What is it like when a bereavement doula needs a bereavement doula?
The night before my scheduled ultrasound, I began to panic. Over the last few days, I had become overly concerned with going to this appointment alone. All of my other appointments, up until then, I had the support of my husband and children with me. This appointment; however, was an extra appointment and my husband was unable to attend due to a training class he was attending. His employer had paid for his attendance at this training so there was no way he could get out of it unless it was an emergency. I had no idea my appointment would turn into a psychological emergency.
Due to the anxiety I had been feeling, my husband felt I should have someone attend. I have talked a bit about that in previous posts. For me however, I am so closed and it is difficult for me to let anyone into my life on such an intimate level. Finding the right person was imperative. I had a few select people I considered.
The first, was unavailable. I was disappointed because I had had her with me in previous pregnancies at appointments but she has some business in her life now that prevented me from feeling like I would have an open space to find relief or experience grief if the appointment went sour. She is one of a few people I have been vulnerable with and allowed to see me cry.
The second, wasn’t sure if I would let her in the way she knew I needed to. She was so perceptive and with her new family, I didn’t want to intrude. As much as I wanted her there, we both would have been a sobbing mess if things didn’t go well. Which we all now know, they didn’t. Looking back, it wouldn’t have mattered if we were sobbing.
Then there was my third choice who in reality, should have been my first choice but we have such an interesting relationship that I didn’t even think to ask her until I did. When I asked her, I also felt like I was intruding but when I explained the nature of what I needed, she didn’t hesitate to be there for me. And let me tell you, with her profession, this was no easy thing for her to do.
I am so glad she was able to be there for me but I am writing to share with you about what I actually did to her that I didn’t even realize. I made her feel inadequate, anxious, and concerned that she didn’t help me at all and I did this without even knowing it. She is not a bereavement doula and I thrust her into that role unprepared and with no training.
It is true that I didn’t know that this appointment would bring on the need for her to be my bereavement doula. Even though I was nervous, I really felt like I was overly prepared for a positive appointment. I was almost certain we would hear our son’s heartbeat. Almost…
When my friend met me in the foyer of the medical office building, she greeted me with open arms but her energy was one of nervousness. I brought Timmy with me and she immediately took on the care taker role which was very helpful. I think both of us didn’t really know what to do in those moments. She also felt like we would hear his heartbeat and she would be returning to work after a small scare but that was not the case at all.
Then there was the ultrasound where I knew almost instantly that things were not good. I went into my own bereavement doula mode of INFORMATION. I needed information, even though I knew it. I was on autopilot. I was looking to my friend for a reaction that would tell me how to react. My friend though, instantly thrust into a role she has never filled nor was prepared for, also didn’t know what kind of reaction to give.
In talking with her after, she told me she didn’t want to break down. She didn’t want to start crying because she didn’t want me to feel like I needed to console her. She wanted to be stoic so I could break down, yet in those first moments, I was being stoic.
After moments of silence and a warm touch and expression of condolences from my midwife, I began to shed some tears. Some. Not much. As my eyes began to burn, my friend came over and hugged me. My feet still in the stirrups with my birthing organs exposed. Very few people would I invite into such a private moment.
She held me as I cried but I still held back. Little did I know, she was holding back. She was confused on how to support me. She was confused on how to react, be, provide, and do. I put someone in a horrible position. I brought someone into a sacred space of death. The sacred space of learning about a death. Those early moments that people only imagine what a family would experience, she was experiencing it with me.
This wasn’t what we planned. It wasn’t what I had first asked her to do and even though she was doing it, I was actually wrong in putting her in that role. As a bereavement doula, I had no idea that I needed a bereavement doula and that changes everything.
For all the women who ask their friends to be there for support or go to these appointments alone, they are missing out on support that they deserve. My friend did an amazing job for what she was thrown into. I couldn’t have done that alone. I couldn’t have gone through all that by myself. I needed support but I should have thought enough to ask another bereavement professional to be there for me. I do feel “bad” for putting my friend in that position.
Our relationship has grown and we are closer because of this experience. When she left, she took my book “It’s Not ‘Just’ a Heavy Period; The Miscarriage Handbook,” and instantly began utilizing the information from the book. She was there every step of the way and I believe that book can be so helpful for the care givers who will support families through loss.
So this is what it’s like when a bereavement doula needs a bereavement doula. A trained friend or doula is probably best just so no one feels inadequate but in the absence of a bereavement doula, anyone is better than having no support. I wouldn’t change a thing about how she supported me. I couldn’t have asked her to support me any better. She even came home with me following the appointment and just sat with me which is exactly what I needed and didn’t even know it. Behind the scenes we were both confused about how we should react with each other but up front, while it was all happening, everything fell into place perfectly.