Book Review. Ma Doula by Stephanie Sorensen.
In the chapter entitled “Sometimes It Does Take a Village,” Doula Stephanie Sorensen advises Tiana not to invite so many people to be present at her baby’s birth because “all these people [are] waiting for you ‘perform’ rather than making the birth room yours, making it a sacred space wherein to welcome a new little soul to earth.” Tianna, who was still in high school frowned, swore, and wanted it to be all over quickly, even though she had been taught in her childbirth classes that: “There is no magic formula to predict when each baby will be born.”
When she was admitted to the hospital, she requested to be induced it could be born while her mom was present. Complaining all the way through labor, she described the waters breaking as “EWWWgross!”
During Tianna’s prep, the labor room filled with parents, step parents, siblings, and many cousins. Sorensen had a hard time getting to her patient’s bed through the crowd of fourteen visitors. One cousin immediately “busied herself with Tiana’s make-up She wanted to look her best for the pictures they all planned to take . . . while Tiana had her eyebrows sculpted. Lip gloss completed the process.” During this time Tiana was relaxed and not complaining about the contractions. “Suddenly about six cameras started clicking and flashes started going off, now that the star of the show had on her make-up. It looked like a scene on the news of some diva rock singer as she steps out of her limo onto the red carpet at the Grammy Awards.”
Tianna’s labor proceeded slowly, but new birthing assists were introduced in the form of a birthing ball, walking the hospital corridors, and a hot bath with water streaming over the belly. Meanwhile her family, thinking that this was an intermission visited the cafeteria and returned with food, lottery ticket purchases, and a request for a larger room. An anesthesiologist ushered the crowd out while more aunts and cousins arrived. When Tianna became fully dilated and ready to go to delivery, the boyfriend/birth father complained that he hadn’t finished his chicken yet. The family, however, became enchanted with the miracle of birth as the father’s eyes moistened to greet his first child. Of course, the cameras or this “big, loud, loving family” were clicking away at the miracle of another newborn arriving in the world.
And so it was with all the stories about births in this captivating book, which featured families from all walks of life, and from many countries. Religious traditions and multi-cultural backgrounds were meticulously respected from the Amish’s neat households and novel tips about accelerating labor called “the combs” involving pressure points at the base of the thumbs to a fifteen-year old pregnancy from Southeast Asia involving a restriction against being touched, no internal exams, and no male medical personnel plus a family full of superstitions and tribal priests praying. This young lady almost died of hemorrhage until a tribal council approved of intervention by phone; she also had to go to a shelter for thirty days because she was considered “unclean” during that time. A family from the Hmong recently immigrated from the end of the Vietnam war called on Sorenson to help them adapt to details of American living and after the birth called her sister in gratitude. Sorenson visited a Somali marketplace in Minnesota to introduce herself by asking for the word for “midwife” in their language and realized that some Africans spoke many languages including “Arabic, or Oromo, or Amharic or Swahili, . . . or even Swedish” depending on the journeys of their ancestors during their diaspora and struggle for survival.
Because all levels of education are represented in Ma Doula and because so many new techniques have been introduced since the beginning of natural childbirth in America in the 1950s, this book is not only a guide to the new thinking on childbirth, but it is also a travelogue and cultural travelogue detailing the customs of various countries, religions, and tribes. Sorenson comments on this in the Introduction: “Though they may differ in education, customs, cultures, religions, beliefs, ideologies, sophistication, and maturity, they all had one thing in common: a desire for a healthy baby.”
A certified Doula [ancient Greek for “servant to women”] is allowed to accompany a woman to the hospital when her labor begins and stay with her for the whole birth. . .[without the necessity of having to leave] “at shift change. . . [nor being concerned] about the paperwork, [and leaving] to be with another family. . . [like a midwife.] Midwives are medical professionals with extensive training who “can perform gynecological exams, order tests, and prescribe some medications.” Doulas provide support and information for the entire duration of labor and birth.
The glossary at the end of the book provides more education on the various up-to-date terminology and assistance for childbirth.
This book is a must-read for any pregnant women considering natural childbirth. It is also an inspirational guide for someone hoping to help women through a precious part of their life in the role of doula.