delicious!
The afternoon’s training was four hours on how to educate your clients, and politics and power dynamics in the birth room. I could talk all day on these subjects. The education piece is always tricksy for me. A doula’s job, on the deepest level, is to help draw out what a mama already knows. We always say we want a mother to trust herself and trust her body. The easiest way to facilitate this is to help her understand that she already knows the answers to the deepest questions, which in turn builds her confidence that she can participate fully in this experience without fear. With help, a mother is often able to access that internal knowledge about the larger philosophical questions of birth and life and death, and can be taught how to express them coherently, This is awesome and magnificent, and these moments keep me going as a doula.
However, when it comes to the shallow questions, the nitty gritty details about birthing, like “WIll I poop on the table?” or “Will Hospital X let me have my baby on my chest right away?” I am totally fine with just telling them the answers. Many doulas (and this is not a slam. Really. It is a stylistic difference.) feel that it is our job to provide resources, rather than provide specific information, so they tell their clients where they can find the information, rather than just sharing the information itself. People remember things best when they have to work for them a little bit, of course, so there is a great argument for educating that way.
Me? I think that one of the reasons they hired us is to make their lives just a bit easier on their Birthing Day. And if I can do that by just saying,”You might poop. Its a great thing. It shows you’re pushing in exactly the right place, and chances are you won’t even know you did.” then I probably will. It seems like an oral tradition to me, sharing the sacred knowledge (Yeah, I think poop can be sacred. its an odd life I lead.) with the uninitiated, helping lead and prepare them for that time when they too will undo go the trials, the rite of passage, if you will, into motherhood. American women today often don’t have time to completely research every little question they might have, evaluating sources, and wading through a swamp of google hits. They wanted an expert in birth, and that is why they hired a doula. And, to bring it back around to Uganda, most of these women don’t have Internet access, so asking question of their mothers, their sisters (read “their doulas”) is how they get information in the first place.
So that means, doulas, know your stuff. Study up, keep abreast of current information, and don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know, that you will get back to them. The only thing worse than no information is bad information. And keep in mind, that at the basest, most primal level, mothers know how they need to give birth. You’re just there to fill in the blanks