Let’s talk about Doulas. What exactly is a Doula, and then take it a step further and talk about what a Full-Spectrum doula is.
Here is what google says the definition of Doula is: dou·la /ˈdo͞olə/ noun
noun: doula; plural noun: doulas
a woman, typically without formal obstetric training, who is employed to provide guidance and support to a pregnant woman during labor.
a woman employed to provide guidance and support to the mother of a newborn baby.
I actually am not a fan of either of those definitions. So let’s dig a little deeper. A Doula is (normally) a person who is both formally and informally trained in childbirth and/or the immediate postpartum period. Most Doula trainings focus on Birth, Postpartum or breastfeeding. The informal training I speak of is normally just life experience.
Birth Doulas focus on preparing you for your delivery, forming a relationship and trust, along with answer your questions on the birth process without bias. They support birthing people in all settings; planned cesarean section, planned induction, natural hospital birth, birthing center birth and home birth. They spend great amounts of time and energy making resource lists for all of your needs. Invest emotional labor to helping you feel your best about your big day. And get quite the workout during your labor, using comfort measures and helping you have your best birth. Normally after the birth of your baby, they attend one postpartum visit to work through any feelings you may have about your birth and answer any feeding questions you may have.
A postpartum doula usually takes it from there. After a prenatal appointment (or two, depending on the doula) they’ll have a good idea of what you feel like you need from them. Learning how to take care of your new baby, feeding troubleshooting, light house work, light cooking, and sometimes overnight care so you can get some much needed rest. Each postpartum doula varies just a little. As I have a background as a Chef, most of my postpartum time is used cooking and freezing meals for new parents.
But what about all the other stuff? The other things that birthing people go through? Maybe the things that other people don’t want to talk about.
Abortion. Bereavement. Fertility.
This is a Full-spectrum doula. Understanding that your journey to parenthood isn’t always cookie cutter. That we live in a complicated world, and meeting you, where ever you are on your journey.
Abortions can be scary, and you may have a lot of questions or complicated feelings about it. This is where a Full-Spectrum Doula can step in and help. Trained on all four procedures, how the clinic experience is, and ready to help you work through any emotions you may have.
Bereavement is something that no parent hopes they’ll have to deal with, but it is a reality of life, and would be a huge disservice to forget about those who don’t get to bring their baby home. Doulas trained in Bereavement can help you through labor (at any point in your pregnancy, between 4 weeks and 42 weeks). They are trained on helping you to preserve moments of joy during loss, and incorporate special wishes for your baby. Providing physical, emotional and informational support in any way possible.
Fertility is another subject that goes largely untalked about. Whether it’s optimizing fertility or a struggle with infertility, a trained Fertility Doula can help. Between navigating this world, giving information on studies, practices and physiological norms and giving recommendations on fertility specialist in the area to continue our care, your Fertility Doula will have your back.
A Full-Spectrum Doula is there for you through all of your needs. To hold your hand and witness both your joys and your sorrows. Because birthing people have sat in silence alone for too long.
If you have any questions about what I do as a Full-Spectrum Doula, please feel free to reach out to me at any time! Chelsea.Lanai.Kimball@gmail.com
I initially went into writing this thinking I would be
highlighting just this (amazing) childbirth education class. But what I ended
up with is so much more than that.
Barbara Davis is the founder of “Birth Fort
Worth”. A small collective of Doulas who support people all over the DFW
metroplex. Voted best birth doula in 2017, 2018 and 2019 as well as the best
childbirth class in Fort Worth in 2019 by Fort Worth Child Magazine. Her entire
group is also part of The Inclusive Birth Workers of DFW. They offer labor
support, placenta encapsulation and breastfeeding support on top of their
childbirth education class.
Walking into the Fort Worth Birthing and Wellness Center
always feels like home to me. Today was a little different, as the center looks
like a whole new space! Beautiful new floors, fresh coats of paint and a modern
furniture update. The space is stunning. Barb has all of her teaching tools
laid out for the class to see. Bright colorful crocheted boobs (of every size),
a baby doll, cloth placenta, pelvic model, & real tools used in the
As we get started Barbs smile is absolutely infectious and
it’s easy to see why she’s been voted the best doula three years in a row. Barb
jumps right into talking about how birth is normal and profound. Everything
seems to be going smooth.
We’re getting ready to watch a video and for some reason,
the internet connection won’t work. There is
banging upstairs in one of the birthing suits as it’s under construction
and it may or may not be interfering with the WIFI. Not a problem, Barb jumps
on a hotspot to connect and keep the class rolling.
After talking about the anatomy of birth and some pre-labor
tools we take a bathroom break. Barb confides that she has a horrible migraine
and I’m in awe of her. She never skipped a beat or gave any indication of this
to her class, and the show went on.
The class used all inclusive language and talked on evidence
based care, free from fear. Heidi (one of the doulas on her team) was upstairs
with a client. She came down to speak to Barb, as their client needed to be
transferred to the local hospital, and an ambulance had been called. What a
At around noon (this is only two hours into the six hour
class) we break for lunch and Barb tries to lay down for a minute to help with
her migraine, but ultimately the third of their trio (Rachael) is called and
asked to come finish the class. It seemed as though anything that could go
When Rachael arrived, it was a smooth and easy transition. These ladies have taught this class enough to be able to pick right up where the other left off. And just like that it was business as usual. Pain management, interventions, packing your bag, birth plans, labor stages and comfort measures are all covered.
We retreat to one of the birthing suits upstairs and practice some comfort measures with partners. Everyone is laughing and having a good time. Racheal is flawless in asking for consent before touching anyone, and being hands on in teaching.
At the end of the class, she asks if anyone has questions,
and it comes as no surprise to me that not one hand raises. The class has
covered everything, and all three couples are going into their birth feeling
empowered and confident.
Maybe it was the full moon the night before. Maybe it was
residual “bad luck” from the day before (Friday the 13th). Whatever
it was, these women took it in strides, professionalism and outstanding
teamwork. I can only imagine what a “normal” day looks like for their team.
Maybe this is exactly what it always looks like, a smooth rotation of
knowledgeable women. No matter the case, I couldn’t think of a single thing
they missed in their class.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” -Lao Tzu
Normally my “after” blogs chronicle more of my life after baby goes home. But to be honest there’s nothing new to say. They went home, I had an adjustment period without a belly and dealing with my milk coming in. Hormones suck.
I want to talk about a postpartum reality I hear talked about very little. Bare with me.
During pregnancy I LOVE my body (of course this may be different for others). I feel powerful and beautiful. I snapped this photo days before Sky was born so I could always remember my body as a home for another life, especially since I don’t know if I’ll ever have another baby.
Stretch marks, bags under my eyes, swollen feet. Reality.
After baby was born my photographer (BLESS HER) made sure to grab some reality photos. I am actually really very grateful for these pictures because I never see anything like them online. Watching blood loss, fundal massage, the painful realities of the first hours after birth.
Shout out to Melissa who actually has very strong, yet soft hands that touch with grace and understanding! Nurses are amazing. Also my husband who through five births, has never once left my side after delivery, even back when they were his children, he understands the hardships of postpartum and is the picture of support.
Two days postpartum I photographed my body again:
My sons would poke my belly and ask about how soft it was, ask about my uterus size and caringly ask if I was in pain. I was. My hips trying to shift back into place, along with my organs. Milk coming in with no baby to feed but pumping regularly to help my uterus heal. Good news is I was sleeping 7-10 hours a night with no baby to wake up with.
At two weeks postpartum I photographed again:
Back to my pre-pregnancy weight and clothes. Really feeling myself…
Can you spot the lie? I’ll let you in on a secret. Pregnancy is when I am at my healthiest. I eat well (if I’m not sick), I drink the recommended amount of water. I take care of my body as I’m sharing it with someone who needs me.
Post-partum anorexia is a real thing. When people say to me “Holy crap! Look how tiny you are! So lucky! You look great!” I smile and say “genetics” as I shrug my shoulders. I’m not totally lying, my mother passed her anorexia and hate for her body on to me at a very young age. This is my reality. I am obsessed with a number on the scale. Other peoples comments on my body feed me instead of food. I thrive on the compliments of a thin body. This is my generational trauma.
The daily struggle to NEVER talk about my body in front of my children makes it worse. I internalize my feelings so much so that unless close friends or my husband ask me the last time I’ve eaten, it’s not even a thought in my mind. But I recognize it, I acknowledge it, and I strive to do better everyday. Every time I see the scale in the corner of the bathroom, I fight the urge to step on it. I want to be as healthy as I am when I’m pregnant. I want to love my body everyday, in every form. And more than anything, I want to break the cycle and not pass my illness to my daughter.
This of course, is not everyones reality of postpartum. But it is my truth, and if there is one thing that this journey has taught me, it’s that there is power in speaking your truth.
My relationship with food, and my own body are so complicated. As a Chef (when I’m not doing my Doula thing), I LOVE food. I love to cook and cut and play and taste. I love to try new ways of cooking, new ways of plating. I love trying different combinations of flavors especially if it doesn’t sound like something I would normally eat. When I invite you to my table, we’re family. If I cook for you, I love you. Food is my love language.
And yet I can go days without having any food. I cook for my family, and my friends, hell I get paid to cook. Yet it seems I almost feel that I don’t deserve that love and careful preparation of nourishment for myself. I have no idea where or when this idea was placed in my brain. I’m not sure who put that thought there or why I continue to let it linger. My own instagram is filled with beautiful (if I do say so myself) food that I lovingly cooked and plated, all well thought out before stepping into the kitchen.
Changing the narrative in my own brain around food is going to be a very long journey. But 2019 has been a year of healing, release, understanding and growth. I’m ready to take on this very personal challenge and can almost breath a sign of relief for finally saying it out loud (figuratively).
Speak your truth. Share your pain. You’re not alone, I know I’m not.
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu
After what felt like an eternal wait, mom and June bug were finally in Fort Worth. Two days after their arrival my twelve year old daughter left for New York for summer vacation. I had given her the option of staying for the birth of the baby, or spending longer in NY with her grandmother and was sad that she wouldn’t be able to experience this with me. Looking back now I’m glad she went, this wasn’t the labor for her to see.
I enjoyed the week swimming and hanging out. Mom had to do all the driving, by this point in my pregnancy I could no longer safely reach the steering wheel and not squish my giant belly. Baby bird was measuring a week ahead and my body was swollen from the Texas heat. This time felt different than when we were waiting for June bug. I kept saying Sunday (14th of July) or Monday (15th of July) baby was going to come. I didn’t REALLY know of course, but I knew that dad wanted to be there when his son was born, and I wanted Baby Birds parents to be happy.
Dad flew in Saturday morning and Curtis and I spent all day cooking. We had planned a big BBQ to celebrate us all being together. It was exhausting, but food is one of my love languages and when I cook for you, your family. We made chicken, burgers, sausages, hot dogs, southern corn bread, potatoes, veggie kabobs, pulled pork, slaw and a couple salads. Curtis and I don’t play when it comes to food. We talked and joked and overall just had a good time.
We said our goodbyes for the night so little June could get to bed, and I got to work. NOW the baby could be born and I wouldn’t have a care in the world. I took a bath, had a glass of wine, took a tincture my midwife had given me to help ripen the cervix, pumped and then enjoyed some oxytocin with Curtis. I had some mild contractions and then nothing, so I decided to go to bed. Soon after lying down Curtis started to feel sick. Being out in the sun grilling all day had given him a migraine. I catered to him and crossed my fingers that I didn’t go into labor. I stayed up for awhile after her fell asleep, watching him and making sure he was okay, but eventually fell asleep myself.
I woke up at about 4:45 to use the restroom (not abnormal for me) and then went back to lay down. I tried to turn over in bed but felt what I thought was a strange kick from the baby and the urge to pee again. I got back up and felt wetness and rushed into the bathroom thinking I had peed myself. I sat on the toilet for a few minutes and thought maybe I had to make a bowel movement (I’m raw with my story telling ya’ll so buckle up). I felt my stomach and realized I was actually having a contraction. I continued to leak and thought “that is a lot of pee”. After a minute when I was really awake my adrenaline started to pump. “ohhh maybe this is my water!” I was in the dark and didn’t want to wake Curtis if it wasn’t. I threw a pad on a hobbled into the main bathroom so I could turn on some lights without waking him up. When I sat on the toilet in there i had a bit of a gush, and then steady flow of water. Definitely my water breaking. I took some deep breaths and talked to the baby for a minute. “Today is your perfect birthday, we’re going to go on this one last journey together, and then you get to go home with your family.”
I was ready.
I went back to my bathroom and put on a depends (the greatest thing by the way) and texted my Doula at 5:15am. I was having very mild contractions but had heard 5th babies are normally a whirwind so I went ahead and woke up Curtis and told him to make himself some coffee. I jumped in the shower and gave Curtis my very long list of people to text and instructed him on what to tell each of them. Brooke had told me that she normally wakes up at about 6am, so I had him wait until then to wake her. She was about to have a newborn and needed that little extra sleep.
I got out of the shower and did my hair, still leaking fluids and still having very mild contractions. At 6am exactly I called Brooke and told her she was going to meet her son today. She was ready to run out the door! I told her I was going to labor at home alone with Curtis for a little while and that I would call her when we were ready to head to the birth center.
I got dressed and brought my birthing ball onto the porch. I sat with Curtis and listened to some music while we watched the sun rise. I meditated and rubbed my belly. “Thank you for teaching me so many things little bird. We’ve been on such a long journey to get to today.”
I asked Curtis if I should try to speed things along, or go lay down and try to get some rest, as the day was surely going to be a long one. He (knowing all of the doula things I’ve taught him) suggested I go lay down and try to get some rest. At this point I was easily breathing my way through the contractions and could speak if need be. So I went and layed down with my music. At 7am by birth photographer texted me and asked how I was doing. I thought I was fine, but Curtis had noticed that I was starting to make noises during my contractions, and had started complaining of being really cold (signs that I had gone from early labor to active labor) and he requested that we started to head to the birth center. I objected but when I stood up I had a really good strong contraction and agreed. I let everyone know we were heading that way while Curtis woke up the kids and sent them to his mothers house.
We arrived at the birth center at about 7:30am. One of my two midwives and a birth assistant was already there, just finishing cleaning up from another birth that night. Brooke, Joe, and (Aunt) Alex got there at the same time we did. My other midwife, student midwife, doula and birth photographer arrived shortly thereafter. We got into the birthing suite and we made ourselves at home. I asked my midwife to check me (the very first cervical exam I had the entire pregnancy). I thought I didn’t want to know where we were, not feeling like I was in active labor and not wanting to be disappointed, but I didn’t speak up and my midwife announced I was at 6cm already. Not being able to contain my excitement I exclaimed “ARE YOU SHITTING ME?”. That was basically setting the stage for the rest of labor. Alex called her (and Brookes) mother and told her she should come with June, as things seemed to be moving quickly already.
I had a playlist I had been compiling for months, simply called “For Curtis” that contained songs that gave me strong feelings of love (releasing oxytocin) that I had Curtis hook up to the Bluetooth and play. Throughout labor my team commented on my impeccable taste and it even drew a few tears. I labored over the next two hours between a birthing ball (kissing and snuggling Curtis), standing (swaying with Curtis), and walking/lunging on the stairs.
Over the past couple months I had spoken to Curtis about his role while I was in labor. In all my other labors he had been there, silently supporting, but our relationship has grown, and my need for him to be more active made him slightly uncomfortable. But he came to recognize my needs, and he didn’t just step up to the challenge, he embraced it and thrived as my main support person. It’s something I will cherish forever.
June played while I labored, and at one point stopped to check little brothers heartbeat. It was surreal to have her there, where I delivered her just a short three years ago.
Completely surrounded by the flags depicting the women I adore in my family, my family of professionals, and my surrogate family I enjoyed my labor and said multiple times “This is so easy”. There was some question in the back of mind though, because I was experiencing some strange contractions. I would have a real contraction and work through it easily, but then it would be followed by a half contraction 30 seconds later. I pretended like I didn’t notice, but mentioned it to my midwife while also saying I was feeling pushy. We got on the bed while the tub was being filled and Lissa did a side laying maneuver where she pushed on my hip during contractions, worried the baby may not be in optimal position. It hurt like hell, but I was willing to do anything to make sure we continued smoothly. Brooke showed June the tub she was born in.
When we were all ready, Lissa said a prayer, and the entire crew (all 13 of us) headed into the birth tub room. When I walked in the first flag on the wall I saw was my late Grandmother. I started to well up and when I turned around Brooke was right there. She too started to well up and the weight of what was about to happen really hit. We cried a little and held each other for a moment, just taking it all in.
The room felt so light, and we were all on the same page, baby would be here any minute. I couldn’t believe how easy this had been. I listened to my playlist, meditated and during each contraction tried to just breath the baby down (like all the women in those serene videos) and be a birthing goddess.
After almost an hour, I knew something wasn’t right. Lissa knew it too. I asked Dana to check me after I felt for babies head and felt nothing. I wasn’t in a great position so I tried other things and nothing was helping. Lissa asked me if I would get out of the tub, and surprisingly I was okay with it. I jumped out, ready to birth this baby, and now worried that something was wrong. Before I got out, there was a moment of mass confusion.. the baby started kicking and moving like crazy, everyone could see it, my belly contorted and moved and I wondered how he could have so much energy for being in the middle of labor. And honestly it scared the hell out of me.
I tried a couple of contractions squatting next to the bed, then a couple on my side on the bed. Babies heart stayed perfect. Once on my back Lissa checked me, and I heard those famous words I hear every. damn. labor. “She’s got a big fat cervical lip”. Fuck.
“You better go get me the nitrous because I am NOT doing this without some sort of drug.” I had decided before hand that I wasn’t going to torture myself again with this damn cervical lip, and I would accept some help. So the nitrous was brought out.
Heres where the story splits between what I remember, and what I know now to be truth:
My memory: In my head, I pushed past a cervical lip for two hours. I pushed with all my might. I didn’t understand why it was taking so long or why no one got me off my back. I sucked in the nitrous like it was a lifeline and I held onto Curtis. I pulled on a rope and tried to yell but was told no yelling, just push. There were too many voices and I couldn’t concentrate on anything until someone said I may need to be transferred to the hospital.
The Truth: In two pushes the cervical lip was gone, but the baby was rotated the wrong way and stuck. Every time I pushed, he turned again. After awhile I was barely pushing due to exhaustion and the nitrous making me woozy. My midwifes were doing everything they could to help me. When transfer was brought up due to maternal exhaustion and the possibility of needing to use forceps or a vacuum to get baby out, it woke me up.
Back to reality, I hear transfer and I think “NO, that is not how this baby is coming into the world, and I am not going to a damn hospital.” So I pushed. I pushed with a fire in me I’ve never had before in my life, and then I felt that ring of fire. Suddenly I was being told “YES THERE HE IS! Now slow and steady.” But that’s not my style, so I kept pushing. I looked down and there was Lissa, grabbing Brookes hands and putting them on babies head “you’re going to deliver your own baby” Lissa says to Brooke, and honestly I think Brooke was just in shock. So I pushed again and Brooke delivered her own baby and layed him on my chest. The room erupted in cheers and crying.
Brooke and I held hands as she took a good look at her son for the first time. Sky Waylon was born at 11:44am, after just under seven hours of labor.
Joe was there to cut the cord, I made a funny face as he did because Brooke found it to be so gross when she cut Junes and I thought he might feel the same. Then mom and dad both enjoyed some skin to skin with baby.
As soon as baby was settled we jumped into active management for me. I’ve been known to bleed postpartum and we decided to not even give it a chance. I got a shot in the leg, some pills and immediate fundal massage. As I was trying to deliver my placenta I heard “Well, that is really weird.” All I could think was ‘surely there will be no more surprises’. Spoiler alert, there was.
My placenta had a large baby head sized pocket, just full of fluid. No sign of a twin, no sign of ANYTHING. Just an extra pocket, apparently Sky needed a pillow? But then, Dana saw a piece of retained placenta. If you’re not aware of what that means, retained placenta can cause infection and ultimately lead to death, not really on our to do list. They handed me back the nitrous and cranked it up. It was the worst pain I’ve felt in my life as she tried to clean me (inside) and find this piece immediately after birthing a child. I went inside myself and used every single thing I’ve ever learned from meditation. It worked, until I started to feel dizzy and everyones voices (my doula comforting me, Dana telling me she was sorry, and Alex & Brooke cooing over the baby) started to seem farther away. Suddenly I thought I was dying, I don’t know why, but I did. I took my mask of and called for Curtis and the pain intensified hundred fold. I started to try to close my legs and reached my hand out for Curtis. If I was going to die, I would die holding his hand.
But spoiler alert again, I didn’t die. After about twenty minutes (I think) Dana finished and I was clear of any placenta. I curled up in the bed and got a heating pad. My sugar was low, I hadn’t eaten much, I had lost some blood, and I was freezing. I tried desperately to take in the joy around me.
Things get a little blurry here again. I’m not sure if it’s regular postpartum hormones that cloud my memory, or if it’s because of the nitrous, but either way, I hate that I’m not clear minded about everything. I know that Curtis went back to the house to get my breast milk and my sons. I know that one of my boys didn’t want to come, so of my three children, only one was there. I know that they fed Sky the milk, but then there was concern that he had aspirated some of it and was having trouble breathing. I know that the poor babe had some bruising on the back of his head from his wild entry into the world. And I know someone ordered tacos.
We did the newborn exam in the same exact spot that June had been, and I was reminded again how the days may be long, but the years are short. This time Joe got to weigh the baby. I had guessed 9lbs 2oz based on my stomach size and measurements, but after seeing how much water I had and with Skys little surprise water pillow I was second guessing myself. 8lbs 9oz. Still the second largest baby I’ve delivered.
I was asked about an herbal bath and hesitated. At Junes birth I blacked out after the bath and did not want a repeat, but I felt pretty gross after birthing on the bed and wanted a little wash and to change so I got in. It felt great as always and Junie came in to ask about my “tea bath” and we laughed over how silly it was that I was taking a bath in tea. Collin (my oldest son) came in and sat with me and asked a million questions about the entire experience and was so worried about me bleeding. He’s the sweetest boy.
After the herbal, Lorin (our student midwife) had to leave and get back to her kids. I was so out of it that we said our good-byes and I totally forgot to tell her to wait! I brought champagne (and sparkling juice for those on call and the kiddos)!
We toasted to Sky and to the team effort and ate tacos before getting a group photo.
Slowly everyone started to leave, one by one giving us their love before going home to get some rest. I could not have asked for a better team. Lissa (Midwife) Dana (Midwife) Lorin (Student Midwife) Melissa (Birth Assistant) Rachael (Doula) Eva (Birth Photographer) And those who weren’t physically present for the birth but that I wouldn’t have gotten through this pregnancy without. Aliena (Chiropractor) Erin (Therapist) Annie (Massage Therapist) And countless other “non-professionals”
Just like that, a family of three became a family of four. Happy birthday Sky.
“There is a saying in Tibetan; ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.” No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.” – 14th Dalai Lama
It’s always hard to find a place to start, because life stories don’t have a starting line. I could start in March of 2017, when Brooke asked if I would carry their second child and we started the surrogacy process all over again. I could start at that first transfer that ended in a very early miscarriage, a wound I carried with me for a very long time. I could start with the second round of IVF a year later, that ended in heartbreak when the last embryo didn’t survive the thaw.
I will start in October when we transferred again, mostly in secret because we were scared of what the outcome would be. I was riddled with so much anxiety. I was in a weird place with my career, trying to figure out what my personal future looked like. I was anxious about the pregnancy and if it would take or if all the work to this point would end in heartbreak again. They aren’t my children, but I love my surrogate family and it crushes me when things don’t go as planned. And I had this idea in my head of being the “uterus of steel” here to save the day! It’s a horrible way of thinking and not fair to anyone including myself.
But transfer happened and was successful. Meds happened and I didn’t have any adverse reactions. I kept it secret for longer than I’ve ever kept a secret before in my life! I left my job in the beginning of December for so many reasons, number one being fear. I would give this family a baby, he would be healthy, and he would be perfect. Period. I very quickly got depressed.
It was such a strange feeling. I’ve never been depressed while I was pregnant before, it was always such a happy time! I tried to power through. The night of the Superbowl I started bleeding. I was in shock as I was 14 weeks and this is not something I had EVER experienced this late in pregnancy before. I called my midwife and set up a sonogram for the next day. I decided not to tell Brooke until I had answers, there was nothing she could do from New York but worry. The next day I went in and baby was perfect. Strong heart, jumping around, no sign of what could be happening. I was instructed to rest and relax. No real answers. I feel like this was a HUGE trigger. The depression and anxiety over being able to carry baby to term set in and I started questioning my worth every. single. day.
I cut out all my friends. I stopped doing anything I enjoyed. I honestly don’t really know what I did during this time, it’s kind of a blur. I obsessed over a healthy baby. I eventually went to a meeting for people in the area to learn about a new counseling service. As a doula I was looking forward to learning about it and being able to pass it on to clients in the future. I walked away knowing that I needed help myself.
My surrogacy contract has money allotted to counseling for myself or my husband if need be. I never used this with June bug, but knew I needed it now. Calling Brooke to tell her I felt like I needed help was one of the hardest, most vulnerable things I’ve ever had to do. And she met me with so much grace and understanding. “Yes, do it, everyone should go to therapy.” I am so incredibly thankful for her every day.
So I started therapy.
I think I had eight sessions. I learned to understand myself and why I was so depressed. I learned my worth. I learned to forgive. I learned how to be a better me. I learned how to be a better mother, and a better wife. Therapy is thee best thing I ever did for myself. If I could give the entire world a gift, it would be therapy.
I decided it was in my best interest to go back to work. I applied here and there, knowing it was a long shot that someone would hire me at seven months pregnant. But I got a call back from one of the best restaurants in Fort Worth. Then they called me for a second interview and asked me when I could start. It was a dream come true. A kitchen full of educated women, willing to teach. It was magic. I woke up early, I stayed late, I talked about it non-stop. And then the reality set in that my body, having been stagnant for far too much of the pregnancy, was not going to allow me to do this. I was crushed. At 32 weeks baby was fully engaged in my pelvis, was measuring a week ahead and putting a lot of pressure on my hips and lower back. I reluctantly left my job, again.
But I had tools now, and I knew I could navigate these feelings (yay therapy!). During this time some good friends of mine had called and needed a place to stay. I have never and will never, no matter what I’m going through in my own life, not help a friend in need. So we became a family of seven over night. Curtis and I in one room, my two friends in one room, and all three of my children in the last room. It was a new kind of chaos. But we navigated, we recalculated, we prospered. I had help (as Curtis also went back to work during this time), and I had company. The spring was turning out to be a beautiful season on change. I kept some anxiety as my belly grew over when Baby Bird (a nickname I got from his sister) would make his grand entrance.
The roommates left, as they had their own journey of healing to walk through, and I found myself alone again. My children are so much older now and even though it’s summer vacation, they don’t need me in the ways that they used to. So I found joy, companionship and nurturing elsewhere. Gardening. It’s so strange to think how much caring for these plants and watching them grow has brought me so much joy. But they did, and continue to. Bringing life, it’s kinda my thing now.
I counted down the days for Brooke and June bug to arrive in Fort Worth, and busied myself making birth plans. Affirmation flags morphed into flags of female ancestors who inspire me. My “birth plan” was really just a list a of people who would be present at the birth center. I met with my doulas and my midwives. I went to the chiropractor every week. I got a prenatal massage/spiritual work done twice a month. I advocated for what I wanted and what I was comfortable with. I ate with a hunger I’ve never felt before. I tended my garden.
Finally on July 7th, Brooke and June bug arrived in Fort Worth, and I sighed the first big, real sigh of relief I had in a year. It was almost time to have a baby.
“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done”
1.ability to work successfully.
“an interest in the long-term viability of British companies”
ability to survive or live successfully.
“pregnancy depends on the viability of the sperm and egg”
This term means so much more to me now, than it did a year ago. It’s such a strong word. Sometimes you don’t understand how much something effects you, until long after it’s done and over with.
I’ve had a few friends ask about my blogging (or more directly my lack there of) and I didn’t really have an answer. Let me rephrase, I didn’t have an answer I was ready to share with the class. I simply wasn’t viable. I honestly haven’t been viable for months now, since December. But I’m closer now, not fully there and ready to share with my village.
May/June 2017 was,….. hard.
For my friends who have ever gotten a positive pregnancy test, a positive BETA, gone through a round of IVF and then be told the pregnancy “isn’t viable”, “chemical pregnancy” or “miscarriage”, i see you. This happened to me with someone else’s much wanted, much loved, worked hard for baby. And I was completely devastated by it. It literally broke everything that I though I knew. The funny part is that they warn you about this before IVF and when you’re a surrogate, and you’ve never been through loss before, you just end up believing that it can’t happen to you. And my god what a crash to reality it is when it does happen. I guess that’s where this starts.
After another failed round of IVF (leading to the loss of an embryo during the thawing process) in October 2017, we basically took 2018 off.. well I did. Brooke spent the entire year doing round after round of egg retrievals.
When we had a successful transfer in October of 2018 I was cautious. I was so afraid to tell people, especially social media. It wasn’t until Christmas Eve when I finally felt okay to say anything. Of course it didn’t help that we had some bumps in the road, I started bleeding and I was terrified.
So I quit my job, stopped doing things I loved, and secluded myself. I was afraid of working out, afraid of being on my feet all day, and afraid of every single person who coughed or sneezed. I felt this intense INTENSE urge to protect myself, and more importantly the life I was trying to grow. I didn’t write about my struggles, and I stopped talking to my friends because I was ashamed.
I tried to work through these feelings, and other feelings that these ones stirred up all alone. I’ve been through worse, other people have been through worse, I’ll. Be. Fine. I’m always fine, there’s always a tomorrow. And holy shit did that make it so much worse, and make me so fucking depressed.
I tried so hard everyday to work toward the future, a future I was neither sure of, or even interested in. All I could think about was keeping the baby safe, how hard it is to be a mom, a wife, what even is a career. If this is my last pregnancy, then what will my future be? All I know is carrying babies, holy shit everything terrified me.
I decided I needed more help then I could give myself, and I started therapy.
Why am I deciding to share this with all of you? Because I need everyone to know, that those people you look up to on social media/in real life don’t post/tell you everything. Everyone gets to a point where they have to ask for help, and there is no shame in it.
Since starting therapy about a month ago, I’ve had multiple people I look up to confide in me that they also, go to therapy, have gone to therapy or think they should go to therapy. (Stopping here to shout out to Brooke who is literally the easiest part of my life, and I’m so grateful to her for supporting me in my search to get better.) Sometimes “self care” feels like work, and therapy is no exception but it’s worth it.
I’ve spoken so many times about villages and strong women, and this continues to be so relevant in my life. I’ve learned recently that having a village is key to healing so thank you to a few people:
C.K. A.D. B.M. L.G. S.W. M.F. J.H. R.H. J.A.
And every other friend who sees me, and understands that I love them, and I’m in a healing place, not ignoring them. I’m ready to put the work in, lean in, reclaim my time, take charge of my life, be the person I really am.
So now, I’m trying to learn how to let go of the past, forgive & be kind to myself, and not worry so much about the future. For the last day of Womens History Month, I just want to tell all of my dear sweet friends this: Your feelings matter. Healing is hard but important work. You are more than your traumas.
I see you. You don’t have to be Wonder Woman to be worthy. Rainbows come after rain.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
It’s been almost two years since I last blogged. There are many reasons for that, fear, pain, time restraints, excuses. I last blogged after a bad BETA that resulted in an early miscarriage or sometimes called “chemical pregnancy”. The latter term is a little hard on my heart, as IVF is no walk in the park, and a positive pregnancy test is supposed to mean a baby. I found out May 24th, but didn’t start bleeding until my birthday on June 3rd.
After that we did another round of IVF in October 2017. The embryo didn’t survive the thaw, that was our last embryo. 2018 was mostly poor Brooke going through round after round of egg retrievals. Finally it was time for one last try and in October we transfered one perfect little embryo. I felt pregnant right away but was so cautious. I only told a handful of people about the round of IFV, the transfer, the positive BETA. I hid it for longer than I had ever hid it before. I didn’t tell all my family, or friends. I didn’t tell my job. I was scared and I understood why so many women don’t keep it a secret for so long.
In December I left my job for reasons both related to the pregnancy, and not. I finally announced the pregnancy on Christmas Eve to social media. I became a horrible recluse for awhile, we had some low lows and some scary moments.
Now I’m 19 weeks and just getting back into a rhythm. I’m feeling good (most of the time) and picking up my pieces. So now I’m ready to embrace the new, and honestly I’m still scared and confused. But I’m also determined and focused.
Before this baby is born in July, I will build a new empire. I will be self-sufficient, empowered and loud. All while I help other women do the same.
So I guess this post is my announcement.
“Hello world! Welcome to me letting you into my surrogacy journey again. Also, here come Doula Chelsea, and I have a few tricks up my sleeve, so get ready for some magic.”