My Faithful Search for a Doula
The Difference Sandy Made in Healing My Heart
Excerpts published in “The Doula Spirit” Summer issue 2009 (printed with permission).
~ In Loving Memory of Baby Keaton, born into Eternal Life January, 2009 ~
After being forced to wait for nine years, our miracle child was due January 19th 2009. At first, I wasn’t sure about having a Doula at our birth; however, the more I thought about it, the more I warmed up to the idea. We were scheduled to deliver at the hospital, and it made sense to have someone else there to consistently support me and my husband as we were both ‘hospital-phobic’.
We only had a handful of pre-natal classes left, and the instructor talked about the benefits of having a Doula, and I also just purchased a fabulous book, “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.” After watching a few more birthing videos in class, and seeing how much support a birthing coach can provide, I now knew that hiring a Doula was the right decision. It was already December, and baby was due to arrive just over a month later. We realized that we made up our minds a little late, and securing someone for January was going to be nothing short of a miracle.
In my heart I knew that for me to be completely comfortable, I wanted our Doula to be Christian, and if possible, Catholic. Why? I knew that I would likely be praying between contractions, and wanted my birthing coach to pray along with me, just in case I forgot the words! I planned to have my rosary close at hand…
I went to the Doula Services Association website, said a quick prayer, and started my research. I was specifically looking for practitioners that had web sites so I could narrow my search efficiently. A few Doulas had dedicated email addresses thereby indicating that a related web site existed, and one of them was Sandy Lopez. I was pleased to find that her web site handmaidendoula.com featured the tagline “One of God’s greatest gifts is motherhood.” It is truly a gift that I was blessed to be a mother after having to wait for so long. It turns out, Sandy was of the same faith, and after meeting with her several times, and speaking to her references, I was able to put my mind at ease. In more ways than one, I am so glad that we chose Sandy as our Birthing Coach.
Four days before our due date, I went into labour. After my water broke, and between the contractions which were now only 10 minutes apart, I felt concerned and tried to connect with our baby. “Talk to mommy!” I urged our son or daughter while rubbing my tummy. Throughout the pregnancy, I would often ask our little one to “talk” to me. Usually without fail, I got an answer within minutes and “Doodle Monkey” would respond with many kicks and jabs, but not this time. At 1am in the morning, we sped to the hospital as contractions were down to about 6 minutes apart. I felt in the pit of my stomach that something was terribly wrong. “Please let our baby be ok…” I kept whispering under my breath.
When we finally got into the assessment room, the Nurses tried to find the baby’s heartbeat. They searched and searched, but still could not find it. I had heard the sweet and familiar “whoosh-whoosh-whoosh” sound of our child’s heart at the doctor’s office just two days before. Pointing to the lower left-side of my bulging belly, I tried to be calm, and explained “the baby’s heartbeat is always right here!” and asked that the Nurses please check again. I didn’t like the grave looks that they had on their faces. An ultrasound wand was then placed on my stomach, but they could not detect any movement either. After hearing this, I told my husband to call my parents right away and asked them all to pray. I also urged him to call Sandy our Doula for her to come to the hospital. My husband took my hand, made his best attempt at a smile, and reassured me that they were on their way…
I was now motivated to deliver our baby quickly so that the medical staff could do whatever was needed to save our son or daughter. After only 45 minutes of hard labour, with Sandy and my mom at our side, our baby boy was born, but it was too late. Our precious son had gently passed away only hours before his birth. It turns out, he had his fist wrapped around his umbilical cord, and cut off his own circulation. There was nothing the medical staff or I could have done to save him. We were all devastated and it was clear that everyone in the room was shaken.
The doctor gently wrapped our son up in a towel, and carefully placed him in my arms. He was absolutely beautiful, and just looked like he was sound asleep. Our son was born with such a peaceful look on his face; his lips formed a cute little smile reassuring us that he was happy, and that he had already soared to heaven. I cannot even begin to describe how I felt as I cradled my son’s lifeless body for many, many hours. I wasn’t at all ready to let my newborn go…We named our little angel “Keaton Dominic” and miss him terribly.
Our baby boy at peace
We will always love and miss Keaton; however, we have not lost faith. We were sent many caring people like Sandy to help us get through such a shocking, and difficult time. It may be hard to believe, but I am at peace with Keaton’s death. I know my son is in heaven which means he is being taken care of, and is very happy.
I experienced firsthand the positive way in which birthing attendants can impact the healing process. There are many things that Sandy did which helped us bond with, and take care of our newborn. It was Sandy who prompted to us create meaningful memories by taking pictures of Keaton, suggesting that we unwrap, and take a good look at our son, and to dress him. I have now come to realize how significant these gestures of love are in the grieving, and healing process. The following letter I wrote to Sandy provides a clearer picture of what I mean:
March 9, 2009
It was great speaking with you today, thank you for all your encouragement, and support as well as your prayers. As I mentioned, you were an important part of our pregnancy, and an integral part of the memories of Keaton that we now have to cherish. As you know, we were in complete shock when I delivered our precious son; we likely would not have done some important things that I am so grateful to have done because of you. Much of this precious time was a blur, but the suggestions that you made to us at the time have made all the difference in our healing.
For example, I was afraid to even fully take a look at Keaton at first, but I am now glad you mentioned this, and encouraged me to do so. We also weren’t sure if we wanted photos, and my hands were too weak to dress him myself…Looking back, I would have been heartbroken if I did not have those initial photos to remember Keaton by, cry over, and smile at. I yearn for the chance to see, and hold my baby boy again which I cannot do until we meet him again in heaven. The pictures you took are the only ones we have where I was cradling him. I am afraid that had you not been there, I would have kept Keaton all wrapped up. Thank you for suggesting that it was alright to take a look, and to dress him. I have read other parents’ stories of how they were not given the opportunity to bond with their baby. It is now tragically too late for them to do these important things that I was able to do.
We are also very thankful for the care that we received from the Doctors, Nurses and Social Workers and we wish to help support them when they care for parents like us. As a result of our experience, I am planning to create a short resource sheet meant for hospital staff to provide to patients. This letter is specifically meant for future parents who have lost a baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth or shortly after birth. If you have any suggestions that might help, I welcome your thoughts, and value your professional opinion. I am working on this as I strongly feel a calling to do so in memory of Keaton’s beautiful life.
I look forward to meeting with you again, to share our experiences and to hear in detail how you helped us deliver our blessed little angel into God’s hands. I appreciate your offer to write down our birth story. I hope this is not too much to ask…
If you have any thoughts or suggestions for us please let us know. We will try to conceive another miracle child, and will be certain to give you a call as soon as we find out we are pregnant, but will give ourselves time to grieve our first born in a healthy manner before doing so. We greatly respect you, and your experience, and we are so fortunate that God lead us to a Catholic Doula who shares our faith. We will ask little Keaton to pray for you, and your family, and to also look over all the other mothers, fathers, and the babies that you help deliver. Thank you again Sandy!
Peace & hugs
Keaton’s Mommy & Daddy
Additional Note: To find a Certified Doula, visit Doula International and you can do a search by location and area of specialty. In BC Canada, visit the Doula Services Association of BC where you can also do an online search.