There are moments in life that that are so life-changing, we will never forget them.
I remember the moments of discovery for each of my pregnancies… not just the positive test moments, but the “Hmmm… could it be…?” moments leading to those double lines. Having been diagnosed infertile, the possibility of a pregnancy was always one that made me as wary as it did excited. The moments of confirmed fertility…miraculous YESes in my life are among my favorite memories.
And of course, the moments I first saw and held my babies – there is nothing that compares.
The moments of loss – the stages in which I learned that our baby David was never going to be in our arms – are equally vivid for me. I still remember the moments in which my doctor couldn’t find the baby, then couldn’t find the heartbeat… the moment of realization that her words were equaling “miscarriage”… the moments of manic wavering between hope and despair over a very long weekend… the moments of confirmation, of bleeding, of hoping it was over… the moments of pre-op as I prepared to give birth in a way I never wanted to.
David was born. He was not born alive. He was likely not in a recognizable form. I never saw more than a blurry sac on a screen. I never got a picture. I don’t know if his eyes would have been brown or blue or quite frankly, if he was a he. But he was once alive, and he was born.
Some of the moments in life I felt most alone were the moments preparing for my D&C. On February 26, 2014, I sat in a curtained room alone. It was quiet. A worker who apparently did not read my chart carefully administered a pregnancy test. I didn’t have the wherewithal to say, “Are you freaking kidding me?” or even, “Is that necessary?” I did have the presence of mind to say this to one of the nurses as she prepared my IV:
When you stick me, I am going to start crying. It won’t be because of the needle.
I’d been through a few medical procedures alone before. When my appendix was ruptured in 2003 and we had been trying to get pregnant since our wedding, the IV for my CT scan set me off. They had given me a pregnancy test and I knew if it must have been negative. I was 26 and probably still looked 18 and that poor tech was so confused when my tears started flowing. He thought I was afraid of the needle.
Almost exactly a year later, my cycle of fertility testing ended with a laporoscopic surgery. In my optimistic form, I had people praying like crazy the night before that I would be miraculously pregnant and the surgery wouldn’t be necessary. Once again, a test was administered, no results were verbalized, and when the IV got started. I cried. Those poor nurses thought I was nuts. I told them I wanted to be pregnant and they said, “Honey, that’s why you’re here…” Then they out some happy juice in that tube and that was that.
So, something about the pre-op procedure, being secluded from my partner, and the IV confirming that this is really happening makes me cry.
Fast forward to 2015, the morning of my planned C-section for Jack. I felt like a pro. I was in that same pre-op area for the 3rd time in 3 years (there had been another procedure before my miscarriage). I felt excited and confident. I asked if Rod could be with me, and they allowed him. There were no tears.
My birth story for Jack is still being written, but here is the take-away. Birth is hard, and so are surgeries. I had a pretty routine 3rd-repeat C-section with Jack, and also had a tubal ligation. But having your insides cut up and sewn back together is what it is, and so is birth, and there are many emotions that accompany all those things.
I decided in the hospital after Jack was born that I didn’t want any moms going through any kind of birth to feel voiceless or alone, but in particular, moms experiencing surgeries, fear from past experiences, or loss.
Because I have worked in ministry for most of the past eight years and on a church staff for the last 3.5, I figured, “Eh. I will talk to some people in the hospital and see if I can’t be some kind of maternity chaplain.”
And then, I said that to a birth worker in my community, and her immediate response was, “OH! You should be a bereavement doula!”
How can I be a doula when I have only birthed via C-section?
What the heck is a bereavement doula?
Why in the world would I take a certification course now, after having my 3rd child?
I am not sure I have all the definite answers to those questions yet, but they are evolving, and I will say, I am following a path that seems to have been ordained for me long ago –
- when I was an adolescent having nightmares about infertility
- when I was vicariously grieving for acquaintances, friends, strangers, celebrities, and fictional characters grieving from miscarriages and stillbirths and sudden infant death
- when as soon as, maybe even before, I recovered from my miscarriage, people crossed my path who just needed someone to listen and support and understand
- when I realized that Myrtle Beach has a fundamental little tribe who supports mamas in all seasons and I have might have something unique to offer
So this is my “announcement.”
What started as a little Facebook page inspired by my wise and wordsmithing daughter will soon be Three Dots Birth Support Services, or something like that.
And through the amazing design of Stillbirthday, by this fall, I will be certified as a doula for births with all outcomes and plan to go on to certify as a chaplain.
As I read through the course material and finished my first exam today, I wonder not how I can handle the workload but how my heart can hold the weight. Every 20 minutes in the United States, a baby is stillborn and a family is devastated. Forty percent of pregnancies in the U.S. end in pregnancy, equaling 600,000 per year. (all stats from Stillbirthday.com)
I had one that completely knocked me out. I cannot imagine multiplying that heartbreak by such staggering numbers.
I can only hope that one at a time, I can help mothers, and with my husband on board, families, get to the other side of those still, fearful, devastating moments of loss.
I want every mama to know that her baby matters.
My story wasn’t over, and neither is theirs, and neither is yours.