The journey of becoming a doula begins with my purpose.
A purpose that I was not fully aware of or even the smallest interest in.
The scripture above speaks to so many areas of my life. It reminds me to on a daily basis to not jump into things God hasn't put into place but wait at my guard post for the next steps to take.
As I look back on those times when I tried to rush things or do things my way, I would always have to bring myself back down to reality and remind myself that God has a plan. EVERY time He would show up. He has always shown up.
In the past months I have felt every sermon I've listened too refers right back to this scripture. It's like God says: "Hello Amanda, I know what I am doing", "Are you going to be patient and trust Me?"
My journey to building this birth community in Okinawa began back in the summer of 2008 where God began with a foundation of being placed in the right place at the right time. Even though my flesh was fighting the current situation and circumstances; opportunities were arising. A dear friend of mine was doing some doula work and would share some of her experiences.
We were an active duty Marine Corps family and stationed in Texas at the time with orders to move to California. I was against the move as I had my heart set on moving back to Okinawa where we were stationed before, for 7 years. I wanted to return to Okinawa the first time because it was a safe place for my family and I. Okinawa was our first duty station as a married couple. I was only 18 at the time and my husband had just gone Active Duty from being in the reserves for 6 years. This is where both of my oldest children were born and lived the first years of their lives. This is where Scott came to build a relationship with the Lord. We had grown to love our local village and had fond memories there. When we had to leave and return stateside, it was a culture shock for us. We desperately wanted to return. We quickly found out it wasn't our time and season for this. God surely have other plans and we found ourselves begrudgingly headed to Camp Pendleton.
We were able to get settled and I found myself revisiting the idea of becoming a birth doula. I didn't know much more about that work other than what my friend had shared with me. I decided to take the plunge and enroll into a DONA Birth Doula Workshop with Gerri Ryan. Which by the way is an amazing midwife and has become a much-needed mentor in my life. There were several people God placed in my life as connections along the way.
I was definitely on the fence about all of this birth stuff during and after the workshop. I had a hard time absorbing a lot of the information and how I could even see myself fitting into that community. I've not ever been familiar with a sisterhood type of bond. It was a little strange being around women who were very connected with one another and just seamlessly fit into that mold. I felt like an outsider, but deep down inside all this sparked my curiosity and definitely gave me some things to think about.
After my training, I guess it wasn't quite a season to begin working towards the certification. In 2009, I really felt a tugging on my heart to get back into the swing of things. I was able to reconnect with Geri and take her workshop again. This as the pivoting point and God strategically placing that particular group of women in that workshop as connections and future growth in my doula career but become a childbirth educator. Care Messer just so happened to be one of those women who were planted in my life for that season. I joined the Operation Special Delivery, as a volunteer back in 2010 and before I knew it, I was initiated into the work as a birth doula.
Family circumstances came up which moved our family back to Texas while my husband was in a school for 9 months. During that time, I didn't do much but survive with my family and all the transitions taking place. Doula work kind of got put on the back burner.
After my husbands schooling was over, we packed up and headed back to California and the connections began! Care Messer became a strong component in my growth as an educator and understanding the work as a birth doula. Care had trained to become a HypnoBirthing Instructor and with her very direct, loving support basically told me I needed to become an instructor as well. I decided to go forth with the motion because at the time I was doing doula work for her HypnoBirthing students. I was seeing the difference between families who would go into labor/birth educated and informed than with those who didn’t. I’d like to say the rest is history but in actuality it was just the beginning of something greater. I had no idea I’d be where I am at today. I don’t dare compare myself to some of the greats in the birthing world like Ina Mays, Henci Goer, Rebekkah Dekker, Penny Simpkin, the list goes on. I do often wonder what they must have felt like when they saw a need for a change and against the odds, pushed and fought to speak up and make a difference. I feel like I am on uncharted territory. I’m not going to lie, it’s been daunting and there have been times when I've wanted to throw in the towel and give up.
HypnoBirthing is one of those topics that some families are familiar with and some simply have no idea what it is, how it’s done, and if it even works. HypnoBirthing is a gentle and relaxing way to give birth. We focus on breathing, relaxation, visualization and how fear can be associated with birth. We understand there are a lot of fears that surround birth, and believe those fears should not hold you back from having an amazing birth experience. You and your body work together through your labor, easing pain and discomfort. In Hypnobirthing, you are totally conscious and in a strong state of relaxation and engagement with your body. Your mind is still functioning normally so you’re aware of what is going on around you.
Birth partners also play an important role in HypnoBirthing. Fathers will learn many tools to help the expectant mother and education on how the birthing body works. The method teaches you that, in the absence of fear and tension, or special medical circumstances, severe pain does not have to be an accompaniment of labor. You will gain an understanding of how the birthing muscles work in perfect harmony--as they were designed to--when your body is sufficiently relaxed and you trust birth. You will learn how to achieve this kind of relaxation, free of the resistance that fear creates, and you will learn to use your natural birthing instincts for a calm, serene and comfortable birth.
This is where I truly feel like my story really begins. We got orders to come back to Okinawa. Yay! After spending seven years before on this island and having my oldest two be born here, it was like our second home. I was excited! I had some experience under my belt with doula work and ready to begin providing services on Okinawa.
It didn’t take me long after arriving to realize there was not much in place for doula services. I met a woman who was doing some work here as a birth doula and had a small group where those interested in this birth work would meet. Here, I met a couple of ladies who would become a piece of the puzzle in creating foundation for information and support to families.
It didn’t take me long to start acquiring clientele. Three months after being after landing in Okinawa, I had my first doula client. I was excited to not only start this journey here but I also had high hopes of reaching out to the hospital where my kids were born 15 and 12 years ago. I think I may have taken the hospital off guard when I began taking information up there and leaving it at the nurses station and sharing more about what a doula does. Work began to pick up to the point where I was taking 2-4 clients a month. I know God was looking out for me because not once did any of my births overlap. This was interesting because at the time there were only 3 birth doulas on island including myself.
One of the women became a dear friend of mine and she ended up shadowing me at a couple of births for training. The other doula worked full time and did some volunteer work. She helped where and when she could. But really it was us three actively working in Okinawa. There were a couple of times where the other two had to take time off and travel. I was the only actively working doula on Okinawa for what seemed about 9 months. During this time us; a couple of other women who loved birth and a postpartum doula really began to see a need to bring information and education to the local community. We decided to bring everyone who'd be interested in sharing their brith stories together and start our little group called Birthing in Okinawa. This was an opportunity to educate and inform families about options and provide resources here.
To be continued....