(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman

Catie Mehl Labor & Birth, Newborns, Parenting, Postpartum, Pregnancy

This post is inspired by today’s passing of The Queen, Ms. Aretha Franklin. It’s both deeply personal as well as part of CBP’s history as a company.

I had heard the song “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” before the Murphy Brown season four, episode 26 aired. In fact, it’s one of only three songs I have a memory of my own mother singing in the car. The other two songs, for those who are wondering, are “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog” and, another song by The Queen,  “Respect“. And as I write this I’m wondering if hearing my mom sing along to this song is what made this particular episode so significant for me. And the line. I’ll get to the line in a bit.

My mom and I watched the show together or, on the nights she had to work late, I watched it at the babysitter’s house. Murphy Brown very much represented my adopted mom in my young brain. The character Murphy Brown and my mom were both strong, independent women. They were women in male-dominated fields. They were fierce. A force to be reckoned with. And strong. So, so strong. And, in this episode, Murphy Brown became a single mom…like my mom.

But this episode, and I very clearly remember watching it at the age of 11 while at my babysitter’s house in Chicago, was something different for me.

It was the first birth I remember seeing. I remember thinking women in labor were funny and a bit scary, as I knew nothing about birth up until then.

Side Note: I’m adopted. I didn’t know my birth story until I became an adult and met my birth family. As a child, my life’s story started when I was 6 days old; which is when my adopted parents picked me up from the lawyer’s office.

But what I remember most about the episode was the final scene.

Murphy singing this song to her baby felt like my adopted mom singing this song to me. All the times she sang it in the car were playing in my head. I heard her voice alongside Aretha Franklin’s as Murphy sang.

This song and part of the title line — “Natural Woman” —  have gone on to carry so much weight in my life.

First. When you call the CBP number, this is the song that plays on my end of the phone. Before we were CBP and I was just a solo doula, all of my clients and their partners were given this song as their special ringtone. It told me that no matter what I was doing, I needed to answer because it was someone who was having a baby or who just had a baby.

But more than that, this scene and song, helped me through a massive identity crisis.

You see, I used to be one of “those doulas”. One who believed that there’s only one way to give birth and that “natural” birth — meaning unmedicated, vaginal birth — should always be what is strived for and all other ways of giving birth were somehow less-than.

But then I started supporting women in birth and I saw so many different ways of giving birth. In all of the different ways I saw women birthing, some things were the same…the way they held and looked at their babies after they were born. The words they spoke to them. They way they interacted with their baby. And then I realized something profound.

My job wasn’t to support birth or a specific type of birth. My job was to support parents through pregnancy, birth, and parenting. And all of these things are parts of a natural process.

Carrying a baby inside you, no matter how you got pregnant, is a natural process. Birth is the process of the baby that grew inside you coming out of you, and it is part of that natural process of being pregnant, no matter how that baby came out…because pregnancy cannot go on forever. And parenting, well, that is rooted in love, and no matter who grew the baby, or how the baby got here, you’re going to love your baby. And love is also natural process (sometimes it takes a little time to form…but it will, I promise).

All of these things are natural therefore all birth is natural.

Unmedicated birth. Epidural birth. Cesarean birth. They’re all just birth. And birth is part of the natural process of pregnancy.

Even in adoption, we have the birth of a new family by the addition of the new baby.

This realization made me a different doula. A different woman.

Thank you, Aretha Franklin, for helping me see my mother for the mother she was able to be. Thank you for helping me through a major identity crisis. Thank you for speaking to my soul.

The power of your voice and your words will always be with us.