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Pulling Eye Teeth

Some days I wake up with a great idea to put on paper! Other days I draw a blank. Some months when it comes time to sit in front of the computer screen and dream up a single blog entry, it's as my dad would say, "like pulling eye teeth." Let's begin there.

What are eye teeth, anyway? They are the canines- those cuspids that reside in the third position from the front of your mouth, up top on either side. Why eye teeth? Because they are situated under the eyes. The expression "like pulling eye teeth" refers to doing something despite great difficulty because it's something we really value and want. Eye teeth historically were considered a valuable sign that a child was fully outfitted with chops- and adult wisdom. And that is where today's language, history and anatomy lesson ends.

Speaking of anatomy, the human anatomy is something medical practitioners must learn in order to become qualified to do their jobs- with proper degree, certification and so on. The medical profession is one of stature in our society. Doctors are placed in high esteem as experts and are paid accordingly. We bring them our ailments and expect them to diagnose and prescribe cures. We collectively pump billions of dollars into the medical industry and the professionals who operate within it- including into research.

Last evening I participated in an online member meeting of the National End-of-Life Doula Alliance (NEDA) devoted to the topic of research in our profession. It's a sticky subject! Conversation drifted back and forth over the line that separates medical from non-medical care and the challenges with doing research in our field. Most is anecdotal, and tricky to gather, at that, during the sensitive time of a final transition. I can tell story after story about experiences with clients with whom I have worked in home, facility and hospice care giving- the value of having available someone a person can get to know and talk with freely about their past experiences, present condition, and what comes next.

How much scientific research, and of what sort, do we need as a professional body to prove, or collectively as a society to see and understand, the value of death doula support and assistance? The doula model is not medical, though complementary.

As I sat in the meeting, I found myself increasingly agitated, feeling the conversation going down that rabbit hole of the profession having to prove itself to a medically-oriented world. Do we need a regulatory body, standardized certification, statistics to show the value of our services? Will we ever be held in the same high esteem that medical professionals are? Will we ever be appropriately compensated? (As with shamanic healing in contemporary times, the doula profession is one many approach with the expectation that services be provided pro bono. After all, it's good work, compassionate and caring work- done from the kindness of our hearts, not the need to pay the bills, the thread goes.)

It is a conundrum. I would welcome your thoughts on this.

This morning I woke thinking about Ordinary and Non-ordinary Reality (OR and NOR) and the challenges of straddling and crossing back and forth across that line like a stream across the landscape in shamanic practice- of remaining focused and disciplined so the intention is clear and the work is true. I realized I was thinking of this in relation to the conflict presenting itself within the end-of-life doula sphere as the profession grows to serve an increasing need.

Our practice must remain focused and disciplined in order to continue to provide the ethical and compassionate care that is so needed today. To me, it's not like pulling eye teeth. I need not prove my professional worth to anyone except the people I am serving. That will remain my primary concern, and I will prove my capabilities by providing compassionate care and support, not by drumming up statistics. And maybe down the road, I'll write another blog entry and tell you some really beautiful stories.

Be well.

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