Usually what we do at AustinBorn is all about preparing for and coping with the joy of parenthood--of bringing a new little person into the world and finding our way along the journey of loving and caring for a baby. But, sometimes, our support of new parents looks different.
One year ago one of our doulas went to the funeral of an Austin Born client whom she had supported in giving birth. This mother had been a delightful combination of fierce warrior mama and tender-hearted girl. She brought her beloved teddy bear to the hospital to cuddle in labor, and then pushed her baby out without an epidural in front of a gaggle of nursing students who had never seen anything so beautiful and raw. Several months later, she died suddenly and unexpectedly. The doula sat in the pew, looked at her baby sitting in her uncle's lap, and cried her heart out.
A few months ago, another of our doulas attended the birth of a sweet little baby girl whom we knew had some significant health problems. Unfortunately, as time passed, it became clear that there were no adequate treatments for her. She lived for one month before her parents sang her to sleep, tucked in with her Princess Leia doll and lamby lovey. The mother told us that day by day, week by week, she had held out hope that her baby could somehow thrive. She also said that her own physical recovery from birth had been very easy, with her body quickly returning to its pre-pregnancy state, and in the days following her baby's death, she found herself wondering, "Did I really have a baby?" Sometimes she goes into her baby's nursery to remind herself that her baby existed, that it all really happened. The Austin Born doula team attended her funeral, weeping with and for this beautiful family.
And then just a couple of weeks ago, one of our families at full term called our Labor Line (the phone number we ask our parents to call when they are in labor) with the surprising and unbearably sad news that they had noticed less movement from their baby and had gone into the hospital to be checked, only to find that their baby's heartbeat could no longer be found. They immediately began the process of inducing labor. One of our doulas went to them the next morning and stayed with them throughout the day as they labored to bring their baby into the world. Each of our team of doulas visited them that day, bringing gifts and encouragement, hugs and tears to this new mom and dad who were in a much different kind of labor than they had ever expected. It was a little like sitting shiva--each of us in turn coming to sit with them in their mourning. Once their baby was born, their doula was honored to take photos and to have a turn holding their sweet little boy.
We are so honored to be able to cross over from supporting families in birth to supporting them in death. But this is some of the heaviest work we ever do.
As doulas and as friends, and as women who have experienced infertility and loss ourselves, we wanted to be able to offer some way to help these families and many more like them in our community on their journey of healing. So we dreamed up a ceremony, a time of sharing and ritual and support for families who have experienced loss. And so The Healing Group: Ceremony for Loss was born. It is an evening of nonjudgmental support, processing and ritual surrounding miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss and is appropriate for any parent who has lost a pregnancy or infant, no matter how recent or long ago the loss or whether the loss was spontaneous or elective. The loss of a pregnancy, whether early or late, spontaneous or elective, can bring on a wave of intense and overwhelming emotions. We want anyone who has experience such a loss to know that you are not alone. The Healing Group: Ceremony for Loss will be offered on the 1st Sunday evening every April, August and December of each year. Please join us, and/or extend the invitation to those you know in and around Austin who might find comfort in this kind of ceremony.
Rest in peace, Lisa, Chloe, Corsin, and the many others whose lives, no matter how brief, are cherished so deeply. You and your families are loved, and remembered.
Parts of this post were originally published on www.revdoula.com.