In high school, I was adamant about two things. One, I was never going to get married. Two, I was never going to have children.
October 10 is my wedding anniversary. Diva is 4 & Smushy is 1.
Yeah, I didn’t stay adamant about the whole marriage and kid thing.
In college, between walking around a gorgeous campus and studying for all essay tests, I tried to figure out what I wanted to do. Law school? Teaching? Social Work? The careers were always changing; whenever I thought about one, it just never felt right. The one thing that was steady, sure, and confidant was this: I wanted to help women and children.
Really, truly help. I wanted to focus in family law, especially custody battles. I wanted to teach preschoolers. I wanted to be the social worker who helped battered housewives and saved neglected children. Then, I got pregnant.
Diva has been a blessing no matter how I look at it. There are times she does make me want to scream, pull my hair, and hide under the covers. I’m convinced it comes with the I-am-four-and-know-everything-so-don’t-even-argue-with-me stage. My pregnancy with her was a nightmare. The two years following her birth were the.worst.years. of my life. Not because of her; she was my sunshine on a cloudy day. It was her sperm donor, his family, my family, my own emotional roller coaster…everything and anything but her.
She was my wake-up call in so many ways. Before you have kids, you hear the following at least thirty times a year:
“Just wait until you have kids.”
“You just don’t understand because you’re not a parent.”
“When you have children, you’ll understand true love.”
“No one can understand but another mom.”
“A child will make you believe in a higher power.”
And, I have to admit, it’s true. Trying to explain the emotions that take place when you first hold your baby, when you get your first smile, first kiss, first laugh…none of the words ever come close. The words pale in comparison to the joy that floods your heart.
I also realized there was no way I could be the classy lawyer, perky teacher, or courageous social worker. My heart would break with ever bitter divorce after watching my parents’ marriage of 25 years crumble and the damage that took place among my siblings and myself. I would not be able to be a good teacher when I saw an abused child, a neglected child, or an unloved child. The broken system of social work would destroy my faith, confidence, and hope with every child that was failed.
I remained in limbo, career wise. The urge to help women and children was stronger than ever, but I could not find the right niche. I briefly considered nursing and midwifery, but truly hated biology and did not want the stress of two lives on my hands. I looked into becoming a lactation consultant, but the info I found was murky and no one seemed to care about breastfeeding. *side note- I’m talking about the climate four years ago. Today, thank God, is totally different!!* I thought about photography, but that’s not really helping.
I began to work for a humane society and that sparked a large interest in non-profit organizations. I began searching for ways to get involved in non-profit organizations that helped women and children. In order to make a true difference though, I needed to be able to a) bring some useful skill to the table and b) have the time. I was a single mom working two jobs. Time wasn’t in a large supply.
Then, I met my husband. Rather, I became reacquainted with him. He was the first boy I had ever danced with. We shared a dance at our 8th grade end-of-the-year party. It was innocent, beautiful, and a special memory for both of us. We both had been burned by bad relationships and it was nice to have someone of the opposite sex to talk about these things with. He was working at a pizza place with the promise of being promoted to a manager dangling in front of him. I was a front office manager and cashier. He had never really been around kids in his life. I had a feisty 20 month old. In reality, we really shouldn’t have clicked. We really shouldn’t have had so much damn fun. But, we did. We fell in love with him and he fell in love with us. We felt like an instant family.
Things continued to evolve and progress. I had a partner, a friend, and someone who believed in me. When I brought up all my doubts and fears, he gently instilled in me confidence and courage. When I was bawling about how I had ruined my life, he wiped away my tears and pointed out all the blessings. With this encouragement and love, I was able to begin chasing that feeling again.
Oddly enough, I can’t really explain how I stumbled upon the word doula. I don’t remember what I was searching for, but I found it. And I started reading and researching. And the more I read, the more intrigued I became. I had a difficult pregnancy with Diva and a horrible birth. Reading other women’s stories about similar experiences angered me. Why were women being ignored and treated like cattle?! I began researching breastfeeding again. I stumbled on the IBCLC website. Pathways 1-3?! A clear cut way to begin my journey to becoming a lactation consultant?! Then, I paused. I had Smushy. I adjusted to being a mom of two. I forgot what sleep was. I considered pulling my hair out juggling a demanding toddler and newborn. I Facebooked. A lot.
A friend, Gretchen, posted a status on Facebook about becoming a doula. I messaged her almost immediately asking about it. She directed me to DONA’s website and put me in touch with the woman who ended up training us at the DONA Doula Workshop. I read Annette’s website, and then studied DONA‘s. I could become a doula! I began researching more and eagerly read as much as I could.
Suddenly, it was as if something clicked. This is what I had been searching for. This is where I belonged. I could help women become empowered. I could help them find their confidence in birth and form a steel spine to all the nay-sayers and pushy people. I could make a difference. I could educate people. I would be helping women and children. It was an epiphany.
I had been chasing this feeling for six years. My life experiences wove themselves into this feeling and eventually, lead me to advocacy. Looking back, if things had never veered from my 10 Year Plan (yes, I had one. Typed and double spaced, thank you very much), I would still be chasing this feeling, this need, this burning desire to change, educate, and simply be.
Thank you for following my journey. I can’t promise excitement, but I can promise it will be interesting. Like the song says, “Life ain’t always beautiful, but it’s a beautiful ride.”