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Not a Luxury

By Carrie Palmer

overnight doulaIn a lot of ways, I was robbed of my early days as a mother. My twins came one month early and as a result had a few weeks in the NICU.

It was hard to not bring them home right away. To make matters worse, it had become clear that my husband’s drinking issue had catapulted to a full scale problem.

My mom came to town to help us with the kids and while having her here was wonderful, it was also chaotic.

This whole time was scary, unsettling, unmanageable, and foggy. There was not even ONE perfect moment — you know, like the ones featured on the outside of the diaper box: me, dressed in all white, naturally tousled hair, soft make up, wee babes nestled in my arms. I had to manage so many things…and people…and numbers…and completely new levels of stress. Not to mention the crazy physical and emotional changes. And oh yeah…twins!

I had planned to work with a postpartum doula service all along, but was shocked at how many people scoffed at the idea. Wow! So, you’re not even going to take care of your own babies? What a waste of money! I didn’t realize you were so rich.

Unsolicited opinions aside, I knew it would be helpful and with twins, something that we needed. As I learned early on, my gut and my opinions are the only ones that truly matter when it comes to motherhood.

The first night when Doula Jen came to my house I was an utter wreck. My mom had just left, I was finally alone with the babies, and my husband lay passed out somewhere as another night of excessive drinking took hold. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. I wanted Doula Jen to take care of me along with the babies. She sat down with me at our dining room table and told me to be real with her. If I wanted to cry, I could cry. But, I was so raw and scared that I couldn’t even let go.

That first overnight was hard. I heard the babies cry even though they were downstairs with her. I wanted to run down, but I didn’t want to offend her.

Eventually, I decided to go downstairs. Doula Jen understood my mama concern, stood back while I checked on the boys, smiled and said, “Carrie, they’re fine. Go to bed.” And, I did. And I slept! And, it was magical. Although I still only got a few hours sleep, the morning was somehow brighter and clearer.

Fast forward 5 months later, and I have arrived back in Minnesota with my twins after 2 months away from my husband and home. When the babies were 3 ½ months I made the choice to leave him and go to my parents’ house in Chicago rather than stick around and let his alcoholism ruin all of our lives. In that time, he went to treatment and was working on a sober life. However, I wasn’t ready to move home yet.

My in-laws graciously let the me and my boys come to stay with them. It was helpful, but it wasn’t home. They weren’t my parents. My first night there was miserable. The babies weren’t sleeping, I wasn’t getting as much help as I needed, and my resources were at an all time low. I was sad, scared, depressed. It was 2:30 AM, and I wasn’t sure how I would ever get through this. I opened my laptop and started writing an email to Tory, Welcome Baby Care’s director. I told her everything. Everything that I was scared of; ashamed of. I asked for help. At this point, doula care was not a luxury, it was a necessity.

2 nights later Doula Karen walked into my in-laws house, and I nearly fell apart in her arms. It was a mix of so much emotion: I was elated that she was there, sad that I needed her, sad for my situation, embarrassed, relieved, and ready to get a good night’s sleep. And, for a few nights a week for the next few weeks, I wasn’t so alone. And, my babies weren’t so alone. Either Doula Karen or Doula Jen was camped out with us in my in-laws’ basement.

As the babies got back into a routine, so did I, and so did my husband. Within a few weeks, we all moved back home.

By this time, we knew that we still needed help. We were trying to put our lives back together and knew that we had to be honest about the help that we needed to do that. My husband’s boss realized what we needed to survive and treated us to two overnights per week for a month. My parents knew that we needed help and they pitched in. My in-laws even bought us an overnight.

In retrospect, I wish I had registered for doulas. Really and truly. How many onuses does one really need? The thing we ended up needing in order to survive — and eventually thrive as a family — was the care of some of the most incredible, giving, loving, and nurturing women that I have ever known.

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