Although sharing this tidbit is going to be too much information for many of you, baby Stephanie weaned herself over the course of our Sydney trip. She has been down to breastfeeding only at bedtime and wake-up for months. I had thought I'd cut her off at around 15 months as I did Ellie, but then I kept it up to get her through flu season. Being a teacher gave me an awesome immune system, and it's a nice thing to share. Over our holiday when she wasn't resting or eating much, she tried to make up the difference with more breastfeeding, and my body just couldn't keep up with her. That made her really mad (she whacked me several times in fury), and so she just gave it up. Her last nursing cleared her ears for the take-off flight returning home. We had 18 good months. Unless the unexpected happens, I will breastfeed no more. Sigh. You mamas out there will understand this. Breastfeeding is such a beautiful thing, and while I never intended to breastfeed for ages and ages, I will miss it.
What's a girl to do now that she won't be having more babies of her own? Nurture other people's babies! Giving birth to Stephanie in The Netherlands, where they strongly urge natural birth, was a life-changing experience. I have always been fascinated with birth. When Mrs. Baggett, my 9th grade biology teacher, showed us the birth video in class, almost everyone was completely grossed out and turned away, but my girlfriend Gina and I were front and center, riveted. If I'd had the stamina to plow through school, medical school and residency (whew!), I would have loved to be an OB. After Stephanie's home birth in Holland, I felt a longing to become a midwife. In Holland, you see a midwife unless you have a known medical complication. They don't view pregnancy as a medical condition in an otherwise healthy person, and it is treated as a natural process. And you know what? The Dutch have far better outcomes for mothers and babies than the States, even though their mothers are on average several years older. The more I read about medical interventions in birth, the more disturbing it seems. And you would not believe how much I love learning about birth.
Unfortunately for me, our lifestyle kind of takes the midwife option out. We move internationally, which means I'd have to retrain to fit the guidelines for every new country, if they'd allow me to practice at all. Also, midwives have very demanding, unpredictable schedules. I have no interest in being a nurse-midwife with hospital hours. I want to know the mothers and travel along their pregnancy journeys with them. I want to support and encourage them. Enter the idea of being a doula.
In truth, I'm still on the fence with this one. I never saw myself as a doula, even when I became so drawn to natural birth. I don't know that I would see myself as a doula now either, but it's a possibility that would allow me to become an integral part of the birth miracle in a way that I could control and continue despite international regulations. Doulas aren't medical. They support the mother in a non-medical way, and they still get to be there to welcome the tiny red scrunchy bundle from the first moments. Not a bad way to go through life! So this morning, I registered for training to become a doula, as well as some additional qualifications to educate before and after birth. I have no idea where this training will lead me, but right now, I'm looking at it as a fun opportunity to learn more on a subject I feel passionate about and maybe open up some new possibilities. I'm not quite to the Birkenstock-wearing, hippie-skirt-sporting, tree-hugging crunchy most people envisage with doulas, but I'm not ruling it out either.