Now and Then: A Doula's Son
Looking back on the following, I discovered my mother isn’t just a labour doula, and what she taught me wasn’t just about pregnancy and birth. Rather she impacted and influenced a whole lot more. My response to the changes in myself and about life follow the original piece I wrote for DONA International in 2009.
“My mother is the matriarch of a family tree that is all boys and worries that her life's work will be lost on her sons. I am her eldest son and on the brink of manhood. My mother is a doula; a woman who deals in pain, bulging bellies, emotional extremes and the epiphany of new life. I am here to tell her that all hope is not lost - your boys have been listening and quietly learning for years. For all those other doulas, out there who have only birthed males, I am also here to tell you that your sons have been listening and learning as well - you are educating a whole new generation of fathers.
To quote Penny Simkin, "Let me tell you about birth." (Yes, I have seen many a video and read many of her books, as it's hard not to; they're pretty much in every nook and cranny in the house!) Following my mother's quiet guidance and implementing my male perspective of birth, this is what I hold in my heart. I can help create a child, but I cannot push it from my body. I can love a child; however, it will not grow under my heart, but in it. I can empathize, comfort and advocate for my future wife, but I will only be an observer in that momentous journey to becoming a parent. I can love my partner the only way a man can love a woman, but I understand and trust the bond that only women share. I can feed, clothe and protect my child, but I will never know what it is like to nourish a child at my breast. Most importantly, I know that there will be no babies born in my family without the services of a doula.
Over the last dozen years I have also been given quite the education. I know that Friedman's Curve isn't on a highway somewhere. I know the seven cardinal movements are not in any way a sexual position. I get that birth is not and never was, a sporting event. I know what Ferguson's Reflex is, what a Montgomery Gland is for and what the MacRobert's Maneuver does. I know that you smile when I catch an episode of TLC's "A Baby Story" and yell at the TV, telling the woman lying in the bed to get up and squat. What I didn't know for years was that you were igniting a passion in me as you were feeding your own. You have taught me to follow my heart in whatever career gives me great joy and satisfaction - thank you. Mom, while I will never be a doula, nor be as intimate with birth as you are on a daily basis, I have been listening and learning. You have taught us boys well.
And yes, I will try to marry a midwife.”
Well mom, I never did date a midwife, but I am happy to spend my life with the pharmacist I met in university. Throughout the past eight years since I wrote this article, when you were the Managing Editor of International Doula, my experience with childbirth has grown to witnessing my childhood friends become new parents. And you, more often than not, being their birth doula.
While I’m not ready to become a father yet, you always taught me children are a gift and great thought and consideration should be given before bringing one into the world. I have even more appreciation for what you do. I know how hard you work—the long hours, the sleepless nights, and the sacrifices you make when a birth runs for days on end. It’s a side I never truly understood until I had to work for a living myself. I cannot do what you do. Few can. Being a doula is not all about the double hip squeeze, knowing the Miles Circuit, or which latch is best for a tongue tie.
I understand the passion of a calling though and it’s what changed my mind about having a job in health care. You supported me when I chose instead on a Political Science degree, so I could hopefully, one day, affect change on a much larger scale. It’s what a doula does, providing a calming reassurance, adjusting when circumstances change, and holding the space for decision-making. I love you more for that support and encouragement. I know as a mother you were frustrated with my indecision, but as a doula you let it be. I understand now more than ever, at your core—inside your heart—you just have a gift for support. No judgement. No arguments. No guilt. As a child, I was grateful for your mothering spirit, but as an adult I see your doula as your most inner foundation. Your strength, open-mindedness and capacity for love astound me.
So, what has it been like growing up with a doula as a mother? Enlightening. Fascinating. Challenging. I wouldn’t change my childhood for anything. I can calm the chaos as I’ve been given a living example of steadiness in how to ‘read the room’ in almost any situation. I understand the art of patience when I don't have an ounce to spare. I know there’s a time for everything and to give everything time. I know how to research and where to find resources. I know to challenge assumptions and to ask enough questions until I feel reassured. I learned to stand my ground. And while I know more about pregnancy, birth, labour, and lactation than I’ll ever care to admit, I’ve also got an appreciation and respect for a process few understand.
It's an honor to call you my mom.
Shayne Siermachesky is the oldest son of Loree Siermachesky, one of the founders of Elite Doula Group Inc. and Medicine Hat's longest serving doula. He was born in Calgary, spent his formative years as a child in Medicine Hat, and now calls Hinton his home. He hates when his mom makes him do this stuff, but understands that the general population of people do not understand what a doula is, let alone what a doula does. Growing up in the doula world does influence the children of doulas, and if anything, he wants to share that knowing about birth and babies as a boy and as a man has only enhanced his life.