In 2006, I was 21 years old, married, working a corporate job, doing the mainstream thing. It seemed ok for a minute except that I wasn’t content. I was so busy, yet so bored. I thought to myself this couldn’t be it. This can’t be the reason I’m alive. To work all day every day in an office and travel two weeks every year. I didn’t have a plan or know what I was going, I just knew how I wanted to feel: inspired. I knew I wanted to wake up every day and be one of those people who made money doing something that didn’t feel like a job. That was on my mind a lot in the coming months. I hadn’t ever done yoga, I hadn’t ever meditated, I didn’t have any tools for clarity – I had discovered any of that yet.
I just knew how I wanted to feel.
Side note: I did not want children, so much so that I made sure my then-husband knew that. Pregnancy was horrifying, childbirth was a bloody disgusting hell-ish pain fest, and children were total assholes – this is what I had learned in the movies and on T.V. though I hadn’t ever put that together. All of that added up to an extreme fear of the whole process, which equated to: I’m never ever fucking doing that.
Anyway, so I’m ruminating on how I’m going to spend my days, what my passions are.
Then one night I have a dream. In this dream I am living in a house and a woman is pregnant. In the dream I wake up and I just know that woman has given birth and abandoned the baby. I tear apart the house and eventually find the baby still in the amniotic sac. I carefully pull apart the sac, clean the baby up and take her as my own, going so far as to quit my job to care for her. I was so happy in the dream. I woke up from the dream and went to my guest room to get the baby, realizing half way that it had been a dream and there was no baby.
I was devastated.
But I had to know what I saw – this sac, this goop, all this fluid, the blood on the baby, could someone give birth and just get up and walk away. I had to know.
I went to the public library and found the section on childbirth. There was a book and its entire cover was a photo of a really cute baby face with the words “Hypnobirthing”. That word didn’t make any sense, but the baby flung itself off the shelf and I checked out the book.
I spent the next day tearing apart the book and having a true fucking awakening. I was amazed that women’s bodies could do all of this incredible shit, I was in awe of my own body for the process of menstruation and the ability to grow and birth a human. I sat naked on my back porch and poured water all over myself in a primal moment of pure ecstasy at simply being a woman.
And then. I read the description of a doula, and that was it. I found a doula training, quit my corporate job within a month, and forged ahead to support women in pregnancy. That was a decade ago and has morphed into many different things: leading retreats, crafting placentas, helping moms postpartum, volunteering my vagina for public pap smears in the name of women’s health, etc.
It changed my life in that it brought me close women, real women. I became friends with midwives, other doulas, other bad ass ladies who shaped the woman I am today, and will continue to.
If I had been lied to my whole life about birth: what else didn’t I know?
As it turns out: everything.
The food I was eating. The lotion I was slathering on my body. The makeup I caked myself with every day. The friends that were just total energy sucks. The shitty marriage I was in. How I showed up in the world. What I spent my time thinking about. The hobbies I pursued.
For the first time in my life I was consciously thinking for myself and not accepting anything at face value. It had to make sense and feel right for me. I wasn’t going to do it just because everybody else was doing it, or because I perceived it to be the only acceptable way.
I realized how small my mind was – how big the world is and how much that I don’t know and never will.
Having that dream about birth literally changed the course of my entire life and I’m grateful every day that I didn’t quiet that noise. What if I had convinced myself the dream was bullshit. What if I hadn’t listened. I feel like so many people wouldn’t have. I’m so glad I listened and didn’t stay asleep, moving robotically through the life that was prescribed to me.
In hindsight, I also came to see that the baby in the dream was me. The dream didn’t symbolize my deep seeded desire to have children. I still don’t want children, but I no longer fear pregnancy and birth, or child rearing. In the dream, I was the baby being found, it was me being reborn into this new life.
Sue Ann: Wow, Katie DiBenedetto, this piece makes me want to be a doula. Or at least investigate what even means. Yay you! xxoo
Rachel: This is a fascinating piece–I love the dream and find is so very interesting that your unconscious led you to the very thing you found disgusting and frightening and you followed, you realized you were open to new visions. I love the way that led you to question so much that is foisted on in this culture. How fabulous, the things you are doing.
Jena – “I just knew how I wanted to feel: inspired.” And again, that one tool, the only one you really needed: “I just knew how I wanted to feel.” Tearing the house apart in the dream, later tearing the book “and having a true fucking awakening.” And how the ripple effect of that blasted open the wide world. Your insight–the baby in the dream was me–truly is brilliant. I can’t wait to read your book. It’s being written, right here and now!