THE PEACEFUL CHOICE DOULA
I believe I have always been a doula - I just didn’t know what it was called. Let me explain.
I have been blessed with many natural gifts – specific abilities which have been revealed throughout my life. I mention these strengths not to toot my own horn, but to illustrate how they have all led me to this meaningful and rewarding path.
I am first a communicator. This was apparent from about age 2, when I began entertaining my family and their friends with song, dance, comedy and storytelling. My singing grew into a long career on stage, which also encompassed a journey into inspirational speaking. I am secure in my ability to inspire confidence, and connect with all ages and types of people. I am also a good listener, which is a vital aspect of communication.
I am a leader and organizer. I fought for civil rights in my high school, and won more than one battle. I believe I could stand before Congress and they would not only pay attention, but they’d stand up, sit down, clap, etc., if I asked them to.
I am a problem solver. I can envision the ‘big picture’ and find a workable solution to most challenges. I maintain a cool head in a crisis. From car accidents to medical emergencies, even a plane crash, I have somehow proven able to manage the scene and direct activity, maintaining stability until professional responders arrive.
I am an empath. which enables me to read people’s feelings, and sense their needs. This, along with compassion and understanding, has led me to being a caregiver, and a long history of caring for the terminally ill and their families. The God-given qualities mentioned above have all come together to equip me for the work that I have done so far, and the work I am now dedicating myself to do.
My first end-of-life patient was in 1996 - my own dad, who was battling a terminal cancer. Thus, my first “doula family” was my own. They accepted without question that I was the one to stay by his side and care for all his needs. With my dad, this included everything. I loved him through his fear and anxiety. I bathed him. I protected him from confusion from conflicting advice. I managed the family dynamics as best as I could, keeping everyone on the same page. I lifted him up with my stories and comedy. I manned his suction machine and changed his dressings. I never let him see the physical devastation that was happening to his body. I hardly slept at all for two months, constantly alert to any movement or change in breathing pattern. This remains one of the most precious experiences of my life. I didn’t fall apart until after he passed.
Since then, I have been privileged to care for 27 people and their families, including my dear sister who passed about a year ago. The different situations presented various needs, from creating and maintaining a peaceful space to spiritual counseling, planning-related issues, mitigating family disputes, addressing conflicting opinions about care, providing comfort in anxiety, managing the flow of visitors, providing reassuring answers to questions, acting as liaison to hospice, nursing homes, funeral homes etc., running errands, anticipating any and all needs, and generally being a safety net. I have learned to approach different cultural customs and spiritual beliefs with an attitude of inclusion and respect. Furthermore, through my own intense grief over my dad and my sister, I gained real empathy for that aspect of the family’s experience, and I can relate to them with true understanding. I have also shared my gift of singing when appropriate.
At the heart of my role as Doula are compassion, empathy, confidence and love. Peace and comfort are always my main goal. These elements are the force behind all my care work. I strive to help my families and patients accept what is happening, and in so doing, embrace the sanctity of death. I was always afraid of death myself, but ironically, life has drawn me into a close relationship with it. Throughout my hands-on experience I have developed a deep reverence for the transition process. The mystery of death remains, but it is to be revered, not feared. I try to inspire this mindset in my clients by my own example.
Caregiving is in my blood, and I always feel best when I am helping others. I truly love the work that I do, and I often think that I receive a greater reward than the families I serve. It’s a blessing to be a blessing!