I’m not very good with knowing the date. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m usually working on things in my calendar that are days or weeks ahead, or if being self employed just means I’m not looking at the calendar in the same way I did when I went to an office job each day, but regardless, I very rarely know what TODAY is unless I look it up. This means sometimes I miss important dates unintentionally (sorry Mom!!). And when you have attended many births over the course of time, it does become pretty hard to remember all the dates of birth for your clients, no matter how much you would like to. Especially in instances where the birth is longer, spanning one or more days. But I digress……
Sometimes, regardless of knowing the actual date, I have a nagging feeling that “today” is significant. A date forever etched in my mind. Last week was one of those times.
Four years ago I supported a couple through the birth of their child. Only the birth was also the death. There wasn’t a rhyme or reason. One day things were going great and the next day my client was not feeling movements, went to the doctor and it was confirmed that at 36 weeks gestation their child had passed away.
Its not easy to be a doula all the time, but especially under tragic circumstances. Supporting a healthy mom, who wanted to have an unmedicated birth and watching her go through the painful experience of an induced birth knowing that at the end she would not be able to take her baby home with her, instead she would be planning a funeral once he was born. Sitting alongside her amazing partner through the long process, both of us talking to her about the benefits of using medical interventions in this situation, even knowing that her birth plan didn’t include these options because of the potential risks to babe, but since babe was not at risk…………what interventions were best for her to get through this ordeal? Remembering that a fetal heart monitor wasn’t being used because there wasn’t a fetal heart rate to monitor. Navigating with family members who were also grieving and wanted to be with their daughter (sister, niece…).
That day will forever be etched in my mind and on my heart. I tried my best to be strong for that couple, but their strength surpassed us all and I learned so much from them through the experience. I grew, learned and changed that day. And no matter how emotional and difficult, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. The one thing about being a doula is that it is a career of love and passion. It’s a heart-centered service. And whether that results only in supporting a couple through life, or periodically means supporting them through death, the support is given through the love you build for your clients.
I had the pleasure of working with these clients again. And helping them greet their daughter into this world. That bright beautiful being just turned 3 and brings them so much joy. But their son will always be a shining reminder of strength we all hold within.
I love being an instructor and helping others fulfill their dreams of working with people through birth or postpartum, but I know that sometimes as an instructor I forget to share the full picture of what this work means. The quiet side of the role we sometimes are required to play when we support a loss instead of a birth. But it’s important we talk about this side of our work too! It’s not always joy and celebration.
But it is always rewarding.