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Christ’s birth holds special meaning for Manassas doula

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People of any faith and background inescapably brush up against the truth that love is self-giving when they witness the birth of their child, said Tabitha Kaza, a doula and mother of 12. Never is that more true than when the newborn baby is expected to die. Kaza, who has lost her own child, has attended the birth of both healthy and stillborn babies. In all stages of a child’s life, there is joy, sorrow and sacrifice, she said. Hopefully, there is also comfort and support.


Doulas aren’t medical providers, but they do give expectant parents information and advice during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum phase, said Kaza, a parishioner of All Saints Church in Manassas. It’s a resource she wished she had during her early births, especially her first.


Kaza grew up in a large Catholic family in Indiana, then followed her high school sweetheart Babu to Brown University in Rhode Island. They were married during college and Kaza gave birth to their first child there. But her mother was expecting her ninth child at the same time, and couldn’t be with Kaza. “That’s part of why I became a doula. I was in over my head and alone, and I wanted better,” she said.


While in labor with her fifth child, Kaza had an “awful” birth experience due to subpar medical professionals. “They were rude, they were mean, they were the opposite of helpful. I had a birth injury because of what they did, and I found out when the baby was two weeks old that my husband was deploying to Iraq, so that also contributed to a very bad postpartum experience,” she said.


When the family moved to Virginia in 2006, Kaza was determined to find a better provider. She decided on Tepeyac OB\GYN in Fairfax. “I just couldn't believe the difference in the care. They meant everything to me,” she said. She also made a friend who happened to be a doula. Though Kaza initially refused her services, as she was going in to be induced, she gave the friend a call.


Between having a doula and a Catholic, pro-life doctor, “I had stars in my eyes after (the baby) was born. I said, ‘Why didn’t someone tell me about this six babies ago?’ She helped (my husband) help me, and I didn’t know how much being cared for in that way could make such a difference,” said Kaza.


Eventually, her own doula encouraged her to become one. After witnessing the birth of a friend’s child and reflecting on her children’s births, Kaza saw the deep beauty of the experience.


“When your child is born, it’s a moment of relief and ecstasy, where all of that time and trouble is done, and all you have is this beautiful creation that is your love with your husband embodied,” said Kaza. “There is no time in that moment. You’re holding the hand of God to get there and then it's indescribable bliss.”


Now, Kaza has been a doula for countless births over the past five years and is certified through DONA International, the first doula certification program. Though difficult, her work as a bereavement doula holds a special place in her heart.


“To be a mother and to love that way is to be open to death as much as life, and to be open to loss as much as joy,” she said. “The times I’ve been able to serve a family when they either knew their baby was going to die or their baby suddenly died, those are the most dear to me of all of my doula experiences. There was never any illusion for me about birth and death being very close to each other.”


But Kaza understood that fully in 2015 when her own son, Sebastian, died suddenly after going into cardiac arrest at 19 months. In the aftermath of his death, Kaza was in “agony,” she said. But remembering Christ’s coming as a little child helped. “This physical, incarnate life we have is such a gift. Nobody knows how long or short it’s going to be. The word Emmanuel, Jesus’ name — ‘God with us’ — sums it all up. That’s the only way I made it through losing my son,” she said.


“If you think of God at a distance, then you can’t have peace when pain and suffering and death come into your life. But if you think of Him as with us in our suffering, then it can all make sense,” she said. “The birth of Christ is the discovery of the world of God with us. He is with a laboring mother, He is with a family as they welcome a new child into the world, and He is with us in our last moments, too. That’s all summarized in a joyful way as we celebrate His birth.”


After Sebastian died, Kaza didn’t think she would have any more children. But she gave birth Nov. 11 to Nathanael Hope, which means ‘God has given us hope.’


“There’s the silly saying that a new child is God’s way of saying the world should go on,” said Kaza. “But the Christ child is God saying we have eternity.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017