I attended the meeting but after I left her... I was very scared

When I started my training as a Doula, I guess I didn't picture myself to being invited to only happy birth stories. I knew sometime I would be challenged and find myself in confronting situations but I didn't prepare for this particular one. A story of Hope, Gratitude, Courage, Perseverance and most of all LOVE. This particular birth taught me so much about myself too, it became real for me that training as a Bereavement Doula was inevitable

Having worked in the NHS back in the UK in a department that cared for babies with different complex issues, I thought I was prepared enough for more eventualities. I guess when this particular client contacted me I was in 'happy mood' and excited to have been contacted by a potential client that it didn't occur to me that sometimes I would be tested in my profession to boundaries, but this birth was not only an awakening, I learned so much from it and still keep in touch with the family now. This is a story of a woman who was so courageous, strong, spiritual and loving and still managed to keep going through it all. There was NO way of knowing how much she was carrying over her shoulders because she embraced her family and life with so much grace it was amazing to be around her.

Her amazing Mother-in-law was dying. She was holding on to life until she met her only grandson, or one that she will still meet while still alive. I left our appointment in a haze. I hadn't encountered or thought I would encounter such a situation as a Doula 'just' yet, but there I was. I spoke about my fears with my husband later that evening who is always available to lend a shoulder and a listening ear.

As a Doula when the potential client contacts you for support not many think of the support in any other way. I didn't know the kind of support she needed from me until I met her. I was welcomed in the home and the conversation started normal, tea was set and the conversation flowed. The minute I touched on the kind of support she expected of me... it all changed

She was the first client I was going to support who was going through grief. She had put on a mask for all nine months of pregnancy and time was ticking. The moment was coming that she would have to say good bye to her mother-in-law 'for good'. The woman who welcomed her in the family, the woman who embraced her as her own, the potential daughter-in-law and a lovely wife-to-be for her son. She was carrying the only grandson her mother-in-law would meet also should her wings to heaven be delayed and she be granted that opportunity. I saw the desperation of the daughter-in-law, I watched her sob about the demise before it had even begun, I was in her presence when she boasted about her mother-in-law whom she loved so dearly, that the news that she was terminal had left her limb emotionally. I was welcomed in a space where I was asked to support a family grieving and at the same time to hold space for their little wonder coming into the world. I was amazed actually, and in tears that evening back home I said to my husband 'I am not sure I can do this job, I mean bloody hell! this one is woah. And his response to me was 'you will Nom, you always do'

So, during our appointment, I held her space and let her wail. It was the first time she had done it freely those nine months. She had put on this bravery mask in front of everybody else, because she was a mother, a wife, a sister and a daughter-in-law. 'Someone had to be strong' she said wiping away her tears, and you could see right through her eyes that the birth approaching was freaking her out. I ended the appointment with a hug and promised to make another long appointment within a few days. Whilst in the train I pondered on how I could best support this woman. She wanted a positive birth but the coming death was a trigger and it could hinder her progressing and achieving the birth she hopes to achieve

So, we made a plan, that if she was going to book me, we would be honest with each other as I saw potential from her side to keep soldering on and I was afraid for it to backfire on me too. We did a few appointments before the birth to talk things over, talk about where she was at emotionally, how she felt about the coming birth, what she wanted us to focus on for the birth to make it her ideal birth etc. And also, we had a great click even before we met. She had decided I was going to support her before we set eyes on each other, she later disclosed to me. With that agreement I prepared myself also on how I was going to support her.

The day of the birth approached, I received the phone call at 8:20am just as I was stepping off the bus heading to the hospital to help check out a refugee lady I had supported the previous afternoon. 'I think today is the day Naomie', She said and so I replied to her I was on my way. I asked for another colleague to help me help the lady check out, I was heading to Amsterdam. I arrived to the lady's house at 9:40 exactly. She had set tea, she looked doubtful in herself, emotionally she was all over the place. I made eye contact to assure her I wasn't going anywhere. Around lunch time she suggested treating me a pancake lunch at a park near her house. Sure! We walked slowly to the restaurant, found a nice spot, had our lunch while chatting about life, what she was looking forward to, I had just gotten married so we discussed the wedding day a bit. Then we went on a slow walk around the park.

On our way back to her house, she started having strong contractions. I took a photo of her leaning on a tree in the park. She said teary-eyed, that was one picture she had actually posed for the whole pregnancy. They didn't even have a moment to have a pregnancy photoshoot; she whispered. We walked slowly back home, holding hands. When we arrived, she went into herself and I knew she was in labor. I gathered all the phone numbers of everyone I would have to call or she would herself. We closed all the curtains, made new cups of tea, she sat on her couch and I started massaging her feet, rubbed her back when she wanted to lay down and just sat with her in silence, talking when she wanted to. Then suddenly she stopped and had this overwhelming moment when she looked at me in shock and said 'I feel a presence of someone else in the room’. I asked who she thinks it might be, she responded 'the figure I see is of my father' - her father had passed on two years prior to that time. I said to her 'welcome him in the space, he wants to be present for you in this moment. She cried for a while and then went into a deep haze, ack in herself and then silent. A moment came when she asked for her mobile phone, she out some gospel music on Spotify, Almost the same collection as my own, so we sung together, we praised together, she had her moments and I held her when she wanted me to and assured her when she asked for it

Shortly after, she grabbed her mobile and called her husband to start making his way back home. I called the midwife and explained how she (my client) was progressing. Midwife made her way to us too. When the midwife arrived, checked on dilation, she needed a strip which she agreed to as long as she would stay at home she said. Shortly after she progressed so fast that we were getting ready for a birth in the same afternoon! She called me in the bathroom and asked me to hold the shower over her. She was on all fours for a while. then changed position, back in the bedroom, and then a back rub and a massage a few minutes later, baby was born on the floor in their bedroom. 2 days before I departed for my honeymoon! A little baby boy. She was ecstatic, euphoric, so so happy and proud of herself that she 'did it' as she kept repeating :-). While away we kept in contact on how things were going, and she informed me her mother-in-law managed to see her grandson as they took baby to the hospice she was at, and she passed on exactly a week after the birth of the only grandson she held on to life to meet. SPECIAL!

That was my recollection of that event. A Birth that leaves me in awe even now :-). Mama was very fierce! She was sure she wanted a home birth this time round and luckily for her, she achieved it. What is touching is all the WhatsApps I receive even now on how much this little wonder is growing, developing and evolving into a great man. I absolutely love what I do. I love where I am at. I feel honoured to be welcomed in such spaces, to watch mamas being reborn, to watch babies emerging in this world. EPIC!