Tuesday Topic: Learning To Be A Woman’s Woman

I became a doula after I became a mother.  But I didn’t feel like I became myself until I realized 5 things…

I have no idea what men feel when they go through life, but it has been shared over and over that women feel pretty bad, for a myriad of things: guilt, shame, body image, expectation. We get labeled as “emotional.”  And our voices become invalid.

But guess what.  I’m pretty emotional.  I’m full of emotions like pride, wonder, excitement, compassion, and joy.

What I see when I’m with women who are about to give birth, or who have recently given birth, are some pretty intense emotions.  The tricky hormones that help women push a baby out of her body and produce breast milk to nourish that child, also make women extremely emotional. 

Why?

I liken it to a warrior taking off heavy armor – all the tender parts are just more exposed.  Closer to the surface.  Easier to access.  

And it isn’t a bad thing!

Perhaps a woman now feeling vulnerable is able to address her fears about childbirth. Perhaps she can now look at them, and then decide they are present, but no longer hold power over her.  She is going to do IT anyway.  She is a woman who has taken the opportunity to know herself better.

Don’t we all want to know ourselves?

Here are 5 things I have found that directly (indirectly) relate to my doula work after I began to know myself better:

1.  Motherhood

Doulas do not have to be mothers, but I happen to be one.  Motherhood has allowed me to look at what “selfish” means.  It has also taught me to look at what “self worth” means.

Selfish – lacking consideration for others.
Self worth – a judgment of oneself as well as an attitude toward the self.

“I am…” can start sentences for both of these.

I have learned that both of these have their time and their place.
A woman in labor or newly delivered needs to be able to be selfish AND know her self worth.

“I am tired.”
“I am strong.” 

They are both valid.

2.  A supportive group of women 

Women are stereotyped as extremely condescending of our own gender.  I don’t know why it persists, but only that is does, and that women feed into it.

A group of women that changed how I viewed my relationship to other women, and changed how I see my role in doula work (and my life!)  are the women I met while training with ProDoula.

Randy Patterson, the Co-Founder of ProDoula, said out loud that she “is a woman’s woman!”  With pride.  She was not ashamed of her desire to be around strong and courageous women – things she shared she believed are in every woman.

Going through training with her and the other incredible women I have met through ProDoula has given me a tribe.  A group of belonging, even if I’m imperfect, and unfinished, but with big ideas and a big heart.

Every woman deserves to find a place where she has supportive women around her.  Every woman deserves to know this feeling I have after finally finding a tribe that is full of women’s women.

Sometimes the first time that happens is when a woman is pregnant, or a new mother.

“New Mommy Group” is a phrase that seems to belittle the potential of the “tribe” that women find when they become mothers.  I hope you find a place to be true, honest, real, vulnerable, and inspired.

3.  Aging

The older I get, the more I love myself and my life.   Each year now means I am able to learn, grow, witness life renewed from the viewpoints of my daughter, my niece and nephew, and the children of my friends.  It is magical. Getting older is a gift.

4. Compliments 

Since finding my support group and understanding my value as a woman, mother, and human, I have learned that I positively glow when given a compliment.

Now that I am learning that I can create incredible friendships with women from all backgrounds, walks of life, and life goals, I want to give that feeling away.  I want women to glow.  I want women to love themselves.

Today I walked down the sidewalk with my dad and my daughter and crossed paths with two young people in ratty jeans, wallet chains, dark make up, and pretty sour expressions.  One of them wore an ironic sweatshirt that had a kitten and some saying that was funny (I’m sorry I can’t remember…something to do with Jaws) and very quickly I said for her to hear, “I really like your sweatshirt!”  and kept walking.  Her friend burst with a huge smile and looked back at me with a “thumbs up sign.”

It was free.  It was true. It was easy to do.

Do you like that bag she carries?  Tell her!  Hairstyle?  Blouse? Nail polish?  Tell her!

If you are a woman in labor or freshly delivered, I hope you are surrounded by people that will tell you how great a job you did, that you were so incredible.  That you were strong, and brave.  That your body is amazing and you are absolutely perfect for the baby you nourished through pregnancy.  And by the way, you look beautiful!

 

5.  Chose to love myself anyway

After I had my daughter, I came  up against myself in the mirror, without my clothes on, starring at my flabby, deflated body that had just given birth.  Who the hell was this woman? 

I  have stretch marks.  My eyes have dark circles.  My emotions are right there covered in breastmilk.

WTF?

In the  next two years, I would look and look and look at that body.  And so would my daughter.  She would look at me getting dressed, and unabashedly poke at my stomach and ask what happened.

You were born.  You lived there.  You were inside me. 

I told her those marks meant her mother was strong.  That her mother was brave.  That her mother could do anything.  A phrase that soon turned into our motto and she repeats to herself when she feels unsure or afraid…

“I am strong.  I am brave.  I can do anything!”

I am choosing to love myself despite myself.

It is a crossroads that I don’t think anyone can help others face or go down.  But I know that I had some incredible women who were present with me when I faced hard things.

They helped me say hard feelings out loud. Women who know that compliments go a long way to break the mirror of self-deprecation until I could build myself up myself.

Doula work is so much more than hip squeezes and counter pressure.  I am a woman’s woman.  I want you to love you despite how you may feel.

And by the way, I love your shoes.

Authored by Ariel Swift

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