Roller Derby Doula

If you have read any of my past blog posts, you are probably aware that I think Doula’s are needed in every area of life.  This includes every situation from during a tattoo session, while making bread, during a miscarriage or stillbirth, and all the way to during the death process.  Well, I now have another area of life where my doula skills have come in handy, and that was during roller derby.

This may or may not surprise you, but I play roller derby.  True story.  My derby name is Andi Linquent and I’ve been playing for about 2 years now.  I love it like crazy, and oddly enough, I have connected with so many other birthy birthy mamas through derby.

***that’s me in the front… I block.

Okay, so picture this:

Seven women on an oval track (we had 1 in the box I believe) all smashing each other around for some seemingly pointless reason (there was a point though, I swear).  One steps wrong and SNAP!, she’s laying on the floor in excruciating pain with a busted leg.  First there’s the shock and look of fear, then there’s the noticable tension sweeping over her body and burning pain, all expressed through clenched fists, tight jaw, shaking and small cries for help.  The jam (what they call the 2 minute segments of play during the game) is called off and I holler for medics.

There are two things you can do at this moment… you can back up and let those who know what their doing tend to the injured, or you can tend to the injured.  Considering that the fallen team mate was at my feet and could not take my hand to get up, I chose to stay and help.

***not her leg… just took photo from google images.

A broken leg is not something anyone can plan for, but I was surprised at how fast I switched from “knock a girl down” mode (PS… she was on my team, I did not knock her down, just to clarify), to “help a girl who’s down” mode.  The immediate shift from aggressive competitive derby girl to my doula persona was what made that situation a no brainer for me.  Instantly it is no longer about anything else except the mate on the ground.  The game doesn’t matter, the stress doesn’t matter, I don’t matter…. everything is thrown to the back burner and team mate is #1.

During doula training and moreso after attending a variety of births, we learn that pain is to be managed (or avoided if possible).  Obviously I guess… why would anyone just let pain happen, right?  This doesn’t necessarily mean managed with drugs, although maybe it does some times.  To stay on topic of the broken leg, narcotics were not available immediately so non-pharmacological pain management was required.  It was all very similar to handling labour pain, without the movement of course.   My support essentially consisted of repeating what my fallen team mate needed to do, which was:

– take deep breaths…. in your nose, and blow out your mouth

– relax your muscles…. the more your muscles are relaxed, the less pain you will feel.

– encouragment (you got this)

There were momemts when I looked my team mate in the eyes and instructed her to follow my breathing, in………. and out……….  There was constant massaging of the hands and shoulders, as raised shoulders and clenched hands indicate tight muscles, which will make pain worse.  Our coach was doing some leg massage, which really helps.  Another team mate, who also is a doula was helping stabalize the leg with our resident medic (who plays derby as well), and was super supportive for our injured team mate.

Now here is my confession…. I cannot handle broken bones, among other things that I won’t list right now.  Yet, when I am needed, it doesn’t matter.  This means I’m not going to cry while trying to support her because her broken leg scared the crap out of me, and it means that regardless of what I may “think” I can’t handle, I actually can.  Because it’s not about me, and it never is when I’m supporting someone else (regardless of situation).

The next day I was chatting with a much more experienced roller derby friend about the whole incident, and she shared some info with me that confirmed what I was already thinking.  She said that even though she’s been playing roller derby for 6+ years, she still gets a knot in her stomach before each bout, and she uses the pain coping techniques she learned while pregnant to calm down.  She engages in self calming with deep breathing etc. and basically gets in to a meditative state to settle herself…. before she goes knocking the other team down.  😉

So there we have it… A Derby Doula should be a required person on the side of the track for when injuries occur.  And I can’t believe I actually found a way to write about doula work and roller derby in the same blog post.  That happened.