Today would have been my mom's 73rd birthday. That's so hard to even process. She left this world too early at the age of 56 and that one traumatic event has forever changed me. I do not know the loss of a child, however, I do know the loss of my foundation. I'm sure that those feelings are miles apart from each other, but deep gut wrenching loss is loss no matter what.
I didn't even plan it this way but this is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month and I hold dear to my heart anyone who has experienced that type of loss. As I said, I have not experienced what you have so I will not pretend to know your pain. But I know the pain of losing someone so intricately woven into your being and I believe that it is that experience that will guide me as I journey down the path of a bereavement doula.
I think mothers and daughters have a unique relationship from the beginning. I was told that my birth was the thing that changed my mother completely. Whatever she had found herself wrapped up in before, fell by the wayside as she now had this new little babe that required the best from her. And I do believe that she tried her best to give that best to me in every way. I absolutely adored her and spent years of my life trying to know her in every way I could think possible.
As these little babes grow into teenagers, the relationship changes and it becomes a battleground. A battle of the wills. She's trying desperately to keep you from making some of the same mistakes she made and you are desperately trying to be independent and make your own way.....your own choices. I know this battleground well as I experienced it with my own daughter. This time between mothers and daughters is such a tumultuous one and not one I would ever want to relive, whether that was being the daughter or the mother.
But then, one day, it's like the sky clears and the sun shines. You really don't know when the exact moment happens, but then it does. You suddenly realize that your mother is the wisest, all knowing, all protecting, smartest person in the entire world and no one could tell you a thing different. For me, it happened when I was pregnant with my first baby, Kelsey.
I'm not sure exactly how to describe the foundation that a mother provides if you don't already know. Ultimately, it should be a foundation that both a father and mother provide, but that was not my experience. But it's like something you can always go back to. A presence that holds you up, gives you stability (even in times when it's not stable), a support system. And the day that my mother drew her last breath as my sister and I, and others, sang worship over her, I felt that foundation crumble beneath my feet. When I walked out of that room, I was a much different person than the one that walked in. I was completely lost.
Mom & Me
Over the next couple of years as I swam through the waves of grief, I was pretty convinced that if I could stay on antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds long enough, the overwhelming grief could be held at bay and one day I could come off of them and the stages of grief would be behind me. I am here to inform you that there is nothing further from the truth. That may seem like a no-brainer to you, but for me, I was barely holding my head above water so it seemed like a viable solution. I mean, I had three children to take care of who needed me to be present and I just wasn't. It was what allowed me to function even if it was barely.
Once I decided to stop taking the meds, you know, thinking it was all past me and I would be able to just move forward smoothly because even though it was still very painful, the thought of my moms death did not cripple me anymore. Wow, was I in for a shock. Because actually what ended up happening, not only was my physical body coming off meds but it was also absorbing the trauma that I had suppressed. My emotional body was finally allowed to "feel" again because the drugs no longer suppressed those emotions and it flung me into a cascading year and a half long depression that I almost didn't think I could find my way out of.
It was only after an intervention from my dearest oldest friend who really had no idea how severe things were, and my new precious husband who reached out to her, desperate for help. That was a mind shifting, deep-emotional-dive weekend with her that forever set my life on a different course and I will never forget it.
To bring all of that into focus, it made me start thinking recently as I began the emotional journey of bereavement doula training. What if we all had someone dedicated to walk us through loss trauma? How different might our paths be?
What if we all had someone dedicated to walk us through loss trauma?
Did you know that statistically 1 out of 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth? That is a staggering number. And what is so heartbreaking is that many of those will suffer silently out of shame or embarrassment and never properly heal from the trauma. Then as they continue their journey to become pregnant, that trauma leads into heightened anxiety around a new pregnancy that potentially is perfectly healthy.
What IF? What if there was someone you could call, a doula, who is trained to know exactly how to handle whatever stage of the loss you are in, whether the loss is eminent or has already occured, and that person would be able to educate you on the process, hold your hand, be your shoulder, help and guide your spouse, and walk you through an emotional journey that you have NO IDEA how to handle or process? How do you think your journey would be different? How would your subsequent pregnancy be different?
Even though my experience with loss is about my mother, I can tell you that if I had been aware that there was a person who could help me understand and walk through my grief, I would have done anything to have her. Someone who was not a relative or someone close to me, even though that's what you may think would be best. Someone who has some distance and can see with clear eyes and offer a gentle, encouraging approach and whom I could be completely open and vulnerable. It would have made all the difference.
Based on the statistics, there are not enough bereavement doulas and my passion for the women I have already worked with in pregnancy and the journey of grief that I walked on my own, has led me to train in this area and offer a different type of doula service in addition to birth and postpartum services. My prayer now is that they will have the courage to reach out and allow me to walk this journey with them....hand in hand.
Happy Birthday Momma.
*A full listing of bereavement doula services and what it entails will be listed on the website December 2021.