Starting this week, everything changes. Being a doula, to me, has never been about one outcome. I started down this path not because I wanted to chase an oxytocin high, watching chubby pink babies scream and kick their way into the world. Though I do love every moment of those births. I started down this path because I believe in women, in all birthing people. I believe our culture has made a grievous error, insisting one’s reproductive journey be walked alone. I believe we all deserve support.
My certification was rigorous and in depth. I was impressed, and I felt like my training had fully prepared me to attend births. With one exception. “Birth”, throughout my training, was implied to mean a healthy full term birth of a live baby. Most of my foundational skill set applies to all outcomes. Holding space, and rubbing backs. Remaining unbiased and sourcing good, peer reviewed information. But how do you prepare a parent who will be saying both hello and goodbye? Sending statistics does nothing to prepare a parent who has no idea what her baby will look like at birth. Trying to focus a labouring person by reminding her she’s on her way to her new life with her baby means little when some of the most complex moments of her life are about to unfold.
This is why I made the decision to cross certify, and learn the art of bereavement care. I won’t lie, training has just begun, and my heart is falling apart. It hurts flipping through the photos of full term babies who appear to just be sleeping. It hurts looking at the tiny perfect hands of an 18 week gestation birth. It hurts reading about handling fragile little bodies, and how it helps to bring a teddy bear so parents have something to hold in their arms when they leave the hospital.
It all hurts. I’m a mother. I’m a person who welcomes babies to the world. When you’re surrounded by life, loss takes the breath from your lungs. And that’s why I need to do this. Because for every photo that breaks my heart, there’s a family who went on the longest journey to meet that tiny sleeping face. That family who went to hell and back and still said “This is my baby. They were beautiful, they were loved. I want you to see them and learn from them, and support the next family.”.
Doula care is my job. There are different outcomes on different days. Different families come and go. For a bereaved family, this is it. This is the opportunity to make a lifetime of memories. They deserve a doula who can lift them up. My clients deserve to know, in the event of a tragedy, I will stand by them. So I’m starting from scratch to make that a reality. Training all over again, cross certifying, adding a new acronym to my name. Challenging myself, and crying, and second guessing. Because all families deserve support. All choices. All outcomes. Rain or shine. They deserve a doula.