This blog has been sitting in my drafts for months now. I debated on sharing, slightly because it’s intimate and vulnerable, and slightly because I wasn’t sure if people would even care to read about it. However, I (Tracy) and frequently asked about why I became a doula, so I thought I’d share a little peak into that transition.
There’s a home video we have of me, probably around 5 years old, sitting on a bucket, with two long pigtails in my hair, stirring mud in another bucket, pretending to make food for my family. The person recording asks, “who are you making the food for” and I replied “my four kids”.
My husband and were (and are) high school sweethearts. We started dating when I was 15. We got married young and knew that we wanted a large family. A doctor I saw shortly after we got married informed me that, because of some issues I had, it may take us a while to get pregnant.
After we graduated from college, we moved to Alabama and started trying to have a baby immediately. We were able to conceive our oldest, Olivia, the first month. Easy peasy.
Unfortunately, her delivery was not so easy peasy. After months of contractions and dilation (yes, months!) I decided to get induced. My induction ended in a cesarean birth. It was a very hard birth for me, emotionally, and I felt so alone. Alone during the surgery, after her birth. Alone when I was in recovery, shaking uncontrollably, while my husband was with the baby, the nurse doing her own thing, and her not in a mood to answer my crying or questions. Alone. Scared. Broken.
Here’s my caveat, and I want to make this point clear. The reason my birth was traumatic was NOT because of the way that she was born. It wasn’t because she was born via cesarean section. It was because of the way that people/staff made me feel, likely unintentionally. I felt completely alone and I felt as though everyone else was a part of my birth experience except me. (This can happen in all kinds of births and was not just because mine was a c/s.)
But, her birth was the start of something special. I knew there had to be a better way. People could not just walk out of births like mine and be “ok.” I didn’t have the words to describe my birth as traumatic quite yet, but I knew it wasn’t “right”.
I figured that there must be some sort of support group for someone who had gone through what I had, so I went to the library to get on the internet (this was the dinosaur age, in 2005, when we didn’t have home internet- or cell phones capable of using the internet.) I found a local ICAN group and went to a meeting. It was that group that not only helped me find my desire for a VBAC, but that started nurturing my desire to support birthing families.
I walked into my third pregnancy’s first prenatal (we lost a baby between from a missed miscarriage), told my doctor I was going to VBAC, and that was that. My VBAC baby, Austin, was born 16 months later, in the summer of 2006. While it is rarely that easy for all women, (something I’ve witnessed countless times as a doula) it was fairly uncomplicated for me.
About a year later, we were pregnant again. My husband and I both were in complete shock. We were dazed for a few days, uncertain if we could handle a very spirited 2.5-year-old, a busy and verbose 1.5-year-old, and a new baby. The uncertainty leveled itself out and we started to get excited. We always planned to have a large family and wanted our children fairly close in age.
We lost the baby.
While my husband was out of town on travel, I miscarried our baby. The guilt was overwhelming. Crushing. I felt, subconsciously, I had somehow caused the miscarriage or deserved the miscarriage because I wasn’t immediately excited when we first found out.
The ache from that baby’s loss was intense. It also created this strong desire to plan to have another. To actively try to have another baby, because we were now READY. We had made a space in our hearts for our third living child and felt empty without him/her.
We went on to lose 4 more babies over the course of the next two years, 6 losses in total. We transferred to an RE, tried various protocols, took supplements, injections, and every pregnancy held my breath the pink lines showed up and didn’t let the air out until we lost the baby and my breath turned to sobs.
If I could sum up those years in one moment, it would be this one: It was nap time for our other kids. I was laying in my bed, facing to the right, towards my curtains. My stomach was in knots, then revolting all together in nausea, then knots again. I had blood drawn that morning to see if my HCG levels were rising or falling. The previous two draws were showing slow growth, which was not hopeful for our baby’s life. I was in this in-between place of dread and grief and hopefulness. I prayed. And prayed. And prayed. I remember begging God to save my baby’s life. I bargained. I pleaded.
Then I got the call.
My baby was dying.
I felt alone. Scared. Broken. I curled up, in my bed, held onto myself, tried to disappear into my grief.
I couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t remember how. My sobs shook my entire body until I had no tears left, but then I somehow cried more.
Throughout those years, I felt so broken and alone. More broken than I had ever felt in my entire life. But, it was also in the middle of all of that yuck, muck, and suck that God spoke into my life more intensely about becoming a doula. (Which, if I’m honest, is so absurd that it could ONLY be a God thing.)
It was hard. Reading about and studying pregnancy and birth, I was constantly faced with my grief over what I “didn’t have”. But, God is good and showed me that it was what He was asking for me to do, regardless if we had another live child or not. And, so, I took my doula training in April of 2009. Coincidently, or not, the same month we got pregnant with our keeper baby, Isaac.
The grief didn’t disappear. I will NEVER not cry when I tell our story. But, looking back, I see how our grief and pain have had a purpose. We have comforted others from what we learned in our pain and it comforts me in return. Not only through friends and families who have lost babies but also through the doula agency to clients who our doulas help feel less alone.
The passion that fueled my desire to find a solution to support birthing families, even amid my deepest grief, is the same passion that we bring to every client. Our goal is that your family unit is supported well during your transition in parenthood, whatever your desires and preferences.