Anyone that knows me knows that I’m a pretty positive person so with a title like that, I’ve got a little bit of explaining to do. When I use the term “negative space”, I’m not referring to ‘the opposite of good’ but rather ‘the absence of’. Let me explain. When I was in college, I studied photography. Back then we used the real cameras that had no “auto” button and (gasp) real film. We did everything in black and white. We learned the mechanics of using a camera, composition of a good photograph and how to develop our own film. It was in this photography class that I learned the importance of “negative space” because without it, there would be no picture. A good black and white photographer learned how to master the balance between the positive and negative space. I love this thought because when we look at it like this, the “negative” is actually mandatory. It is the contrast that creates the art.
We can take this analogy further and relate it to well… Everything. If we look at “negative space” just as the contrast that creates the art, our view of life completely changes. The Negative actually becomes a good thing but how does this look in life. Indulge me for another moment while I use another analogy. I like to use the analogy of breathing. When we breath, we breath in and then we breath out, we breath in and then we breath out again. We do this usually, without thinking. We don’t ever stop and think “oh no, my lungs have no oxygen” and yet that is a perfect example of the negative space or “the absence of”. Just because the air is not inside our bodies at that moment, there is no reason for alarm because we know there is always enough oxygen.
If you think about it, everything has this same pattern or cycle: the waves at the beach, our heart, our money and yes, even birth. Even when things seem to not have this cycle, when we look close enough or far enough away, we will always find it. Anyone who has ever attended at birth know that there is a natural rhythm to each pressure wave and if we stop for a moment and take a step back, we will see a much larger rhythm. The ebb and flow of personal space. A friend of mine and fellow doula says, “An overly solicitous care provider makes a woman feel weak and disempowered.” When I first heard this, I really had to stop and think for a moment. If you think about it, when a doctor is ever present/ always there, the patient will start to think, “what’s wrong? why are they watching me so closely?” But this can and does apply to doula work.
I am a pretty hands on doula. I like my clients to feel supported and comfortable so this really got me thinking. If I am “ever present”, what will my clients think. Will they questions their own power, wondering whose strength it was that got them through? Now, I’m not advocating that doulas leave a birth for a few hours, I’m just saying that there is power in giving a mom her personal space. In this way, we can think of negative space as the absence of me. As I look back, a good majority of the births that I’ve attended have benefited from, or could have benefited from this negative space.
As a doula and educator, I don’t like it when my clients say “we couldn’t have done it without you”. My ego loves it but at that moment, it’s not about my ego, it’s about my clients. I want them to walk away feeling empowered knowing that they made the decisions that were right for them and that I supported them in those decisions. In providing that “negative space”, I allow a mom the chance to get to know herself and really find her power.