Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Me as Doula= Crazy

So, I'm a doula. I know. It's weird. I'm, like, supposed to be a teacher. And a fiber artist. And a mom. And a wife. But I'm a doula. Post Partum Doula. Even my spell checker doesn't recognize the word doula. It underlines it in red, like the word isn't supposed to be in my vocabulary either. I don't like the word. Or its connotations. I think so many people think we're all hippy dippy lovey dovey crunchy munchy people. And well, I'm not.

I've worked with the same wonderful, funderful family since Sept. 28, 2009. Their story is sweet. Julie was pregnant with her first child late in her child rearing life. I think she was 39. She carried the baby beautifully. And on a cold fall night she started to labor. They packed up their powerfully big Newfoundland into their powerfully small silver Honda Civic hatchback and headed South to a smaller hospital, rather than going North to our big Burlington Trauma Center hospital. She delivered Phoebe later that night. Phoebe was not alive. I often try to picture how this tiny woman, who carries her heart on her sleeve, could have managed to survive that night. And then I see, too, her toweringly tall husband curled up with her on a hospital bed made for one. And I've heard that the doctor who delivered little tiny Phoebe into the world let them sneak in their powerfully big Newfoundland doggie Uma into the sanitary maternity room, so they could all spend the night together huddled up against the harsh realities of the morning.

And then on came the surge to mother and father. And then off to Guatemala to find a son. And then here comes Hector with his high energy and jet black hair, and maybe a case of ADHD on the side.

And then comes the urge to mother and father again. And Ebbe, born from the same loving space in which Phoebe was never forgotten, came into this world with blond Scandinavian heritage running thick through his blood. And those Scandinavians are known for their willpower and stubbornness. And lots of kisses too.

And then comes the urge to push. A surprise. Mother and father had given all their baby things away and had gained the chance at the possibility of potentially maybe seeing their lives before kids show up at the door. But no, not yet. Because Baby Astrid, with hair like a hedgehog, came knocking instead and now sleep and the art studio and the paintbrush will have to wait five more years.

And I come in and walk that baby around the house, looking at family photos, and all of Julie's amazing artwork, making my own treads through the carpet, hoping that the gas bubble in Astrid's belly will fly out one of her orifices, so that she will sleep soundly, so that the family can enjoy a dinner, that I made with my own two hands, so that they can nourish their bodies and souls, so they can make it through another sleepless night, without biting each other's heads off. And then I do the laundry and the dishes. And then I leave.

I have been with this family for 6 months. And it has been a pleasure. And I will keep their stories in my heart. But now I must move on.

Yesterday, I started with a new family. They have a sweet story themselves. One slightly similar to mine own (sorry, this is how Ebbe talks...mine car, mine mittens, mine life, mine story...see I'm bringing them with me). Josie and David have a two year old boy....just turned two last Sunday. Just entering the third year of his life; I mean, just walking through the door. And they, too, have the urge to mother and father again. So here comes a girl. And, oh the tears and the joy. And then comes the urge to push. A surprise. Here comes another girl. And, oh the tears and the joy and the...fears.

Twin girls. Identical. A surprise.

I'm already carrying their story with me everywhere I go. Can you imagine not knowing? Not planning? Not seeing until they were there in your arms!

I'm dishes. I'm laundry. I'm swaddling. I'm remembering that time in my life. And all the cuddling and feeding and diaper changing and resting and running around with Claire- it all came back to me last night when I got home from my first day on the job. And all I could do was go to bed.

But I woke up this morning remembering Katy Webster. She used to run a business called the Chef Next Door and it was her who I hired to bring me meals. I peeled back the stickers she used to label all her plastic containers with and I reattached them to my three-ringed binder of recipes. I didn't ever want to forget her love. Braised Chicken Thighs, Salisbury Steak, Shepherd's Pie... I still dream about all this nourishment. Sometimes I wake up in her lasagna. Her food was spectacular, and maybe I'm exaggerating here but it's because it's what my soul needed most.

I know I'm more than just a meal to these families. Well, at least I hope, when some time has passed, that they don't dream of swimming in my meatballs. I know for sure my new family won't because they're vegetarians. The hippy dippy lovey dovey crunchy munchy kind.


  1. This is SUCH an amazing thing to do. In the haze of that insane postpartum time, to be the person who delivers much-needed friendship, sanity, food, chores, etc., etc., etc.? It's brilliant, and so necessary.

    (And you are a crazy-good writer. I can totally see this in a magazine.)

  2. Maybe you need a recipe for lentil meatballs...

  3. Do you have an easy recipe to share??? I made the crappiest scallioped potatoes today...with soy milk. Need some good hints. If you've got any.