Thursday, May 23, 2013


DISCLAIMER: This post is sort of self therapy for me. Its chalk full of feelings.

People will forget what you said
People will forget what you did
But people will never forget how you made them feel.
  ~Maya Angelou

The last few months have been difficult. I haven't talked to many people about what has been going on for a variety of reasons.

On March 16/17, I attended a birth- but it wasn't a usual birth or even a happy one. The baby- a gorgeous, perfect little boy had died suddenly due to a cord complication just days before his "due" date. It was the blind leading the blind in this situation- not one I had ever really thought about or anticipated or prepared for. Na├»ve? Probably.

I had to try to support this couple through what would likely be the hardest day(s) of their lives. I had no idea how to do it and was trying to come to terms with my own emotions during the process. To say it was difficult is an understatement. I think about that day and that couple on a daily basis. They have impacted my life and my future as a doula forever.

I haven't spoken about it much for a few reasons:
  • It is not really my story to tell. Sure, I have my own perspective and involvement in that day but ultimately the story of their son's life and death belongs to them. I have been writing my account of the day and the emotions that go along with it in a personal journal as a way of coping.
  • Its not something that people want to or know how to talk about. How can I try to process and explain to someone what it was like to be in that room with them as they gave birth to the son that would never take a breath? Many people can't and don't want to imagine what that is like. As mothers, we don't want to imagine that kind of pain. As doulas, we hope we never have to support someone through a similar situation. Finding someone to talk to about it that can relate is not easy.
So, I've been quietly struggling with trying to process that experience. It worked out well that I had not booked any clients for April or May so I could take some time to just work through the emotions. As my next clients' due dates approach, I still don't feel completely ready- there is that little bit of anxiety about what could happen. Surely, lightning won't strike twice, right? Three and a half years of doula work, 40+ babies and until March, all had been healthy.

With my next client's birth on the horizon, the potential for another difficult outcome is a very real possibility. Again, its not my story to tell but another set of first time parents have to endure test after test and weeks of uncertainty of whether their unborn baby will survive and if so to what degree of "normal".

How do you try to support and guide someone through a terrifying situation that you have no experience with and already feel some anxiety over the outcome?

I've been struggling- struggling with whether I can and want to continue to work as a doula. Emotionally it is the highest of highs when things go well but I've learned that it also has the lowest of lows when things end tragically. I'm human- I can't "turn off" the joys and the sorrows that I feel with clients that I have established a relationship with over the months leading up to their due dates.

I'm also really struggling to find support in my friends to help me through these tough experiences. While I know that no one can relate, knowing that there is someone there to just support me would mean the world to me.

Its true that I've been withdrawn and quiet for the past few months as I process my feelings, but I feel isolated and removed.

I love my small town and the camaraderie that comes with it- for the most part. Recently I've begun to feel disenchanted and isolated in a town that I love that is full of people I thought were friends. I've had to learn and endure some harsh and hurtful truths recently. Salt on an open wound.

Being connected to people in a small town and the instant information that Facebook and Instagram provides can be a really wonderful thing- but it can also be really hurtful and just feel like blow after blow to the gut.

I used to feel like I had a support group- people who I knew without a doubt would be there for me to talk to, laugh with or do things with to distract me. Lately, however, the people I thought I could count on to be a comfort and the group we once felt a part of have (intentionally or not) excluded us from activities- birthday celebrations, impromptu BBQs, playdates, weekend activities, etc.

Unfortunately for us, living in a small town means that if we didn't see the status' or photos on facebook, we can see the gatherings with our own eyes or hear them talked about by the kids at school.

At a time when I am feeling especially vulnerable and lonely emotionally, it is easy to think its all in my head. It would be easy to blame that old, unwelcome guest, Depression. But that would minimize what I am feeling.

I tried to convince myself that I was being over sensitive and reading too much into things but then Chris began to notice and feel it too. Neither of us is sure why we are suddenly on the outside looking in on the group we thought we had a place in.

Its tough. Its hard to see friends move on in front of and without us. It hurts to not be included. It hurts even more to hear about things being said about me. It hurts to feel betrayed and cast aside.

The silver lining through the past few months has been the best of best friends. Chris and I have become even closer and more connected- I didn't even imagine it possible. We've shared many late night conversations and comforted each other. He's wiped my tears and allowed me to speak completely honestly without judging me.

The things that I know deep down make me a good friend and a great doula were characteristics that I had begun to see in myself as a liability. I love deeply, I give myself and my time freely (more than I really should), I empathize strongly and am incredibly sensitive. It is these characteristics that help me to connect with clients and to laugh and cry with them.

Ironically, it also seems to be these same characteristics that have isolated me from my friends. Giving of myself too freely, caring too deeply, being too open and vulnerable when maybe I should have been more guarded.

I'm hurting and I'm struggling with not only my feelings as a doula but my feelings as a friend. For now, all I can do is go day by day and support the families I have committed to supporting to the best of my ability. That's all I can do.

As for the friendships, I can't change who I am. Like life, friendships ebb and flow. There are great times, good times and rocky times. The true friendships endure.

I know I am a strong person and I am even stronger with my absolute best friend and soul mate by my side. My anchor, my support.

“...but even strong women need an
 arm to lean on now and then.
 (Anna Whitney in Glory in Death)”
J.D. Robb


Cindy Moberg said...

I'm sorry for your experience in loss. You are so well written that your pain and feelings touched me to tears and I've only ever chatted with you on fb but I feel that if I were part of your immediate circle, is be a support you could count on and I would proudly stand by you and give you a hug. I pray for you and the family of the child who was gone too soon. God give you all strength to go on and and to rebuild the confidence you once had. Continue your blessed gift of giving and sharing Janice. Xoxo

Karyn said...

Oh, Sweetie......What a heart wrenching thing to be part of. You cannot DO anything to help, just be there. I'm sure you felt helpless and are afraid you don't know what to do in the case of another tragedy. All you really need to do is be there. Love them. I'm sure your presence at the birth of the little boy was more of a support to the mom and dad than you know. I thank God for Chris - the things he does for you, to strengthen and soothe you - you can then have the strength to do the same for your clients. Just do whatever comes to your hand as far as practical things are concerned. Don't be sorry that you feel so deeply. It hurts you, yes, but that deep feeling reaches out to others who are hurting and gives them strength.

I'm sorry you are bing somehow excluded from your circle of friends. I know how that feels.

Call me if you want to talk, but know that I will be thinking of you and praying for you.

I love you and I'm proud of your loving, caring, openness. The risk of loving much is hurting much but it is always better to love and then hurt than to not love at all.

Big hug.

Ann said...

Oh Janice, I really need some practice on this whole "being a friend" thing. I'm so sorry that I didn't know you were feeling this way. I'm especially sorry for your feelings of loss for that baby boy and his parents. I can only imagine what that whole situation must've been like. I know I talked to you back when it happened, but I definitely didn't know that it was still affecting you like this. I hope this doesn't turn you away from being a doula. I have always admired what you do. You are brave and caring and I love your heart. Please continue to share it. I'm also sorry that your community isn't what you thought it was. I've been there my friend. It hurts. I hope things get better. I love you.

CanadianMama said...

A mutual friend of ours alerted me to this post and I'm so sad reading it. I'm sorry for your loss and cannot even imagine how hard that must have been. To have been in the "expert" role with no experience. I really hope that it doesn't cause you to stop though. No matter what has happened between us personally, I will always and forever be grateful for your support before, during and after my pregnancy. You really are an amazing doula!