After releasing myself into the world of doula many realizations have come to light. While in the midst of research, study, reading and experience there has been one main issue that continues to be shocking, interesting and at times even dumbfounding; having a doula in the United States is considered mainly to be a “luxury.” This post is not a research paper so I will not lay the statistics on heavy, but in many other countries around the world taking care of the mother after birth is a healthcare priority; a doula is necessary and is an integral part of the postpartum routine. I had it easy compared to many (and that is a bold overstatement because women are having babies without proper shelter, enough food to eat or while in prison), though there is one particular experience after having my first child that became one of the catalysts for my job title as postpartum mother and infant care doula. Let us now take out my tiny violin.
About a week or so after baby number one was born my Great Aunt Sonia was coming for a visit. Now, for those of you who read my post Bubbe in the Basement Syndrome you know already I have very strong genes in my family. If anyone thought my bubbe Lydia was a tough cookie, they had not yet met her sister. To give a brief summary, every democrat in Wisconsin knew my Aunt Sonia. They knew she had a very close relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt; they also knew not to chew their gum too loud and never, EVER, slouch! The woman must have overseen, in her adult life, every polling place in South Central Wisconsin and at 94 years of age she was showing no signs of slowing down. She was a force with which to reckoned. She was coming for a visit.
I was so excited to show off this gorgeous new baby, with eyes shaped like the perfect almond, ears that gave her the allure of a fairy and a head of hair that just made you laugh out loud. The doorbell rang and I opened the door for the tiniest and toughest woman I had ever known. A family friend had driven her to Madison, just to be clear; her license was taken away a couple years prior because, and I quote Sonia, “Police do not like women driving red cars.” She found a seat that she “needed NO help getting into!” and proudly held her new great niece. Then she looked around the room and said, “Jessie, you really should have provided some refreshments and food for your guests.”
Down the rabbit hole I went. The hot tears began to sting. I was sucked quickly into a vacuum of sadness and wanted only one thing; my mom. I almost couldn’t remember a time when I ever wanted her more. She had passed away when I was very little so this was not an option. My father was fantastic but he was well into his 70’s by then with visions of palm trees and the Florida coast in his near future. Most of my family and friends were either working full time, lived in a different state or country or had new children of their own. I wanted someone who knew what my baby and I needed possibly before we even did. I wanted refreshments and food too! As I pushed back the growing pools of salt water glistening in my eyes I had honestly forgotten the last time I had eaten or had a sip of water.
My Aunt Sonia somehow made it through the visit and hopefully had a snack on the ride home. I also made it through the visit, as I am sitting here typing this slice of history for you now. However, I would like to change the dialogue surrounding the concept of the doula as being a luxurious addition to postpartum care; and I am going to start today.