Earlier this year, I heard that Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento was starting a volunteer doula program. I was notified and encouraged by a few of my friends to apply. It was a great opportunity to gain experience and give back to the hospital Olivia is connected to. Olivia was born at the Sutter Memorial Hospital before it was closed and they moved into the new hospital now called Sutter Medical Center. Many of the staff and physicians that delivered and treated Olivia, are still there. We have remained in touch and have been back to donate comfort kits and deliver copies of a book I had contributed to the staff. So the idea to possibly serve alongside them, whether directly, or indirectly was something I would be very proud to be a part of.
For whatever reason, I wasn’t able to apply. I was slightly disappointed, however, I felt the timing wasn’t right. I left it at that. If there was another opportunity, then I would consider it at that time. Well, that time came. A few weeks ago, I received an email stating that Sutter’s doula program was a success and they were looking to expand. They wanted to know if I was still interested and if I would apply. Well, of course, I said YES! That set in motion for me to apply and a little while later was called in for an interview. I picked the first available interview time slot because in the back of my mind I felt employers often remember well the very first interview of the day. So 8:30am it was even though getting there was right in the middle of morning traffic. I got there in time even with a bit of walking to find the location of the interviews.
I was called in and was rather surprised to see that there were seven nurses and doulas sitting around a small table that would be apart of my interview. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel nervous. Maybe it was because this was volunteer position and not a paid one so there wasn’t any financial pressure that way. I definitely believe prayers from my family were felt and answered. I also believe that our story and that I truly feel called to this work would speak for itself. I sat down and I was asked to share about myself. Well, I shared. And from the wide-eyed looks of their faces and the amount of head nodding indicated that the answer I gave was more than what they were expecting. By the end of the interview, I felt like I was chatting with dear colleagues and friends. I left and hoped that I would be seeing them again soon and prayed we would be working together as a team.
A little over a week later, I received a call from Sutter saying they wanted me to join their doula team. I immediately said, YES! So I am beginning my volunteer doula position this fall. Right now, we are in the process of obtaining the necessary paperwork to complete my application. I have an orientation later in September with training taking place in early October. The days before and after Olivia’s 6th birthday will be at Sutter training how to support other families in their birth story. I honestly can’t think of a better way to honor and celebrate her birthday.
My time commitment for this is really only a couple times a month and I will be able to know ahead of time my schedule. I will start out doing night shift at the hospital. Prayer would be appreciated as I haven’t done an “all-nighter” since college. Regardless, I am so honored and grateful for this opportunity. It appears that God is opening doors for us we never would have imagined. Please pray for Geoff and I as we step out in faith and see where God will lead us.
As I started my journey to be a Doula and began to share with others what I hoped to accomplish, it was very common to see the questioning look in their eyes underneath a raised brow. “A doula! What is that?”, someone would ask. I’ll be honest. A few years ago, I didn’t really know what a Doula was. All I knew is that they had something to do with delivering a baby, but what role they played and how it differed from a midwife, nurse and physician, I didn’t really have a clue.
So what is a doula and why did I become one?
According to the Miriam Webster a doula is “a person trained to provide advice, information, emotional support, and physical comfort to a mother before, during, and just after childbirth”. Doulas of North America International (dona.org) defines a doula as, “a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.”
So why did I want to become one? 5 years ago, I would never have guessed that becoming a doula was in my future. But 5 years ago, I was thrown into a world I had no clue how to navigate. Pregnancy in of itself can be challenging to face with so many changes to your body and the anticipation of a major life changing event is about to happen. It’s a lot to take on. My husband and I were expecting our first child. Neither of us were at all prepared for how our world would be rocked. Our baby girl was diagnosed with Bi-lateral Renal Agenesis at 20 weeks. The absence of both kidneys. Should was not expected to survive. We felt lost. We had no clue as to what we were supposed to do. We didn’t know where to look for help. What were our options and what did those options mean?
Our doctors didn’t even really know who could help us. A lot of the support we found were for after loss. But for us who was still carrying our baby, we couldn’t find support. We felt alone and helpless. And we so badly needed help. Advice. Just knowing we weren’t alone. A pastor couple who actually married my husband and I reached out to us. A family member of theirs had gone through a similar situation where their baby had passed. They offered us counseling and spiritual support, even a list of tips and suggestions from their family member on what we could do to make the best of what we were facing. Our burden was a little bit lighter thanks to our pastor and his wife. After the loss of our daughter, followed by a miscarriage, our rainbow baby James and a second miscarriage, it become more and more clear that I wanted to be the help that was at the time so hard for us to find. To be a support to someone experiencing a miscarriage, stillbirth or fatal diagnosis. To supporting through the high anxiety of a subsequent pregnancy.
As a StillBirthday doula, I am trained to provide support prior to, during and after delivery in any trimester and in all outcomes. That means the good and the bad, when things go as expected or when the unexpected happens. During the joyful times. During the heartbreaking times. I’m here to hold that space for you, to help you know your options so you can better navigate your pregnancy. It’s your body. It’s your baby. It’s your birthing experience.
Geoff and toni Brabec
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