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.
Baby Love Blog
Here lies a stream of consciousness regarding, pregnancy, birth, babies, and my doula business...