Since I started my doula work three years ago, my understanding of God has been blown wide open. I used to have a pretty clean idea of God – a sense of lots of edicts from on high and having his people keep out of trouble. Once I had spent a few nights in the labour and delivery ward with birthing mothers I had to reject that theory because it just doesn’t reflect the full truth of God.
My encounters with God had been mostly cognitive with a side of emotion: for example, the epiphany that Aslan represented Jesus when I was a child, or being bowled over by John Donne’s religious imagery in university. Those were amazing experiences.
But when I spent hours rubbing a labouring mother’s back while my own back ached to death, reminding her to slow down and breathe, when I was entrenched in the astounding miracle of new life while face to face with tears and sweat and blood and pain, then everything changed. God isn’t clean and thoughtful. Aslan is not a tame lion. Women are made in the image of God, and the work to bring babies into the world is holy, mystical work even while it’s smelly and gross and awful.
Before I became a doula, I didn’t understand the biblical references to God as mother. Even when Lucy was born, and I was smacked with the reality that I had birthed a living, breathing piece of my heart, I still didn’t understand. Holding the hand of a woman while she is in the grip of contractions so strong they feel like they will rip her in two, hearing her say “I can’t do this, it’s too hard, make it stop” while she does it, stares her pain and fear in the face and pushes through it, has shown me the power of the love of God. This isn’t the tender moment of rocking peacefully. This isn’t Silent Night. This is the love of God that roars like a lioness and lets herself be turned inside out to bring life to this world.
These women have given me the most awesome gift – while they pour their life into birthing their babies, they have shown me the wild, fierce, powerful mothering God.