Becoming a doula has been life-changing for me. I’m assuming this is true for most, if not all, doulas.
Cliché, I know. But that doesn’t make it any less true.
I have worked in many different industries over the last seventeen years. I have been a dishwasher, a dog walker, fast-food service worker, a bartender, receptionist, pastry chef, and a preschool teacher.
While I was passionate about pastry arts, and deeply fulfilled as an Early Childhood Educator, I always felt like something was missing, even though I wasn’t quite sure what that was.
If you have read the ‘about me’ section, then you know why I wanted to become a doula. I’m going to go a little deeper into that story. And just so you’re aware, I’ll be talking about pregnancy loss, specifically miscarriage. If those are triggers for you, listen to your heart as to whether or not you want to continue reading.
My third pregnancy was the most scheduled out of all of them. And by that, I mean we were planning on trying for another baby, though we were thinking about six months or so down the road after purchasing a house and having gotten settled. With our first pregnancy, it was about five years ahead of schedule, and with our second, it was around nine months ahead of schedule. Looking back at it now, it’s kind of funny how we thought we could plan our lives down to a ‘tee’ like that.
My grandma always said that life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.
The moment I found out I was pregnant with my third child, I texted my best friend to ask her for the name and contact information of the doula she had hired for her last pregnancy. I contacted the doula on September 18th in the hopes she’d be able to take me on as a client and we had an amazing phone conversation the next day. She let me know what kind of care I could expect from her, and we scheduled an in-person meeting for the following week.
Queue a flurry of excitement, nervousness, and joy as it began to sink in that we were having another baby. My sister was with me the day I found out, so keeping it from family was out of the question. It felt like a whirlwind of busyness over the next few days, as Earth keeps spinning whether we want to stop and savour a moment or not. The school year had just started, I was busy with work, and my partner and I were spending every spare moment looking at houses for sale.
All of that lively, energetic busyness was unexpectedly and abruptly jolted when my world came screeching to a halt. On the evening of September 22nd, I saw what every pregnant woman fears the most – blood on the toilet paper when I wiped.
My breath caught in my chest, my pulse drummed loudly in my ears, and a flush of panic crept up from my gut. I stared at the toilet paper in disbelief, and then with shaking hands, tossed it into the toilet and flushed.
I numbly stumbled out of the bathroom, and texted both my midwife and doula.
“Hey, I’m kinda freaking out… I just went pee and there’s some blood.. not a lot but my brain isn’t helping me to remember if that is okay or not or what it could mean…”
The rest of the evening was a blur. I have anxiety that sometimes gets the best of me, and this was definitely one of those times. I oscillated between frantically texting my doula, who reassured me to be present, offered kind words, and reminded me that I was loving my baby even though I was scared, and frantically google-searching anything and everything I could on the signs and symptoms of miscarriage.
I didn’t sleep that night and woke up to more blood. My partner had gone to work, but I called him and told him we needed to go to the hospital.
We arrived mid-morning and didn’t return home until later that evening. A year later, I am still disgusted by and resentful about what happened during those nine hours at the hospital on the worst day of my life.
The indifference and lack of bedside manner from the emergency room physician when he told me, “as you already know, you are having a miscarriage.”
No doctor, I did not already know. I came to the hospital to find out if there was some other explanation for what was happening that did not include my baby dying inside my body. There has to be another explanation.
The shock and horror I could see written all over the radiologist’s face when, during my emergency ultrasound, she lifted the sheet and saw all the blood. She wasn’t aware that I was having the internal scan due to a suspected miscarriage, and she was not prepared. I felt mortified as she changed the bedding then wiped the table and the floor because I was bleeding everywhere. Miscarriage is messy.
The ER physician continued in his arrogance and condescension when he read the ultrasound results to me that indicated the pregnancy was viable. I burst into tears.
He said, “you do know what viable means, right?”
Yes doctor, I know what viable means. It means my baby is alive when just a couple of hours ago you so matter-of-factly told me that my baby was dead. I am crying because I am relieved.
The amount of sorrow, pain, and anguish I felt during those hours was in direct proportion to the love, care, and support I received from my doula as we were communicating back and forth throughout my ordeal. I re-read those messages from time to time. It helps to ease the pain knowing that someone I had barely known for a week went out of her way to hold space for me, comfort me, and guide me every dreadful step of the way.
I still don’t know how to describe how I felt as we left the hospital and headed back to the truck. I was so emotionally spent, but there was a miniscule spark of hope in my heart. I pressed my hand to my lower belly as we walked, and I quietly reassured my baby.
It’s okay, little love. It’s all going to be okay.
Not twenty minutes after getting home, as I was sitting at the table trying to eat some dinner my doula had brought over, I got an urge to push.
I hovered over the toilet with a mesh strainer, tears pouring down my face, shoulders heaving with sobs as I birthed the placenta first, and then my baby. It was the most horrific thing I have ever experienced.
My friend, the same one who had connected me with my doula, was at my house staying with my two boys while I was at the hospital. She is a nurse, and had witnessed the birth of my second child, so I did not hesitate to call her into the bathroom to help me figure out what had just happened, what was what, and what I needed to do next.
I texted my doula. I didn’t know what to do. I was so numb, scared, heart-broken and lost.
She responded, “Now you grieve, hold space for your baby, cry, mourn. Acknowledge their presence in your life. Be around people who love you, let them care for you, let them love you.”
Over the next few months as I navigated this giant, gaping hole that had ripped through my heart, I leaned heavily on my doula. To be honest, I still seek her support when I’m having a tough day. She answered my endless messages and calls and visited me frequently. She just held me and I would cry and cry, until there was nothing left. Afterwards, I would sit there in my numbness, and she’d remind me that I did everything I could, and that I loved my baby for her entire life. She reminded me to be loving and kind to myself, as there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to lose a beloved baby. She encouraged me to acknowledge my feelings and thoughts without judging them, and to stay present and resist the urge to shoot forward into scenarios that hadn’t happened yet.
“One day at a time, Kim, and sometimes all we can manage is one moment at a time.”
The moments from the early days of my grief now feel blurred and almost indistinct. As if the whole thing happened either a million years ago, or in some alternate universe. But buried in those moments lies the realization that I want to take care of people the way my doula had been caring for me. It was a quiet and profound moment where I deeply understood in my heart that I want to do this. I want to support, care for, love on, encourage, assist, remind, reassure, nurture, and tend to women and birthing persons during this sacred time of transition. No matter the outcome, when you enter the path of bringing life into this world, even if it’s just for a few steps, you are worthy and deserving of the best care and support out there. This is the kind of support I will give as a doula.