The Intersection of Faith & Science

By Christine Frackelton

Replete with joy!  That’s how I feel right now.

I feel bursting with peace and satisfaction, not only this Easter Sunday, but also when I am working with my clients.

Since the spring equinox on March 22nd, I and others in the global birth community have been celebrating World Doula Week, an annual event that spreads awareness about and recognizes the role of doulas in improving the well-being of women, babies, and families.  The timing of World Doula Week is deliberately planned for the season traditionally recognized for return in fertility.

Also following spring equinox each year are some of the most significant holidays for believers in the Judeo-Christian faiths.  My family has spent this past week remembering and retelling the events of Jesus Christ’s final days leading to betrayal, crucifixion, and of course, the resurrection.  We also have joined our Jewish friends in remembering the passover and sharing in meals of unleavened bread and lamb, giving thanks to God for his lovingkindness, outrageous mercy, and salvation.

I reflect now on how my faith called me into this work.  Though my education and training have undoubtedly played a vital role in the way I work, it is my faith that has guided me each day as I’ve served families from the longest birth to the briefest placenta encapsulation follow-up call.

There is science behind the work of a doula — an understanding of physiology, anatomy, psychology, anthropology, hormones, pathogen prevention, and more.  From herbalism and essential oils to domestic organization, there is really no limit to how much mere information can become relevant to the work of caring for and supporting a family prenatally, during birth, and once they are at home recovering and transitioning to life with a newborn.  The more that I learn, the more I realize how much more there is I have yet to learn.  I’m convinced that as much as I try to learn it all, I will never know everything.

With our lacking information, there is a huge space of uncertainty.  We can never be fully certain that our bodies or babies will cooperate with our birth plans.  We can never be fully certain that our children will turn out a certain way as adults because of our chosen parenting styles.  Perhaps most significantly, we can not even be certain of how many days we will have in our lives.

So, what’s a mother to do about all of this uncertainty?

I can share what I have done, that has not entirely worked:

  1. Research.  Research.  Research.  If you don’t have the answer, find it.  If you find one answer, read another so-called expert’s opposing answer.  Then, research other parents’ individual experiences using the opposing theories.  Never stop reading about pregnancy, labor, postpartum, childhood development and  developmental psychology, nutrition, complementary medical modalities, and more.  Do all of this while breastfeeding and trying to educate and comfort your baby to perfection.  When you realize that you haven’t done the dishes or laundry in a couple days, you can use your would-be nap or sleep time to catch up.  We can sleep when we’re dead, right?  In the end, it’s all worth it because you’ll be a walking encyclopedia.
  2. Just pick a side (maybe after all of the research you just did).  Own it with pride.  Preach it to others.  When you find someone who has picked a birthing or parenting style that doesn’t match your own, you can either try to correct them, or you can judge them (or do both).  Whether you judge silently or out loud, it doesn’t really matter, because you’re right, right?  The world needs to hear the truth, so spread it!
  3. Wing it.  Isn’t that what all of the other parents are doing anyway?  All you have to do is wake up each day and do the best you can.  There may be a lot of uncertainty.  So what?  Life is uncertain.  Let’s just put on the big-girl panties and do it.  If you can make it through the end of this day, you can repeat the work of winging it tomorrow.  End of story, right?

The reasons why these methods haven’t worked for me are the results they have yielded: depression, loneliness, desperate exhaustion, anxiety, and emptiness.

Medical professionals seem to have crafted pills that can apparently help with some of those problems, but I know better.  A pill often acts as a band-aid that covers up a problem without necessarily healing the problem at all.  I crave to get to the source of my problems.  At the heart of each of my problems was this: lacking faith.

I have lacked faith in my God-given maternal intuition, turning to find answers from humans who must know me, my baby, and our situation better than anyone else.

I have lacked faith that I’m a good enough mom, leading to my judgment of others as I try to compensate for my insecurities.

I have abandoned my faith during parenting trials, in which I allowed impulse to reign instead of prayer and my God.  Then, I either feel guilty or self-righteous, neither of which lead down a healthy road.

On the bright side, though, God hasn’t given up on me, and I have learned and grown so much since I first took the title of Mommy around six years ago.  Today, I know that this parenting journey calls me to be humble and prayerful, but I also know that God has equipped me for this work, and continues to equip me daily.  On any great parenting day, He deserves all the glory and praise.

Easter is the greatest parenting day ever.  I’m not referring to our children looking photogenic or there being spring blossoms in the field where the egg hunt takes place.  I refer to the encouraging and eternal hope that we have as we grow in our roles as parents.  Because of the redemption that Easter and Passover demonstrate, we know that we have second chances.  Because of what God has done for us, we know that we don’t have to live in the mistakes we made as parents yesterday.  We know that our children also have second chances, and that we are not the sole parents of these children, but also have a divine parent caring for all of us.  We can rest in the peace that God has a grand plan, even if we struggle to see beyond the unceasing demands and details of tending to our young children.  We know there is a place of refuge in prayer, and it is available at any time of need.

I can only speak for myself.  I’m not sure how an agnostic parent or doula handles his or her roles.  For myself, though, faith has filled the gap of uncertainty in parenting and in life in general.  In my work, I am thrilled for the opportunity to work with parents as they create affirmations and reminders to pull them through the challenges of pregnancy, labor, and postpartum, especially when they draw encouraging verses from scripture.  I love when a parent invites prayer into the birthing space, and I can feel the Spirit working there.  I am filled with joy when a mom puts gospel music on her playlist for labor.  I am inspired, actually.

When a baby is born, ecstasy and joy fill the room!  On Easter, and at any other time where we turn to others, to ourselves, and to God for forgiveness, we are reborn.  We can think about that ecstatic moment where new life comes earth-side, and picture ourselves being born again!  The splendid, overflowing joy that our parents felt at our birth must be how God feels when we get a fresh start.

For the sake of my personal well-being and relationship with my Creator, I hope that I will always be a praying girl.  For the sake of my children and my clients, I hope I will also be seen as a praying mother and a praying doula.  This is a tough journey, but when we lean on God with each contraction, each toddler tantrum, and each sleepless night, our strength is renewed, because we are born again.

He is risen!  Alleluia!

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