I connect much of my healing, along with the good medical care and love I’ve received, with my learning to pay better attention to and heeding the whispers of intuition.  When I don’t hear things right off the bat, events will arise, if I choose to pay attention, to teach me my soul’s lesson’s more clearly.

I have been in the super doldrums the last few days.  It sounds so ungrateful, I know, given how I just got told I am cancer free.  But remember, I’ve spent months on narcotics to numb out some serious pain.  As a result, it’s buffered a lot of the emotions too.  Well, not the good stuff.  It is easy to find the gratitude and love for me in any state, but the drugs seriously gave me the illusion that I went through all this trauma with reasonable emotional ease.  It almost felt too easy.

So, given that the pain in my body is more sporadic now rather than something that needs constant medicating, all those frozen emotions are making their way to the surface, sneakily and without regard for propriety.  Out of the blue yesterday, I started sobbing with incredible sorrow and bitterness for the darker side of doula work.  I am referring to the times we sometimes have to witness abuse and energetically provide a buffer and protection for the sake of peace.  When we are sleep deprived to the point of hallucination, hungry, vulnerable and missing our own babies.  I was so incredibly sad in my concrete knowledge of nineteen years of hospital doula-ing that in general, the system infantilizes and controls women in labour through fear MORE than it respects the sovereignty of a woman over her own birth.  I couldn’t see my place anymore, thinking I would forever be swimming upstream, that I was a right idiot for believing I could ever make a difference, a fraud for ever leading my students to believe they could help with an impossible cultural healing. It was a dark, sad, lonely, overwhelming sorrowful place to be in.

I woke up today squirming with the very discomfort of being in my hot flashing, radiation/chemo ravaged body, knowing after a night of absolutely no sleep (a byproduct of no drugs) I had to haul myself to the Breast Imaging Centre at the hospital to check out the lump I noticed a few weeks ago.  I was thinking, “Well, you went and got cervical cancer, it’s not a stretch you could have breast cancer too.”  I guess I hadn’t freaked out before (thanks, drugs) because I figured fate couldn’t be so cruel… but honestly, more clear headed now, why the hell not?  There is no immunity in this heaven and abyss of a thing we call life…no bargaining.   Luckily, all was great with the breast exam, so nothing to worry about there.  But will I ever let go and trust the magnificence of my body  again, it having been so sick for so long without my knowing? Will I be able to put down this new feeling of victimization?

Before my husband came to pick me up from the hospital to take me to my osteopath appointment, I bought a couple of second hand novels from the nice old ladies who man the book depot.  In the back of my mind I was thinking, “Maybe I’ll read something inspiring, because I’m just not feeling it today.”  Ask and receive.

I was lying on my friend’s/osteo’s table, him just silently holding my head, and I experienced waves and waves and waves of the deepest cellular sorrow, informed by the loss of my place in doula work as well as the erosion of confidence in my body which is now a source of terror to me any time it hurts, bleeds, or produces lumps.  I silently and inwardly grieved the loss of my super power of baby making, the loss of riding the exquisite-delicious hormonal dance of ovulation, the feeling of milk full breasts.  I grieved the birth of horrific body neurosis, and the lack of faith in my ability to remain well, a deep seated fear I may never feel well again and just die.  I have not had such grief since the day I discovered my diagnosis, and that of my mother-in-law, who has lung cancer (we went into the hospital on the same day).

I rode home with my husband, feeling better with having gotten in touch with the tale of my body’s woe, the sadness of what I thought might be the futility of my work in a larger context.  These are all very acceptable feelings considering, and better to be moved through in their fullness rather than being numbed out with drugs that are not needed as much anymore. I exited the car, chatted with my neighbour, ran a bath, and began to read one of the books I had bought.

I am not a religious person, but I happened to be reading a book about a nun.  Then a phrase jumped off the page, rallying for my spirit’s need for healing Synchronicity to help me out of Loss and Bitterness, giving me the hit of Grace I needed to move through some of this stuff:  “…if we ask..for the strength to endure for the sake of others rather than just ourselves, we discover how powerful love really is.”  Just like that, my energy shifted.

My role in birth fell into its rightful place, just with those words.  We are not there essentially for the nicey nicey lovey lovey.  That is just a byproduct of most births and a vicarious reward for our work.  The work of attending birth as a doula in an institution is about channeling love, taking dark hits from the doubters and those who never even knew birth was a sacred event, absorbing them, and shapeshifting it all into peace for the emergence of a soul earthside.  This is how we hold the space. Our presence amps up the oxytocin in the room when it’s being fed with fear, control, or manipulation…or even, sadly, out and out abuse.  We don’t protect women by being cops and birth plan enforcers…we protect them with steadfast love and unrelenting honour of their sovereignty.  This takes massive amounts of strength and energy.  It is not a job for the faint of heart.  I thought of the team of MotherWit, and am so grateful I am surrounded by STRONG women.  They are compassionate, kind, funny, smart, well spoken…but they are resilient warriors.  They know they have to process the moment to moment stuff that sticks in their gullets and hurts their hearts.  They don’t become damaged by the witnessing, they don’t get hung up or messed up by things because of sketchy boundaries. They are masters at not getting caught up in counter transference.  They signed up for the work, not just to see pretty home births (though my God, we DO love those…so healing for us). It occurred to me then that I trained them.  I don’t take credit for their natural gifts, but I may have had a hand in shaping what their vision of doula work is.  Our numbers grow. Maybe my presence in the doula world is not so futile. Then I thought of the beautiful hawk feather I have, and the words of my favourite medicine man echoed through my head, “In the face of hardship can you remember what you stand for, who you stand for, who you stand with?”  I shake my head about how many times I seem to need reminding these days, but am grateful I keep getting these reminders.  I remember now. My prayers are for the strength to endure so that I can love harder.  Not in a codependent, “If I were just good enough, all the bad things would stop,” kind of way, but the, “I don’t have any control here, so I’m just going to be present to whatever comes and remain loving, even if that love has to be fierce sometimes,” kind of way.|

As far as my body goes, I am doing my best to clear out the webs of neurosis from my head.  I am constantly reassured of my resilience and good health, despite what I’ve been through.  Had my life been just about me, I truly don’t know if I would have subjected my body to such damaging forces, which contain so many risks to my future health.  Chemo?  Radiation?  I always thought I’d say, “no thank you!  I’ve done a lot with my time.  I’m done with pain now,”  and just slip away in a morphine haze. But when I had my sweet daughter curled in bed with me sobbing with the knowledge she could lose her mother, the thought of my innocent little boy not having me around, my dear husband devastated, he who shows me every day how important and adored I am to him and by him, my mother about to spontaneously combust with her worry for me, my tender friends and crusty friends, equally loved, who let me know in their unique ways all the time how very much they are rooting for my health…..I realized that I have enough love to endure just about anything.  I endure FOR them. I endure BECAUSE of them. Their love illuminates all the things I still have to do and to enjoy, which I may have forgotten had it all been just about me.  I can dig into my resources, trust my intuition, and endure the hard stuff in ways that don’t harm me if I can just continue to pay attention and heed the lessons. All of that love exchange is indeed the stuff of healing and miracles..  It is more powerful than anything else I can think of.  It supports and nourishes all the other hard shit I have to do to stay alive and well.