I remember how the many topics of conversation shifted after the birth of my first child. Where I used to talk about weekend plans or my favorite hobbies, my time was now spent commiserating over what it was like to be a mother, how it was that I had come to be one, and whether or not I believed that someone else could do what I had done. It was as if, suddenly, the delivery of my child created something new in me that people were intrigued by, interested in, and drawn to. And, to be honest, I loved it. While I used to read through liberating, triumphant stories of delivery in Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth or listen to people share their stories of power and strength in the delivery room, I was now one of them.
I remember, hours after my first-born son came earthside, one of the nurses on staff had stopped in to check on me, and, while looking me over, she made a comment that I will never forget. She looked at me with wonder and said, “You, my friend, are a warrior. What a big, beautiful baby you have here, and you did it all by yourself.”
All by myself.
I didn’t think about it then, but, as months of conversation about my delivery experience passed by and I found myself pregnant with our second child, thinking again to another labor experience, I remember feeling that something wasn’t quite right about that statement. About the idea that I birthed this child with no support, that I warriored through this experience without need of a hand, an encouragement, or a reminder of my hopes, dreams, and goals for this experience.
I realized then that I had missed something in my retelling of Henry’s birth story. That I had rarely laid out the whole story to these curious inquirers and champions of my triumph, and, in so doing, I realized that I had done them a disservice. I didn’t share that, although I was lucky enough to experience the intervention-free birth that I hoped for, I did want to give up—multiple times. I didn’t share that, when I woke up in the early hours of the morning with a warm trickle down my leg, I was afraid, uncertain, lost. I didn’t share that so much of my success, so much of my ability to push past the painful, scary, and unknown, was due to the support team that was ever so present in the months, weeks, and hours before Henry was born into this world.
And I knew that this narrative needed to change.
Because the truth is that so many of our triumphs, so many of our great victories come from a sideline champion, someone who is there to support and push us to achieve what it is that we hope for and dream of. Someone who takes no credit for our work but has the ability to create in us the version of ourselves we hope to achieve.
In this story that person was Mary, my doula.
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that writing is often compared to the experience of carrying, laboring, and giving birth to a child.
Like the experience of a first child, the experience of writing means plunging into a world where everything is new and each step forward brings its own unique experience—sometimes exciting, sometimes frustrating, sometimes scary and anxiety-inducing. With both a child and a book, you get to experience the euphoria of conception, the joys and anxieties of each growth milestone, and the uncharted waters of that delivery experience for the very first time.
When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, my husband and I spent a lot of time discussing what things would look like for us in the delivery room. I knew that I wanted to experience a natural birth and that, if possible, I wanted to labor for as long as I could in our home. I wanted to be comfortable. I wanted to be in control. And I wanted to do everything I could to watch this story, this new chapter in our lives unfold in the way that I had envisioned it.
And while I dreamt of my birth story and of meeting my child for the first time, I also realized that, while I knew a lot about my baby and about my body, I really knew little about how to bring life into the world. And so I looked for support and guidance from someone who had done this before, someone who could help push me past my self-limiting beliefs and relentlessly encourage me to achieve my goals. I wanted someone to be there whose job was solely to support me on my laboring journey, whatever that ended up looking like in the end. She would not be there to help deliver the baby, she would not be there to take my pain away, but she would be there to stand beside me, to be another hand to hold, to encourage me to do the hard work.
And so, in an effort to ensure that I had another level of support to make this story possible, we decided to enlist another to join our support team, someone outside of my midwife and husband. We hired our doula, Mary.
I remember meeting her for the first time and knowing that she was just the right fit. She had invited us to her home to take a birthing class, and there was a level of comfort in her knowledge, her understanding, her ability to listen, and her counsel. I knew that she was someone who could see the roadblocks that I could not, that she would help me journey through the unknown, that she would advocate and support me in my goals even when I felt like I couldn’t make it any longer, that she would also be there to help me navigate through the changes, twists, and turns that came up and change best-laid plans.
The act of writing, too, requires intense determination, focus, and an understanding that your best-laid plans may change. Because of this, the experience of writing can be so much more enjoyable, so much more fulfilling if you have a support system to guide and coach you through uncharted territory—helping you get the experience you have hoped for. In this way, it can be a lot like any creative act, including the act of bringing a child into the world.
The coaching experience looks a lot like the supportive relationship I had with my doula during the pregnancy and delivery. In having my baby, I wanted to work with someone who had knowledge that they could share with me, someone I could trust with the intimate parts of my life, and someone who had the same goal in mind—to execute the end of this particular story.
If you are in the process of conception—carrying or birthing your story—know that a writing coach can be a great asset and can immensely enhance your writing experience. Their purpose is to walk alongside you through every step of the writing process by supporting you in your vision, encouraging you to think differently, and, at times, helping you to navigate through unintended roadblocks along the way.
Your coach is there to give you guidance when you are questioning a part of the process.
Your coach is there to shed light on your untapped strengths and cheer you on.
Your coach is there to listen—to hear your vision for how your book can grow, develop, and ultimately enter this world.
Your coach is there to encourage you, to watch you triumph and succeed over every obstacle, every little push in your journey.
Your coach is there to empower you to birth your story on your own—to be a hand to hold and a voice to encourage.
Your coach can help you to explore the most beautiful version of this sometimes laborious but always transformational process—helping you to find your strength and your voice in it all.
It was 2:53 on an early December morning in 2016 when I could feel the story of my life changing.
And while I was packing my bags in the final hours of my pregnancy journey, I remember laughing with my husband, fully enjoying the moment because I knew that, even when things got harder, even if labor was painful, even if I felt like I couldn’t push any further, Mary, our doula, had equipped us, had helped us to prepare. She would be there to tackle any roadblocks that came our way, she would be there to communicate any changes in plan, and she would be there to remind me that through it all I was ready to transition into what it was that I was going to become.
And it made all the difference.