Messing Up & Showing Up

Oh, by the way, I’m human — and I mess up. Let’s just clarify that right at the start.

My earliest, most personal memory came at about 20 years old, when I was living alone for the very first time in my life. I grew up among a big family (7 people in one house), until I ran away from a terrible situation in Massachusetts, at age 18. Then, I spent many years traveling the country, coast to coast, by car. Back then, traveling alone all over this land was not scary. Staying put in one home space was.

Remember, this was before the prominence of cell phones and texting. So, I got an old-fashioned phone call, went to their home to talk about the birth, and soon, I was hired.

I felt this profound sense of honor to be chosen by someone who communicated beyond spoken words. So much of what I valued about being a doula then resided in the communications that happen above and beneath language. This client, for me, was a beautiful opportunity to really practice being ‘in my body’ and staying present for someone at an instinctual level.

There was such discord in me as I moved toward the door to her room. I had to move through that situation in a way I would never have imagined— knowing I hadn’t done what I’d agreed to do. It was so out of line with who I thought I was: responsible, considerate, attentive. Yet, it had happened. So, I had to walk through that door with every one of those truths squeezing through the door frame with me.

I opened and entered. There, in an elevated hospital bed lay my client, luminous, with a new baby boy in her arms. Ohhh, I gestured and expressed in my face. Then, we had to get out the tiny notebook and pen. What a fool I felt like. It didn’t matter that I failed to be there because of a chance-dog-escape, and not some poor choice I’d made. All that mattered was she had birthed her baby and I had missed it.



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Vanessa Osage

Vanessa Osage


Author, Speaker & Nonprofit Leader, Vanessa Osage, is healing corruption with truth and reform. Creator of The Justice CORPS Initiative at The Amends Project.