Birth Art: “Dar La Luz”

dar la luz birth art
“Dar La Luz,” birth art by Ruth Castillo, 2014.

I’m busy coordinating a DONA Birth Doula training this week.  One of my favorite traditions with training is that our trainer (Linda of Natural Beginnings in Dallas) always opens the workshop with “birth art.”

Linda encourages the new doulas to express their thoughts on birth on paper.  We set out paper and markers, oil pastels, crayons, color pencils and pens, and give everyone time to be creative.  Sometimes people just write out a few words and phrases, sometimes they draw elaborate images.  Every one is given time to share their work with the group, then we use those pages to decorate the workshop space for the weekend.  It’s such a revealing tradition.

The above drawing I did with crayons at a training in Spring 2014.  Depending on your world view it’s a flame or vulva with several phrases and mantras that had empowered me and my clients in the previous year of doula work: “dar la luz,” “vag out,” “peace in birth,” “strength,” “waheguru,” “blessed is the fruit of thy womb,” “dignity, dignity, respect and dignity.”

Have you done birth art?  Maybe as part of childbirth preparation classes, birth story listening or even a support group?

The journey to where I am now

It’s been a funny little journey through the last few years.  Five years ago, when I first set out to have a public blog (versus a journal), I was going through a really rough patch.

See, I had a miscarriage.  I hadn’t even been aware that I was pregnant.  And so much was going on at once – I was working three jobs, I needed surgery to remove several pilonidal cysts, and an extended family member had come to live with me through the end of her pregnancy.  I did not notice that my usually pretty regular period just did not flow.

Until it did.

And flow, it did.  I bled for days.  For nearly two weeks.  With terrible cramping and soaking through pads and tampons on a regular basis.  And it was not until about the second to last day of this terrible wave, as I sat down on that porcelain seat for the umpteenth time that shift, that I realized what was happening.  I had failed at keeping a pregnancy and I wasn’t even planning on having a child yet.

I was in such shock.  I even proceeded to go to my other job the next day.  Calls to my GYN group’s office resulted in a series of dropped calls.  When I finally spoke to a nurse, she told me not to bother coming in.  And I couldn’t believe it.  Here I was, a young person, a consumer, their patient.  And there were no kind words.  No concern to match my own.  Not even clinical follow-up by my doctor.  I realized that this was exactly how many American women were treated by doctors’ offices.

And in the ensuing weeks, I started to form this half-baked idea that if I ever wanted to be a mom, first I had to learn to be a “good” wife to my husband… and before I knew it, I was hooked on following blogs by Christian fundamentalist homemakers.

It seems so odd and naive now.  I latched on these proponents of “femininity” and gracefulness and God.  But it always felt a little sour to me.  Do not get me wrong.  I love my husband.  I respect that there is a Creator – God, to me.  But the in-your-face “pious”-ness wasn’t who I was inside, or really who I wanted to be.

But something good came out of reading those blogs.  I learned that there were alternatives when it came to birth.  And as I did more research, I learned more about reproductive justice and how that played into my personal politics.  And I learned about doulas.

And I realized that I had to be one.