FALL-ing for doula life: Guest post from my wife, Ash!

Happy fall, friends! This season is my favorite for so many reasons, but the biggest one is this: two Novembers ago, a very special person and I threw a huge, pie- and glitter-filled party to celebrate our love and our hard-fought ability to reap the benefits guaranteed to legally-married people by the state (hey, love is pragmatic sometimes). It was around that same time that I was fed up with academia and ready to make a change (change: the thing that Ash loves and I do not), so my story about becoming a doula is intimately tied to my marriage with Ash. In fact, she’s the reason I took the plunge — she even pressed the “submit” button on my application to BEST’s Pensacola doula training around this time two years ago. In honor of the road behind us and in anticipation of the road ahead, I asked Ash to write out some thoughts about making this major life/career change and being married to a doula.

Image by Meghan Melia Photography

Image by Meghan Melia Photography

Guest post: Ash Holland, the doula doula

When my wife, Sierra, decided to become a doula, I had no idea how drastically our lives would change. Up until that point, we had been immersed in the academic life, our noses in books and our days spent teaching classes. But while studying lesbian couples as they transitioned to parenthood fulfilled Sierra, the hands-off nature of this work never fully satisfied her. So when she decided it was time to make a change, to make more of a hands-on impact in the lives of birthing folks by becoming a doula, I was ready to take the plunge with her.

Sierra completed her training and started her own business, and our family routines changed. Instead of class schedules and academic reading lists, our days now involved 3am births and pictures of babies crowning. We replaced heated discussions about gender theory with heated discussions about gender theory in practice in the medical institution. And we embarked on a journey that is both familiar to and different from our old routines. Through that journey, I found that nothing could be more fun, frightening, and fulfilling than watching my wife live her dream and impact people’s birthing experiences.

I quickly found that being married to a doula is awesome.

What it’s like being married to a doula

Image by Meghan Melia Photography.

Image by Meghan Melia Photography.

In the years since Sierra started her business, I’ve learned more about reproduction, birth, and healthcare than I ever thought possible. And I’ve had the privilege of seeing firsthand how important doulas are to navigating pregnancy, birth, and parenthood. Doulas are available at nearly every step of the pregnancy and birth process, caring for the birthing person like no other caretaker in the process can. Doulas take on long nights, emotion work, and physical labor all to make things as smooth as they can for the birthing person. Doulas change lives.

But what exactly is it like being married to one? If your partner is becoming a doula, you can expect to:

  • Become a doula doula. Doulas are responsible for immersing themselves in the emotions of individuals at their most vulnerable and sometimes most painful moments. In doing so, they experience pain, fear, concern, elation, and a whole array of other emotions. They worry about how they can give their best to birthing folks, and they celebrate victories — big and small — when they occur. Being married to a doula means helping your partner work through these emotions, listening to their concerns about scheduling and hospital procedures, and being a safe space for them to unload when they need it.

  • Be alone sometimes. Babies come when they want to come. They’re almost entirely on their own schedule. Be prepared to have date nights cut short, to sleep alone, and to miss planned events. Being alone occasionally is par for the course, but it can help you put things in better perspective, which leads me to the next point.

  • Be reminded of your place in the world. Being around birth and birthing people, even tangentially, and being a doula’s partner helps you see that there are bigger things than you. Missing a date night pales in comparison to a birthing person welcoming their child into the world. I’d gladly sleep alone if it means that Sierra is able to help someone through their hardest moment. Being married to a doula is humbling, and it helps me understand the world just a little bit better.

  • Be filled with anticipation—and nerves. To Sierra, every single birth matters, and so every single birth matters to me, too. While she’s encouraging a birthing person to breathe, I’m at home holding my breath, waiting for new life to come into the world and for my wife to come home. It’s a strange and exhilarating position to be in—to know that this profound thing is happening, but to be outside of the details. It activates my nerves and keeps me in anticipation until I hear from Sierra that everything is ok. 

  • Be amazed. My wife is a superhero, and being her sidekick is a privilege. To many, her job looks like talking with people about their birth vision, standing by them while they do the hard work, and giving birthing folks the resources they need. To me, it looks like someone in the midst of activism, changing the world.

Being married to a doula is a fascinating, challenging, and rewarding experience. It’s being adjacent to intensity and life-changing moments. It helps you become a better person. 

What it’s like being married to this doula

Image by Meghan Melia Photography.

Image by Meghan Melia Photography.

I might be biased, but I think being married to this particular doula is special. I get to see my best friend become fully immersed in an experience that folks will remember forever. I get to see her put her bravery into action every day. I get to support her as she laughs when babies cry as they take their first breaths and cries with laughing parents as they hold their new little bundle. I get to see her do the often overlooked, but incredibly intense, emotion work that gets people through difficult times, and I get to see her unload in whatever way she needs to when she gets home. I get to see her use her work as a way to understand herself and to push herself to be better and better every day.

I also get to see Sierra impact the medical institution and the world by committing to providing gender- and sexuality-inclusive support for all of her clients. Watching her apply her years of academic work and her dedication to fighting gender, racial, and every other form of inequality to her work, I see the immediate influence it has on everyone around her. From being mindful of gendered terms she uses, to validating all forms of family arrangements, to trying to fill the gaps where the medical institution (and our society more generally) fail birthing people, Sierra never stops fighting the fight. Being a doula is activism in action, and I love watching her change the world.

Best of all, and what I consider myself so lucky to get to do: I get to give her a hug when she walks in the door after being gone for days at a time.

That wasn’t in the job description…but I don’t mind

Being married to a doula means you have to be patient and excited while your wife changes lives — and you have to be ready for babies to interrupt date night. But being married to this amazing doula means I get to watch the person I love the most in the world make her mark.

So when people ask what it’s like being married to a doula, I always respond the same way: It’s the best.

The documentation of our wedding day is something Ash and I cherish so deeply, and it was made possible by our friend and ally, Meghan Melia Photography. Here’s a peek, if you’re a sucker for love, glitter, and lesbians. If you like historic buildings full of weird stuff, you’ll be excited to know that we got married at the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation.