I want to talk about the elephant in the room... or the possible elephant in the room... or the elephant in some people's rooms... I want to talk about being a bereavement doula.
"That's morbid and heavy, Susie. Why not certify just as a birth doula?"
There's a place for birth doulas, absolutely. They walk alongside a mom, keeping her calm, and focused, and in control of her labor. They are there to help her partner work with her, through the contractions, or as moral support if he is overwhelmed. They are there to explain options and provide resources. They are there to listen and validate. They are there to care and support and help labor be as beautiful of an experience as possible. They are there for that unique mom and her birth regardless of what that looks like. They. Are. There.
I want to be that to my clients. I want to stand next to many moms as they do this labor of love and welcome their tiny new people into the world. That's a privilege. It's an honor. Birth doulas rock, quite frankly.
But what about the moms who face what nobody should? What about the mom that hires me as her birth doula and stops feeling kicking at 31 weeks? What about the mother who gets a fatal outcome diagnosis at 20 weeks, but desires to carry that child as long as she's allowed? What about the mother considering my services, who starts to bleed at 11 weeks?
Who is there for them?
This mother deserves to not face that alone. This mother needs someone trained in situations that aren't only physically painful, with a joyful outcome, but are physically painful with an emotionally heartbreaking end. This mother needs someone to walk along this road with her to help her feel, and grieve, and ultimately heal.
I can't tell you why, but death has always fascinated me. I've never been fearful of it. When I was 12 I announced that I would be a mortician when I grew up. As a senior in high school I considered doing funeral services as my college degree, but I just didn't have it in me. I chose elementary education, but took a death and dying class as an elective. The curiosity never left.
I noticed a bereavement doula on one of my Facebook groups and I admired her path. I admired her service to moms. I decided that if I ever used a doula, I would use her. Years later when I finally got that "Aha!" moment and decided to pursue my own doula certification, this doula and I crossed paths and she told me about her training with Stillbirthday University. She raved about the course and education Stillbirthday provided and I felt called to pursue, not only a birth certification, but a bereavement one as well.
You see, not only do mothers of tough outcomes deserve someone in their corner, but there's a beauty in between the pain of labor and the pain of goodbye. There's the welcoming. There's the time spent together and the memories to be made. This beautiful baby, that she so wonderfully grew, will enter the world. Her body will labor and birth this baby. A bereavement doula helps her focus on just that: labor and birth, just like every other labor and birth. A bereavement doula will help this mother welcome her baby and prepare her to hold her baby, explaining how perfect and beautiful he is. She will help mom with her fears and hesitations. A bereavement doula will go slow. She will help mom bathe her baby, dress her baby and make memories with her baby. She will share in that sacred space. A bereavement doula will be a support, a resource, and an aid. A bereavement doula will help mom to know what is normal to feel. A bereavement doula will give this mother an outlet. She will be there emotionally through the farewell and in the days, weeks, and months afterward as life resumes and mom finds her new normal. A bereavement doula will validate baby's presence and life and will help the mother honor her baby and keep baby's spirit alive through her memories, keepsakes, and love.
That's not morbid.
That's not scary.
That's a baby and a life and a mother who has to come home with empty arms and a shattered heart.
I understand that death and dying is hard for some, but to me, it felt like a calling. I don't wish that outcome on anyone, not at all. If I never need to doula a bereavement case because they don't happen around me, that's wonderful, and I will fill my years with happy births.
However, I personally feel the need to be able to walk alongside a laboring mother in absolutely any circumstance. I want to be a resource for those who suffer a miscarriage. I want to be equipped to doula in any setting. I don't want conditions on my ability to provide care. I chose to be a bereavement doula as well as a birth doula because I think both are important, and more importantly, I felt like I could. I should. I've had this fascination since early childhood and this feels like the reason why. I think I was meant to find this path and help others in this way: through being a birth and a bereavement doula.
I want to share in my client's experiences, however they come. I know it's not an easy topic, but I feel led to this and I feel like I will do well by those who hire me, whether everything goes off without a hitch, or the worst case happens. I want to serve. I want to help. I want to stand alongside birthing mothers. I want to be a doula... for every type of mom and baby.
I'm officially half way completed with my doula class with Stillbirthday University.
This has been an amazingly enriching experience. This program is so thorough and deep and academic, but equally emotional. By the end of the course, I will be trusted to walk with someone through such a hard time in their life: the loss of their baby. I will be trusted to walk along side someone through happy birth outcomes too. Both things feel like such a great privilege. Holy cow.
My biggest fear: that I will get trained, be so eager to walk alongside someone in the birth of their baby, and then never find clients. How do you approach someone and be like "Ok, so I know bringing your baby into the world is like the most vulnerable and amazing thing you will ever do. Higly personal. Yup. Soooo lemme in there! Oh, and pay me." o.O
I'm trying not to let that consume me.. I feel like I need clients NOW, but in reality, week 8 is where we get the training on how to start a doula business. For now, I need to learn the skillzzzz and I am.
We have gone over prenatal bonding and the crazy important significance that has on, like, your entire life. We have learned about conception. We have learned about medical birth options and comfort measures (the heart of the doula work). We have learned to:
^^This is the core of Stillbirthday and I need NEED to demonstrate that in any scenario. I need to break it down and provide my client with those pieces to fully serve them.
There has been an exam every week. The exams basically fluctuate between: gaining rote knowledge of ALL things pregnancy, labor, and birth, and being able to showcase how you would serve a client in various situations. Everything is done in terms of live birth and stillbirth, or birth in any trimester.
It's intense and I am loving it! I feel like a piece of me is coming back. I am meant to do this. I love it! I feel like I am thriving learning this material. I am soaking it all in so that when I am blessed with a client, I can easily and efficiently walk along side her and help her have the best possible labor. I want to keep walking this path and continue to learn and grow and work my way into the birth community and be an awesome asset and a kick-butt doula.
Bring it on, second semester!
This post was written for my personal family blog, but I think it's fitting to plop it here. It's part of my doula journey...
I have typed out this post several times, and they lie in the graveyard that is the "drafts" section of Blogger. RIP forgotten drafts. I get all self-conscious when I talk about myself... talking about the kids or my thoughts on topics, ok. Talk about me or something for me, I get all tongue tied and sheepish. Ya know what? I'm talking about me. This post is about me.
I'm going to cut right to the chase:
I'm becoming a birth and bereavement doula.
I know, right?
A doula. What they heck is a doula?
So basically, I want to help women birth their babies. It's not enough to birth my own babies, now I apparently need to help birth others' too, eh?
Over the last few years I have gotten more fascinated with pregnancy, birth, and babies. Fixated. Fascinated. For a long time, I just thought I was settling in and clicking with my position in life (big family and all), and I was. I am. I also felt more and more of a pull to help people. When I have things well managed here, I enjoy reaching outside myself to help others. It's like a drug, I feel good helping and I figure it helps ensure my spot in the afterlife, ya know? Win win, it's not exactly selfless. So anyway, those two factors combined led me to my doula decision.
Last April, I inadvertently attended my good friend's home birth. I was supposed to go there and help man the fort with her other kids and be an extra errand runner or help if needed, I was an accessory to keep things going downstairs so birth could happen upstairs. That didn't happen, I ended up being blessed with the opportunity to assist in and witness this birth.
I have never experienced such a high. I have never experienced such a miracle. I felt so alive.
I drove home at 5:23 that morning and knew: I needed to do this. I need to be a birth doula. I need to be there for women, helping them through the beauty and trial of labor. I started researching how to be a doula that day.
I googled and ventured on and felt further called to become a birth and bereavement doula. I will be certified to walk alongside a woman through her pregnancy and birth, but will also have the training to be a shoulder and a help and a resource in any outcome or situation: live birth, miscarriage, and stillbirth. Mothers without the happy ending need more support than those who bring home their babies. They deserve someone in their corner and I feel strongly that I need to be there for my clients, or anyone who reaches out to me, in any circumstance. It makes sense for me to train as a birth doula, but encompassing all possibilities.
So here I am.
I started my training this week through Stillbirthday University.http://www.stillbirthday.com/
It's an online course that runs through the Summer. This program feels like home... it's a strong curriculum and a very positive classroom environment. I feel privileged to go through Stillbirthday. In September, if all goes well, I will be SBD, a certified Stillbirthday birth and bereavement doula. I still have zero clue where to go from there. I'm not sure how to launch myself into the birth world and make a business from my training, but my heart is in it and I'm pretty confident that it will fall together at the right time.
For now, all I know is that I want to be a doula. I want to talk with women through their pregnancies. I want to answering their questions and share the anticipation. I want to be there as a comfort and aide through their labor, helping them have the best labor possible by providing comfort techniques, a calm environment, and keeping their focus on that sweet baby who is worth it all.
For the first time in many years, I'm doing something pretty huge that is just for me. It feels good.
Baby Love Blog
Here lies a stream of consciousness regarding, pregnancy, birth, babies, and my doula business...