The simple power of bearing witness and the value of awakened awareness before any intervention.
These are considerations shared across the two fields of my work. In homeopathy, we focus on the application of the ‘minimum dose’ necessary to bring about healing. The doula world deliberates over the value of ‘being’ as the basis of the role over the need to be perceived as ‘doing’.
These principles stem from the same basic place - the recognition that our bodies know how to achieve healing and that when something temporarily separates them from this knowledge, the smallest possible intervention should be applied in order to bring a resolution. A client emerging from this experience is able to own their achievement and with a deep understanding of what that means. When the need for a practitioner to act, drowns out the needs of the client we have moved into the wrong territory.
I find the ability to apply subtle cures and minimal interventions to be profoundly female. The woman-centred traditions rooted in Herbalism, Shamanism and nature cures, are full of watchful waiting and intuitive action. These are features that the paternalistic model has never readily embraced. On occasion they seem to represent an affront to the prowess of modern ‘heroic’ medicine. Nevertheless, they have powerful healing potential on physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual levels.
So as we increasingly seek recognition in the patriarchal domain of modern medicine, shouldn’t we consider the implications of this shared-ground carefully? If we define ourselves as doulas as simply ‘being present’ for women, how do we maintain the flexibility to ‘do’ when this becomes necessary?
The evidence base for doulas is centred around the simple supportive presence of a female companion yet the scope for the work of a doula, and potentially the reclaiming of the feminine principle in the field of childbirth, is vast. The way in which we are born carries immense influence upon our emotional and physical well-being. Our prime experiences help formulate our worldview and the basis of our interactions with others.
If as a doula, we are present during some contravention of a birthing woman’s human rights, should we continue to ‘be’? Or intervene? If a woman stands before us, experiencing suffering which through some prior knowledge we could help alleviate, should we remain passive?
As the public awareness of the role of the doula grows, and the necessary definitions of the role ensue -perhaps in health insurance- I think it is important to maintain ownership of the definitions of doula care. We should not allow our role to be held down by the limitations of a patriarchy which arguably created the need for modern doulas in the first place. These decisions and definitions should begin with conversations between doulas and their clients.
Similarly, as homeopathy gains momentum as a healing modality through the recognition of an increasing body of modern research and developments in areas such as nanoparticles we need to maintain the essence of our craft as it stands differentiated from conventional medicine. I would argue for example, that developments like the introduction of animal research to increase an evidence base (and therefore credibility) in a mainstream arena, should be resisted. We do not all need to emulate the mainstream and in some areas we have a moral responsibility to advocate our superior alternatives.
In healthcare, the tendency to ‘do’ either preemptively, prescriptively or prematurely can create pathology. Often allowing a client to ‘be’ whilst maintaining optimum environmental and health conditions, will bring about a resolution.
And yet sometimes intervention is necessary. If we are to ‘do’, that doing has to be done with the right intention, reverence and skill. As a homeopath, I am frequently asked what remedy to give for this? what remedy to give for that? And am met with frustration when I answer there is no one remedy for a pathology. If a labouring woman’s cervix remains persistently closed, the question I want to know is ‘why’? If the rigidity of a cervix is a reflection of some rigidity elsewhere in her personality, I will think of one remedy, if she is afraid of becoming a mother because she feels unsupported, I will be drawn to another, if she is suffering the effects of abusive sexual experiences, yet another remedy may apply. The complexity of this is not easily conveyed, measured or quantified. The answer lies in the silence, the deep listening. And then in the excellent application of our craft. One-size-fits-all cannot be applied when we fully understand the majestic intelligence our bodies apply to their challenges.
Every action in the psycho-dynamic space of the birthing room, is an intervention. Every look, every word, every thought has influence. When we are awarded the privilege to attend a women engaged in the miracle of birth we should bring EVERYTHING we have at our disposal: our tools, our healing, our knowledge, our profound seeing. And then we should sit on them all. And just, be. Unless we can improve upon the silence.