Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Perinatal hospice doula

A warning, first - this post talks about infant loss and might be a difficult read for some.

I just came across an article about an amazing woman who serves as a perinatal hospice doula - she is a doula only for families who are anticipating an infant loss. I simply cannot imagine that work. If I had a doula client who found out that they had experienced, or were going to experience a fetal or infant loss, I would absolutely be there for them in every way I could (which would probably, in the end, just be - being there.) I have even thought I would like to try volunteering at adult hospices, which create such a beautiful and peaceful setting for people to leave this world - much like good birthplaces create beautiful, peaceful places for people to enter the world.

But to work only with clients experiencing perinatal losses? That takes a very special person. And it's clear from the article how much her support means to the women she works with.


Dou-la-la said...

Beautiful article!

This reminds me of an old roommate of mine, a nurse who devoted the time she wasn't working for the VNA to developing and then working in a pediatric palliative care program. She spent her spare time caring for terminally ill children and their grief-stricken families. Truly an amazing soul - *I* couldn't take it, I don't think. I'm so grateful there are people like both women out there.

Michelle said...

Hello! I just found your blog. I am a home birth Midwife who also practices as a Perinatal Hospice Doula. I started this work after the birth/death of two of my sons, one of whom was born and died on this date, September 8, 2000. After my son Samuel died, at the age of 10 months, in December of 2005, and after having gone through the horrific and very isolating experience of an "affected" pregnancy, I realized that I was being called to work alongside parents whose births are NOT going to be "normal" and whose babies are not going to be healthy. I knew that I wanted/needed to bring that same intimate, compassionate "knowledgeable companionship" to these births, babies and families I had brought to home birth. I had done a doula (then called "birth assistant" by Informed Home birth/Informed Birth and Parenting ) training many years ago but had not certified but I have many years of midwifery practice behind me so, that hasn't been an issue. I am currently offering my services as a "private" provider, free of charge, but may get certified in order to work with a local hospice. I am also an intern Spiritual Director and I work closely with bereaved families after the births/deaths of their infants to provide healing Retreats and one-on-one grief/loss related Spiritual Direction to them. I meet with the family as early in the pregnancy as possible, doing "midwife" type prenatal care in their homes if they want it ie. this allows more time for the family to bond with the baby and I think the fact that I talk to the baby as a person encourages them to feel emotionally safe enough TO bond ( which can be difficult under these circumstances ) and to also relate to their child as a unique individual, and a fully sentient being, no matter the "diagnosis". I provide private childbirth education classes for the couple and prepare other family members for the birth as well. After the baby is born, I do real, hands on postpartum care for the mom because she is still a woman who has given birth so, we do herbal baths, massage and a lot of husband/father and sibling support. It is hard work, and painful at times but I honestly believe that so much of my Midwifery education, training and my own experience of birthing three ( we also have a daughter with spina bifida and three older, now young adult children ) very sick kids gave me a window into this world that I couldn't turn away from. I love your blog! I am going to link to you from mine as so many of your ideas are resonant with my own; you are doing marvelous work! Thank you for sharing this story and opening this up for people! Michelle Wilbert, Midwife and Director of Close to the Root Family and Community Resources

publichealthdoula said...

Hi Michelle, thank you so much for posting. I am so sorry about the losses of your sons. What a wonderful service you are giving to people out of your own experiences. I am looking forward to reading your blog!