This week I had an article featured in WRAL Go Ask Mom. I shared my thoughts about building the birth team you deserve with the help of a doula and the benefits of continuity of care. Check it out and please share!
“We cannot know your grief, but we can walk with you at every stage” Jacinda Adern
Losing a loved one is difficult for anyone.
Losing a child is completely different. It is a very different grief from what I am I told. No words or clear cut amount of time can heal the heart or soul of a parent after such a loss.
It is often said that time heals all wounds. I don't think I've ever truly believed that. The part about death and loss that cuts the deepest is when it comes unexpectedly. I won't pretend to know the kind of pain that comes with loosing a child, but a recent experience cut deep.
Just a few weeks ago, I experienced my first loss as a doula. And let me tell you, it hit me like a ton of bricks. And while I am a trained bereavement doula, I was not prepared for how I would support my clients when I myself needed support as well.
I wasn't prepared for the text message my client sent me telling me about her loss. A loss that had occured nearly a week before.
I wasn't prepared for how the news would affect my work with my other clients.
I wasn't prepared for how hard that first call would be.
I wasn't prepared for the bouts of sobbing that would come in the days that followed.
There came a point when I realized that their grief was indeed my grief.
My heart was sore and my soul was heavy. They were new clients. Parents of two young children already, excited about third. We were preparing the family for some developmental challenges, but even so, they felt blessed to have another child on the way.
And then this.
Support would be different moving forward, but I'm thankful I had the tools and training to help them navigate the beginning of their healing journey. The same resources that I passed along to my clients brought me understanding and comfort. I had my faith to lean on (Proverbs 3: 5-6). Doula friends uplifted me and gave words of encouragement when I didn't when I didn't have the capacity to understand why this happened. I truly appreciated that. I've learned that wisdom comes with every experience, even in the misdt of tragedy. As complex as this particular grief is, we find value in vulnerabilty and extend a lifetime of grace to the families who endure this pain daily. There is no love like the love a parent has for their child and we honor the depth of that love today & every day.
To any parent that has loss a child, my heart is with you. Always.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awarenss Month. The 15th of this month is designated as PAIL Rememberance Day. If you or a loved one has experienced the loss of a child, please consider honoring them by submitting their name for Stillbirthday's annual Heart Release or in some other way if you wish.
June 5, 2020
This has been on my heart for months now. And with everything happening over the last couple of weeks, I need to get this off my chest.
I first new my endo was real....
Almost three years ago, I woke up in pain and stayed in bed all day. I could barely move. Months earlier I had been diagnosed with IBS, but I knew this was something else. I was experiencing another flare and none of the 8 medications I was taking relieved my pain. The sun was going down and I had been trying to get out of bed all day, at least for a little bit, to go grocery shopping. But I just couldnt. So I narrowed down the list and I only needed one thing: milk for my son. I eventually broke down and asked my husband to run to the store. He happily obliged, asked if I needed anything and he took our son with him to Target since none of us had been out that day.
I stayed home with my mom (who had moved in with is just a couple of months prior due to her failing health) and tried to breath through the pain. I managed to doze off for a few minutes and then I heard my phone ring. (Note: for our whole relationship I have consistently missed my husband's calls because when I'm at home, I put my phone on silent. But I had recently started turning my phone volume up whenever he left the house because he always calls for one reason or another).
When I answered the phone I heard my husband's voice and I immediately knew something was wrong. He told me he had been pulled over for no reason. He told me that the officer had a warrant for his arrest. He had me on speaker so I could hear. Him and the officer had an exchange when my husband asked why he had been pulled over and what the warrant was for. Then my husband and I got disconnected. (He apparently called 911 right after this so he could have a record of what was happening). I immediately jumped on my feet, grabbed some clothes, called my neighbor and asked her to take me to my husband and son.
By the time we got in the car, my husband had called back and told me he was about to be arrested. I could hear my son crying in the background. My adrenaline was pumping through me as I was now in a panic. That 9 minute car ride was the longest car ride of my life. I stayed on the phone. I put him on speaker phone so I could hear everything.
When we arrived my husband was in the back of a police SUV. A second officer had arrived at some point and was standing next to our family car just watching my son cry his eyes out. I ran over to the SUV and saw the pain in my husband's eyes. He said he was okay and told me to go get our son and told me not to cry. I walked over to our car and proceeded to calm our son down. My mother stayed with him while I spoke to one of the police officers about what was going to happen next. My heart was pounding but I spoke calmly and nodded my head before getting into my car and following the police officers to the jail.
My neighbor took my mother and son home and I proceeded down the dark highway with tears streaming down face. It seemed like a long drive. The next thing I remember is walking through the huge doors of the building and approaching the metal detector. I was then directed to go down the stairs and wait to speak to the magistrate. I had no idea who that was or what that meant. But as a young black woman who was waiting to bail her black husband our of jail, there was a sense that I did know and was even familiar with the entire process due to the color of my skin. I was not. I was scared. No, terrified. I was cold, hungry and tired. And now, I was alone. Waiting. Not knowing what was happening to my husband. Two hours pasted. I finally saw the magistrate. She spoke fast and again, she spoke to me as if I had been through this process before. I didn't even know where to begin to find a bail bondsman. I called a family friend (an older white woman) and without hesitation, she came to sit with me for a while. She waited at the jail just in case there were any updates about my husband while I went to the atm to get bail money. Money we had just put in our savings account. Money we needed. Money I was thankful to have at a time like this.
When I returned, I was told that my husband was being released soon. I waited another 40 minutes before I saw him slowly walk over to me. There was something in his eyes... He was defeated. He was angry. He was sad. I noticed that he was carrying his shoe strings. We hugged for a long time. I don't remember the ride home. It was after 2 am when we finally got home. He had bruises from the handcuffs. They served as reminders days after the whole ordeal. He made a video of his experience and his feelings about being wrongfully arrested before we went to bed. I barely slept. My body had just experienced a full on traumatic experience while I was in the middle of an endo flare. There are no words to express what my body and brain endured that day and the months following. This was the day I knew my endo was real.
The other day while I was brushing my teeth, I received a text from one of my birth clients. She is now a few weeks postpartum and had just gotten around to responding to the Mother's Day message I sent to her. She informed me that she, her husband and baby were all doing well and she thanked me again for all of my continued support over the past year. I had a moment. I started to tear up because a lot of what I do is tedious, detailed preparation (follow-ups & check-ins, emails & calls, consulting, invoices and paperwork) and very rarely do I stop and take the time to soak in the "thanks". As I began to reflect on her birth and all the families I have supported over the last year specifically, I hit hit me like a ton of bricks-I don't have a single photo of myself doing birth work. Sure, I have a few selfies in my scrubs, some photos from my trainings and even a couple of candids from my first postpartum client, but the only evidence that I have of myself immersed in my work is from the other side of the camera. I have never held any of my birth babies. No one has ever asked. And it's fine. This work isn't about me. But I do wish that I was included more, if that makes sense.
The truth is that much of my work is unseen. I do a lot of make sure my clients are informed about all of their options and I am available to them whenever they need me. All of my clients receive customized support depending on their individual family needs and that could mean a wide range of things. While I can't guarantee a specific birth outcome or experience, my clients can count on professionalism and continuity of care. Bottom line: I do a lot of so that my clients can focus on what's most important: their families. As a doula and professional family caregiver, my work is very personal. The level of trusted care, education and expertise that I give is unmatched. There is the physical side to the job that requires me to show up, listen, be present and hands on, work with the other members of the birth team, take photos, do hip squeezes & massages, get ice, take detailed birth notes and following up with postpartum visits & care all while being emotionally attentive to my clients and so much more. And then there is the part of the job that involves navigating the unknown, waiting and sometimes advocating for your clients... or uncertainties that result in changed plans, different birth outcomes, pain, trauma and even loss. I too have to process all that happens and still support my clients.
I am always working. Even when it seems like I'm not. But I am also a PERSON and sometimes that gets overlooked. I am a wife and a mother. I have other commitments and responsibilities in the community as well. I also have a chronic disease that some of my clients are unaware of, but I still manage to do what I need to do when the time comes. That's just who I am. But does it have to be?
This year, I have been focusing more on the energy I give and how I use my own energy throughout the day. I have been intentionally practicing the art of attracting the energy I want, especially in business. I have been scheduling time off and taking breaks when needed to make sure my own cup is full. I have a couple of clients right now that I have connected with deeply. They see me. They get me. They acknowledge that I too have emotions and need time away from my work. And I can't tell you how much I appreciate that.
I have changed a lot since I first became a doula. As I developed professionally and experienced different things over the years, my brand has evolved and reflected who I am really am and what I am most passionate about. I think people (my people) are recognizing that and finding me. And while sometimes it gets lonely and even overwhelming on the other side of the camera, I still love it here.
This is the face of postpartum anxiety.
Ten years ago when I became a mother, I had no idea how this precious baby would change me.
Preston is my greatest joy and even though I seem happy in this photo, I was a mess.
A few months after having my son, I developed postpartum anxiety, more specifically postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder. I constantly worried about my son. Is he breathing? Is he eating enough? Will supplementing with formula ruin him? I checked on things in the house over and over again. I cleaned a lot. I barely slept. I definitely didn't eat properly or care for myself like I should have. And to top it off, I had major separation anxiety when my husband would leave for work each day.
There is no doubt in my mind that some of my thoughts had to do with me becoming a parent while I had not yet addressed my own childhood issues & feelings. Part of me felt like I would fail him because I felt damaged. Through all the tears and sleepless nights, my son gave me the gift of healing. His smile is why I smiled. His laugh instantly made me laugh. His birth set in motion a series of events that would allow me to love wholeheartedly, heal and walk in my purpose as a doula so I can help others on their parenting journey.
For more information and resources on maternal mental health, please visit Postpartum Support International.
The Climb Out of the Darkness the world's largest event raising funds and awareness for the mental health of new families operated by Postpartum Support International. The Climb is a community walk and international fundraiser for survivors, providers, and members of the community to come together.
Raising awareness for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, The Climb brings communities together to shine a light on a darkness we often don't speak about. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are the most common complication of pregnancy and childbirth.
We share stories of hope and celebrate recovery as we gather together to raise money, raise awareness and give a voice to those who no longer have one and walk together to symbolize our 'Climb' Out of the Darkness.
Click here to view my "Why I Climb" video and learn more about why I believe Postpartum Support International is so essential to new parents. Please consider giving the gift of support to another new mother and make a donation to such a worthy cause.
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