I remember the first birth I attended as a doula. I just walked out of the hospital afterwards, and I was like, How do I look at the world now? After that? I had had this profound experience and everyone is going about their day. It’s as though I had just discovered that every single person in the world was born. We all start off as absolutely nothing. We came into being because of labor, of birth. The degree to which that feels sacred is a shock.
I haven’t had my own child yet, so it’s hard for me to put into words what happens when the cord is cut. But I can say that the feeling in the room changes so dramatically once the baby is out. You now have this other person in the room. That’s the focus, the miracle. As a doula, you absolutely feel your moment to exit, to leave the brand-new threesome alone, to come back the next day.
I was at a stillbirth. There was never going to be a cry. There wasn’t that joyful moment that signals, You’re Here! You’re Separate! That was tough. It wasn’t my child, my loss, but there was a death. In that moment, being a witness was my only role.
I work in reproductive justice because I believe that abortion is holy in its own realm. But I also believe that pregnancy and birth are miraculous.
As told to Susan Schnur. Justine Orlovsky- Schnitzler is a doula, writer and folklorist working in reproductive justice in the South. Her website is justineorlovskyschnitzler.com