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.
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.
Greetings to you for this first week of Advent! I wanted to share some ideas on ways to brace for and embrace Christmas this year in this BC Catholic article, Creating Meaningful Traditions in the Midst of Grief & Uncertainty.
I’m overwhelmed about how beautiful the Infant Loss Mass was today. If you missed it or would like to experience it again, it can be found here. The Archbishop’s homily was touching and I found his heartfelt words of comfort were genuine. I feel blessed to have such solid support for Elizabeth Ministry from of the Archdiocese of Vancouver and am proud to be a part of this community.
Thank you to everyone that attended in person and online and thanks to those involved in making this Mass happen, I am truly grateful!
On Oct.15th, people around the world honoured infants who have died much too soon. A special remembrance service will be held and a candle will be lit for my own three babies. Will you join us?
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Mass with Archbishop Miller
2:00 PM – October 17, 2020
Evangelist Chapel at Gardens of Gethsemani
Join us online as we honour our little ones who have gone too soon. A special Mass will be live streamed, and candles lit in honour of those we have lost. Mass will be celebrated by Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB.
Register to attend online. If you cannot attend, you may still register and we will light a candle in remembrance of whom you have lost.
1). Love never dies.
2). Bereaved parents share an unspeakable bond.
3). I will grieve for a lifetime.
4). It’s a club I can never leave, but is filled with the most shining souls I’ve ever known
5). The empty chair/room/space never becomes less empty.
6). No matter how long it’s been, holidays never become easier
7). Because I know deep sorrow, I also know unspeakable joy.
I hope this town in Newfoundland inspires others to follow their lead. It doesn’t take a lot of funding, just a healthy dose of awareness, understanding and dedication to make our world more inclusive for those with unique challenges and abilities. How can we make this happen in more communities?
The Langley Hospice is hosting an open house for Children’s Grief Awareness Day on Thursday, Nov. 15 from 3:30 to 6 p.m. at the Langley Hospice Society, at 20660 48th Ave.
The open house includes activities such as: a tour of the program centre, crafts for all ages, light snacks, a volunteer meet and greet, and more.
For more information on the Langley Hospice Society and how to light up in blue, visit www.langleyhospice.com or call 604-530-1115.
I attended the Infant Memorial Mass earlier this month on Oct.15th, Infant Loss Awareness Day at Gardens of Gethsemani. It was one of the most touching services I have been to and we are honoured that Archbishop J. Michael Miller took time to be with us again this year. His homily was heartfelt and compassionate.
Afterwards, over steaming cups of hot chocolate, the Archbishop greeted bereaved families and asked us the names of our beloved babies as he looked at the candles we wrote on that lit up the steps of the altar during the Mass.
Over the years, I’ve learned that there will be many who are uncomfortable hearing about infant loss. When I feel people turn away, act like they didn’t hear me, or quickly change the subject, I remind myself that there was a time – not so long ago – when I felt the same way. It was before I had children of my own and I hadn’t experienced what it was like to be a bereaved mom.
In this article, Ask me his name: a mother’s request, Winetta Nguyen writes “There is so much love in our hearts when we get to say his name out loud. I know many people are uncomfortable with asking us about our son because they are afraid that it will resurface the pain and loss that we’ve experienced. The truth is, the pain and loss is always there. We can’t be reminded of something that is on our minds and hearts to begin with.”
I’m extremely grateful that we had this opportunity to remember our children at the Mass; to be surrounded by love and prayers within a supportive, faith-filled community. Over the years, I’ve reassure bereaved families that it’s ok to remember and to grieve; it’s ok to share our stories and to be able to laugh again; to honour the dreams we hold in our hearts, the joys of our pregnancy, the pain of death and the hope of eternity.
You never really know, by sharing the story of your little one, who might be touched or inspired to do the same. It may be your neighbour, a high school friend, the person standing beside you in a movie theatre – or perhaps, someone who might live thousands of miles away like this mother in Hawaii!
Happy Feast of All Saints! If you would like the names of your infants or children to be remembered, I’m happy to place them on the altar at Gardens of Gethsemani in the chapel. Simply send me the name/s of your beautiful child/ren and a team of Elizabeth Ministers and other bereaved families will keep your family in prayer.
October 15, 2018
15694 32nd Avenue, Surrey, BC V3Z 9V1
October 15 is National Infant Loss Awareness Day. This day we remember our little ones who have gone too soon. To honor them Archbishop Miller will be celebrating Mass at the Evangelist Chapel at the Gardens of Gethsemani. This is our third annual Infant Loss Awareness Day event. We will light up the cemetery in their honour, so please come and join us for this special mass.