I brought my baby home from the hospital when he was five days old.
Even though it was only ten months ago, I can’t quite remember what day of the week it was. In my heart, it was a Monday.
Mondays are for new beginnings. Mondays are for starting over. Mondays are for reinvention, and renewal. Mondays are about redemption.
We took a family photo as we walked through the front door that day. The newly minted big brother, the proud but exhausted Daddy, and me. Me, with a relieved half-smile. Me, with a still bulging belly. Me, with one hand on my sweet, almost four year old, and one hand gripping the car seat that Ben was tucked into. This wasn’t our first dance. No one survives the first four years of parenting without figuring out a few tricks. But it was a Monday. And there were too many new beginnings whistling their cat-call from just beyond the front door. I had known all along that I would need to outrun them, but I thought I’d be better rested this time. From where I was standing, on the warm bricks of my front porch, I could see the shadow of postpartum depression hiding behind the nursery door. I knew that just down the hall, breastfeeding was waiting for me, ready to prove that I wasn’t strong enough, or good enough, or healthy enough to succeed this time.
Until you arrived.
I’ll never know what Sean said to you when he let you in that day, but you knew where to find me. Nestled into the depths of our old brown rocking chair. Nursing pillow, spit rag, wet ponytail, maternity yoga pants, nursing tank top. I was a hot mess. I was holding a mewing Ben. My fresh-faced, soft-cheeked, days old newborn was swaddled tight in a crisp receiving blanket. As you walked in, his tiny lips found my breast and latched. Then unlatched. Then half-latched. Then missed my breast all together.
You moved towards me as my tears spilled over and my eyes grew wide. You whispered that I was doing a great job. You rearranged my pillows, brought my water cup to my lips, gently pushed my shoulders back and brought a stool over for my feet. You smiled. You smiled and hugged me. When I thought that I was failing, you told me that I was incredible.
You taught me how to breastfeed.
I’ll tell you a secret. Dozens of months ago, Sean and I were wide awake at midnight, talking about having another baby. Or rather, I was talking about having another baby, and Sean was talking about what a bad idea it was. We barely survived the first year with Max. And when we finally came up for air, we knew that our curious, active, kind, funny little boy was the greatest child that had ever been born. How would we ever love another baby as much as we loved Max? How would we ever make it through another first year? Would we fight? Would it eat away at the foundation that we were just now starting to rebuild? What if I couldn’t breastfeed again, and the weight of that sent me back into a spiral of depression? We whispered together that night. We made promises to each other. We allowed ourselves to dream. And we said yes. But only if we accepted help. So as Sean slept, I Googled. I researched. I emailed. I remembered a conversation that we had on the porch of an East Coast summer home with a dear friend. And I decided we would find a doula. A full year before Ben was even a poppyseed growing in my belly, I knew that I would need you.
What I didn’t know, as I lay awake that night, lying under a blanket of hope and fear, was how much I would love you.
When I found you, I knew. I knew that I didn’t have to be a crunchy, natural birth mama for you to support me. You helped me put my birth plan into words. You told me about the power that I had in my body. You reassured me that I could do it, that I had the right to try, and that you wouldn’t leave my side. I wanted a VBAC, and you helped me advocate for one until I absolutely had to have a c-section. I knew that I didn’t have to be strong, or know all of the answers. You met me in the recovery room, and eased right in to the role of making introductions between Ben and I, even though his entrance didn’t happen as I had planned. You put him on my chest. You put him to my breast. You sat behind me, and gave me the birth experience that I thought was out of reach.
And you kept coming back. Even though you didn’t have to. Even when the avalanche of breastfeeding catastrophes hit. Even as you had new clients who needed you. You came back. You came back to Ben’s nursery. You found me in the old worn rocking chair. You changed diapers so I could feel what it was like to sit without a baby in my arms for 3 minutes. You brought tickles for Max and magic healing potions for me. You reheated plates of my mom’s casserole and brought a fork to my lips, because you knew that I hadn’t been eating. You helped me to brave first baths and dried up belly button stubs and midnight hormonal fevers. You brought articles about tongue tie and thrush and plugged ducts, and you sat next to me on the floor as we read them together. Our knees touched as we talked about depression. You asked me the questions that everyone else was afraid to. You made it ok. You rescued me from all of my self-doubt. You made me feel like I mattered. Like I was visible, even though I hadn’t slept or showered or had a meal that lasted longer than 3 uninterrupted minutes. You helped me to find my way back.
I needed a village, and you created one. I needed a guide, and you became one. I needed to know that I could do it, that I was capable, and courageous, and you promised me that I was. That day in the rocking chair? That was my breaking point. I was sure that I was failing. I was sure that I didn’t have any milk to give my baby. That my body would fail me, and that I would sink back into the chair and get swallowed by the shadows of my past. Not good enough. Not strong enough. Not healthy enough. And then you arrived. And my breaking point became my turning point.
Jessica, Melissa, and Cindy, you gave me back to my little boys. You gave them their Mom back. You helped me to be a healthy, happy, capable partner to a husband who was terrified that we would start to drown again. You created a calm, healing, hopeful space where Sean could exhale, and tell me that bringing Ben into our lives was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. You sat with me on a Monday, and you helped me to find redemption. You honored my desire for a second chance. You knew how badly I needed to begin again, and how steep my learning curve would be. You were by my side as I fell madly, deeply, head over heels in love with the beautiful little boy who completed our family. You supported me as my first sweet son curled up behind me in the rocking chair. You told me that we would all start healing together. Here we are, ten months and many Mondays in to this journey, and I still think of you when I am nursing Ben to sleep at night. You helped me to heal. Not just from a bad latch, but from the pain of my self-doubt. You weren’t just our doulas, you made doula a verb. Love is an action word. The sharing of strength is an action. Teaching is an action. Holding someone up, weaving a family together, answering the phone in the middle of the night to be awakened by the symphony of fear and excitement that accompanies a rush of contractions….your love, your commitment, your kindness, your wisdom…those are actions, that I am eternally grateful for.
You have shaped my motherhood. Happy World Doula Week, my sweet doula friends. My boys and I love you, we honor you, and we appreciate you.
Thank you for being my Monday.