I say my goodbyes to a patient in the recovery room. As I walk down the hallway to greet the next patient, I take a moment, and pause and take a breath. I call it my ‘reset breath.’ It is a habit I’ve adopted over the course of 8 years of being an abortion doula.
I started doing it naturally after the first couple of months at the clinic. Doulas are humans, and humans are emotional people. With each patient, I would give all of myself and simultaneously take all of the energy that was coming from the patient. Happy, sad, angry, overjoyed – I let all of it seep into me, and stay with me. There were a couple times I caught myself with the next patient, hearing their words, but still feeling the room from the previous procedure.
In the beginning, I was completely overwhelmed with the vastness of lives and energies and personalities that came into the clinic. Of course I knew that every kind of person gets an abortion, but to experience it back to back to back is another thing entirely. It was beautiful, I could concretely see how abortion was the sacred act that bonded so many different lives together. It was also exhausting. That’s where the breath came in.
The breath is the reset. It is the way I honor the fact that I know nothing about the next patient, that I can assume nothing, and that I may never know anything about them! It is a way to return to a blank slate, to prepare myself to offer whatever the next patient needs. Sometimes it’s fun and distracting conversation about astrology, sometimes it’s a hand to hold, and sometimes it’s silence. Doulas are humans, and the human brain is hardwired to make assumptions. The breath reminds me of this, and helps me refocus as I once again am confronted with the exquisite magnitude of human experience at an abortion clinic.
State legislators would have you think there is one type of abortion patient (selfish), one way to feel about an abortion (ashamed), and only one way to grieve a lost pregnancy (bring it to term). They pass laws mandating cremations and burials for aborted fetuses. They pass laws mandating that people give birth to non viable fetuses. They pass laws forcing patients to read materials that say life begins at conception and that “abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human.”
These laws demean our very existence by distilling the abortion patient down into one confused, selfish, helpless person who needs the guidance of a wiser (man) to steer them to the “correct” outcome. These politicians don’t grasp, and don’t care, that there will never be a one-size-fits-all approach to abortion. They need to take a fucking breath, and check themselves at the door.