I knew I should have written this immediately after, because now I can barely wrap my head around what we went over almost two weeks ago, so here’s what I do remember. I lost it in the middle of class. I mean, I became an emotional basket case. I actually had to get up and leave.
Our instructor has served as a doula for 20 years. She started when she was 18, so you can imagine she’s attended hundreds and hundreds of births. By now, she’s seen just about everything. She was even with a mother who died while having a cesarean. I’m not even exactly sure why we discussed this, I think the purpose was to talk about what to do when faced with tragic events you’re not expecting. The mother who died had a great deal of health issues, which doesn’t make it any easier. Our instructor explained that personally she went to a really dark place emotionally after that happened. We talked about the value of having other close doula friends to process (privately) your birth experiences together. It was insightful and very deep. I just don’t even have the energy to go there with everything I learned and discussed. So, you’ll just have to trust me. It was A LOT!
However, after having that discussion we turned to the topic of Intra-Uterine Fetal Demise (IUFD), which is where the fetus (ahem, baby) dies at 20+ weeks gestation (prior to 20 weeks, the loss is referred to as a miscarriage). IUFD is more commonly known as stillborn. Stories were shared; experiences of helping parents deal with demise. I know this seems obvious to some, but in this perspective it was new for me, a cesarean surgery has NO benefit for the mother or her body, it is simply to save the baby’s life. For that reason, in the case of a demise it is more beneficial for the mother to labor and vaginally deliver her stillborn baby. Our instructor shared a story of a client who was pregnant, lost the baby at 26 weeks and was induced into labor and delivered her dead baby. It was horrifying even to talk about it.
For personal reasons, discussing this was very hard for me. At 22 weeks, I was sent in for an emergency ultrasound after the OB wasn’t able to find Zoe’s heartbeat. Those moments between the Dr’s office and the hospital where I had my ultrasound were fearful and dark. Peter was already in the states, I was still in Israel. I was faced with a wall of desperation that I might go through a great loss without him. My mother sat with me quietly in the cab as we raced through Jerusalem trying make it to the hospital before Shabbat began. I was grateful for her silent presence, for the Holy Spirit, and eventually for the sound of my baby’s heartbeat. And though I did not experience a demise, I brushed up with it for a few terrible hours. That afternoon in class, in that moment of discussing it, the grief I almost experienced, the fear that crept its fingers around my heart on a Friday afternoon in late September bubbled up and made me remember (and forced me to process something I quickly buried and soon forgot.)
After three days of talking nothing but babies and birth, along with being in a room full of women for 30 odd hours, your head gets fuzzy with hormones. I got so emotional I left the room and had a good cry. Because I never cried that afternoon as the Dr, with quiet anxiety, told me he was unable to find a heartbeat. Not once. No tears of panic when the possibilities sank in, neither tears of relief when everything was fine. I think I needed that cry to heal from something I wasn’t even aware of.
Okay take a big cleansing breath…..hold it….now let it go.
We actually learned quite a bit that day, specifically about the business side of being a doula. However, what I remember vividly about that day is that moment where I lost it in class. I like to keep my shit together (I said it, okay) but I couldn’t that afternoon, and that’s okay, too. Because sometimes we got to lose it before we find it.
I’m left with this thought, as a doula I need to prepare myself for being a silent witness to not only the beauty, but perhaps tragedy of others. I expect I’ll be a much wiser person after years of attending births. Don’t worry, I’ll let you read my memoirs.
Ah, my husband just came over and ran his fingers through my hair and kissed me good night. I may need to end this blog early.
Ps. If you are brave, you will read this post and allow your heart to identify with others in their journey with IUFD: http://handonline.wordpress.com/2009/05/29/still-a-birth/