A Safe Passage

2 days and 2 sessions planned in the beginning of June a corporate gathering to the place of  Alliston. We would journey there thinking when we walked through the door that we had arrived when in truth the journey had just begun.

As the person at the top of the circle thanked and honored the very ground we were situated on as First nations land my heart began to open up. Then she started the two-way conversation with inventory time.  Who am I? what do I do?  and what was I feeling? Think, think, feel. Charmaine is …“more than just a Doula “and  I felt that I was right where I was supposed to be at that very moment in my life. What a lofty statement.

First impressions count, here was a woman so large that her words were like an ocean being dropped into your cup of water, that was how my spirit encountered her, I decide to make a choice to sit in these sessions as a student and learn.  I also felt each person in the room as they too shared what they felt. It became a corporate feeling of oneness for me. I began to let go of predetermined assumptions, continuing to let go for the next 33hours. But I acknowledged that I am… the only woman of color in the room.

No agenda letting it flow and parking questions so we can continue until the time we arrive. This mastery would keep us on schedule.

As we continued to unpack the word “trauma” we each softly embraced that each of us was somehow affected in a unique  way. Beginning now to look inward to see where the pain was originating from and where it was seated.  My senses were so heightened that even the smell of cinnamon drew my attention away. I thanked someone outloud for the break, just a moment to breathe.

Where are you carrying the effects of your abuse in your body for surely you have embodied it.  But no I  had already danced it out- let it go and allowed  my new cellular normal to begin to create my future.

I was a new creation but I would walk this weekend in vulnerable transparency to the truth of my past and the strength of my present and the many questions of my tomorrow. Hoping and praying that the one continual tear that constantly fell from my left eye was a state of healing not just for me but for humanity.

Till the words emerged “I am not like my mother”. It vibrated in me like a Chinese gong so loud that I could not only hear it but I also felt it at my very core- I had made a declaration against my heritage and was now on a trajectory that was leading me to begin to receive that which I had rejected that not only belonged to me but that I needed for this next phase on my pathway. I was the best of my mom and the worst of my mother and the process of working this out was happening in the confines of my Doula work.

Though the experience of trauma is in the eye of the beholder we are called to harm reduction and yet I could see the many ways that I had somehow participated in reinjuring , reopening, retraumatizing other peoples old scars to become new wounds. Realizing that the very organizations that we as health and welfare care providers work for are sometimes the perpetrators of reoffending an individual in their most vulnerable moment. This was breaking my heart.

But in the stretch we would sit in a dark enclosed theatre and see the view of the world and the ignorance of our growth and how it still affected people today. Marginalized, stigmatized, immobilized, criticized, I can’t breathe. This is not just them this is me.

She asks me what do I need? I need to continue and allow empathy to guide. So I carry on.

Bringing the bananas seemed like such a powerless action and I struggled to find out if there was more in my bag of tools that could possibly replace this as it did not seem like enough to me.

My checkbox of adverse childhood experiences was so sad-10 out of 10 a perfect score that should have rendered me unhealthy, but God… Thankful for the resilience that became apart of my DNA and the trauma informed therapy I received through dancing with God across the world. I am a living testament that change can happen and that your past though it may limit your privileges does not have to predetermine your future. More tears so hard my head hurts.  A little Frankincense a little Myrrh essential oil applied – I begin to vibrate at a higher frequency. I say a little prayer.

As she moved from slide to slide sharing her years of knowledge and increased wisdom she had gained over the years I was triggered and it felt like at one of the deepest levels of my being layers were being pulled back and the raw, real, honest truth was being exposed. I was exposed, unrobed, naked and vulnerable and I was truly still feeling safe. This was a safe space and there was room for even me. So I leaned in a bit deeper and let the pain rise to the surface. Not really knowing what to-do next but just sit in it…  I began to remember the feeling and never relenting work of 49 years of surviving. A lump developed in my throat and I struggled to swallow without letting the sobs escape.

As we ended the first day I committed to stay in the hot loneliness of this pain and let it transform and enlighten me. As I hugged the speaker just needing someone to release what I was experiencing she thanked me and gave permission for me to do the work.

This was about birth or was it really? Maybe it was more about death, death of judgements, assumptions, otherness, labels, and more. Or maybe they are one in the same.

As I came to the end of myself I also came to so many questions. If I am not here to solve anything then why I am I here? To just hold space for someone else to find the answer. I know I am no ones  saviour so then why do I feel like I have this need to save people? Where does God and spirituality fit into this as this is a big part of my world. When I mess up as I know I will because birth is inherently unpredictable and I can’t possibly prepare for every scenario, what do I do next to minimize the fallout. What about her?

Laughter is the only thing that sometimes eases the pressure, without taking away the painful truth. So I laugh, really hard, over and over and over. Then I rest.

A new day. Yesterday was sunny and full of sunshine, today is stormy and full of rain. But we must take every situation as good, letting them bring balance to our life and our world.

Inventory time where am I today- still feeling like I am exactly where I need to be at this moment in my life.

Am I the first person you have told this to and if not how did they respond? Most likely I many times will be a first responder to their traumatic story that to them may seem normal, because for me Orange is the new Black as they say.

My body speaks and what is it saying? I am cold and need a blanket to wrap myself up. Maybe I am not feeling so safe today.  More information via a story but I shut down and don’t listen as it is too painful a reminder of the work I do and the vicarious trauma I experience.  So, I eat. Eat chocolate my go to fix it food, Comfort sets in as my sugar levels rise.

Then I purpose again to stay present to the moment and focus on each task, putting the distractions away, again leaning into the discomfort.

We begin to discuss what safe means and how to build trust. Wow this was the themes of almost every therapy session I have ever attended. I have the answers but is it enough? Am I safe? can I trust? How can I help others at risk to trust me if this question still lingers?

I begin to mindfully replay the many stories I have witnessed, personal and professionally. I am intentionally uncomfortable trying to feel the impact of how these have shaped my perception and responses.  Why have I left out the impact that my childhood sexual abuse had on my pregnancies out of my recently written book about my five births and how do I unpack what that would look like to not leave out that aspect of my experience?

As we worked in groups I get to connect with some of the most caring professional care givers in many different birth contexts such as, labour and delivery nurses, midwives, doulas, massage therapists, childbirth educators, social worker and a spiritual Psychotherapist. But I don’t see them through this lens, I begin to see their inward hearts. Wow now my heart is overflowing. Love has a unique way of sneaking in. Now that constant tear is streaming out of just my left eye like a signal that I a not in control even of my natural body functions. As I brush it away I am fully aware that the significance is very important and that I can not take what is happening lightly.

After a lunch of comfort soup,  I carry my blanket and wrap myself up and am excited that they have provided playdough for us to relieve stress. For me it released my creativity as I always hear better when I am in creation mode. Seemingly preoccupied I use the soft pliable green dough to make a caterpillar, butterfly, tree, pregnant woman, cradled baby, flower and few more shapes, but in reality I am hearing at a whole new level. I begin to feel free and even smile and chuckle outloud.

Again with each slide shared I am looking to continue in student mode and find at least one thing that is new to me and write it down, I also contribute some of my experiences and questions and begin to feel a new confidence that the previous work I have done with survivors is very similar to pregnant women going through this.

The rain has now stopped and the sun has begun to peak through the clouds and the unnatural lights we turned on are no longer needed. We are sitting in the light. And for some strange reason I no longer feel cold. No blanket necessary.

Another phrase to add to my vocabulary is “It all depends”. Which says that each situation will need to be assessed with its own criteria and then evaluated as to the best practice for that specific desired outcome. This means there is no one set answer for each situation.

I also say again that I am more than “just a Doula” as I hear another person use these words to describe the power dynamics between health care professionals and Doulas.

Girl… that’s rough. That’s where I come from and who I am. Cultural relevancy is my answer as many of the talk we use would be fake and seem unreal to me or my clients. Each need to find the space they are called to. Urban behaviour is what I know. So I go to the urban dictionary. Yet my mind translates all the correct lingo and language so the output is in essence the same.

Grounding exercises I have been trying to stay grounded the entire weekend, tapping my knees, breathing deeply, focus, focus, focus. Not just an exercise but a way to survive and thrive.

And last but most importantly the repetitious teaching of self care and preservation. In this work and all work that involves humans and the reality of their existence and the pain of their encounters is the need to consistently put on your breathing mask before helping anyone else. I have let this become essential to my lifestyle, not a luxury but a necessity.

My stone is to bear witness that I was here and that when I forget I will remember that I began this good work and someone else will be faithful to finish it. The time of our collective energy had come to an end.

After the good byes and on the car ride home we drive through a rain shower and both the rain and the sun are simultaneously occurring. I remember that you have to see both as good and let them create for you … oh my word it’s a rainbow draped across the sky! I scream like a little girl so loud I startle the other her in the car. Rainbows speak of promises to me. They symbolize every journey I have ever taken. A sign from God that I am on the right path. I scream and cry and am so grateful for this moment in time.

It has been a safe passage.