Empty Cup

“One of my favorite stories concerns a Buddhist scholar and a Zen Master. The scholar had an extensive background in Buddhist Studies and was an expert on the Nirvana Sutra. He came to study with the master and after making the customary bows, asked her to teach him Zen. Then, he began to talk about his extensive doctrinal background and rambled on and on about the many sutras he had studied.

The master listened patiently and then began to make tea. When it was ready, she poured the tea into the scholar’s cup until it began to overflow and run all over the floor. The scholar saw what was happening and shouted, “Stop, stop! The cup is full; you can’t get anymore in.”

The master stopped pouring and said: “You are like this cup; you are full of ideas about Buddha’s Way. You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can’t put anything in. Before I can teach you, you’ll have to empty your cup.”

This story is and old one, but it continues to be played out in our lives day-by-day. We are so enamored of our own ideas and opinions and so trapped by our conditioning that we fill ourselves up to the brim and nothing can get in.” http://www.prairiewindzen.org/emptying_your_cup.html

When I did my first training with Pam England, she tells this story. She relates it to us as childbirth educators and even doulas. We must not come to teach a class or go to a birth with our own agendas. There can not be one way to birth- or to think about something and it only be my way.

Yesterday I was present for a wonderful birth. It was a client who had used me for her previous two births. The first birth ended in a cesarean after her labor stalled for hours after entering the hospital in an active pattern and being 5 to 6cm dilated. The baby did not tolerate labor well and pitocin was added to the mix and when it came time to push the baby did not tolerate that at all. Her second labor was induced 9 days early and she had even had a doctor who did an external version for a breech presentation a few weeks earlier. She was induced with the hope that this baby would be a bit smaller and since she was very favorable for the induction, it meant only breaking her water and giving her a very little bit of pitocin. Eight hours later, unmedicated for any pain- she gave birth to a second baby.

She had been walking around 3 centimeters for a week or more and the decision was made to induce this third baby a day before her due date. Again, breaking the water and then a few hours later she had a very small amount- 2 miliunits- for only an hour and a half- and after less than 3 hours after it was started and four and a half hours after her water was broken, she gave birth to her third baby- unmedicated for any pain relief.

These are happy births. She does wonderfully handling the contractions. She complains only about the shaking that accompanies her transitions. She is a fabulous warrior in labor and birth!

I do not like inductions. I love for moms to go into labor on their own time clock. I do not like to have them interfered with at all. But …. the difference is this mom lived 3 hours from me. She had tried to find a doula in her area, but was unsuccessful in doing so. She had asked me to please doula for her again. Before she had only lived an hour away.

As much as I repeat the words, “this is not my birth!,” I have to say I was a bit relieved when she told me she was being induced. I knew that the odds of me making it for the birth were much greater in her doing so. But, I have to share this- I never once told her that. I never once said, “don’t be induced” or “do be induced.” It was not my birth.

I figured if she went into labor and labored quickly and I missed it, as sad as I would be, I was not meant to be there. I also was concerned if I led her to be induced and something did not go well, I would feel responsible. It had to be her decision. I must have told her every time we chatted over the weeks leading up to her induction, “I fully support any decisions you make.” Sure I would help her think about the pluses and minuses of each situation and what the ramifications could be… but I tried my best to have an empty cup.

I think as a doula this is easier to do than when I am teaching a class. I think when I have students, they are wanting my opinion often times due to my experience in the field. But I still try to temper my comments with, “This is my personal opinion.” and let them know what is evidence based and what is anecdotal information.

I find I have to remind myself often that I must enter the realm of someones journey with an empty cup. It is their path, not mine to walk. It is their history, knowledge, intuition, experiences, baggage or whatever that guides them as well as information I may implore.

This mom made a decision and I supported her fully. And it worked out beautifully. I was there a little more than 4 hours prior to the birth. The induction went as beautiful as it could have gone. She was delighted with her birth and my support.

Just remind yourself if you are a doula or birth professional, an empty cup is so needed when you are a birth guide. If you are a student, don’t come with so many preconceived ideas that you are not open to any new ones that may indeed be exactly what you need.