Brought to you by

Amy I. Catania, CD(DONA) Doula, Birthing From Within® Mentor and Anti-Violence Advocate

Learn more about Amy.

Rachel Dolan Wickersham CD(DONA), LCCE, CPM, Doula,
Midwife and Doula Trainer

Learn more about Rachel

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Given Pause – An Appendicitis Story

I’ll never get to support my partner through labor and birth, simply because he’s a cis man, and well, it’s biologically impossible.

Of course, as a doula, I’ve supported and backed up birth partners again and again. I have a pretty good sense of how difficult it is to see one’s loved ones in pain. So why would I ever need the experience of supporting my partner myself?

heart monitor with heart shaped curveAfter all, I know how to stand with clients – those in labor as well as their partners. I know how to help them through the uncertainties; how to facilitate communication with medical staff; and help clients build the confidence to cope with the intensity of transition or unexpected events. And, as a mother I have supported my children though pain and medical and emergency room visits time and time again.

I know how to “doula” my family as well as how to help others “doula” theirs. Or I did anyway, until it was about MY. PARTNER. And therefore, all about me.

Until the morning when I found myself packing all three wide-eyed, worried children into the car and driving their incredibly pale and, clearly suffering, dad to the ER, ushering them into a tiny triage space, and looking over to see a monitor showing his blood pressure was 60/20….wait, What?

Despite years of experience looking at and interpreting meaning from other people’s monitors, I could barely take the numbers in: “That’s not a blood pressure…that’s…woah, that is way too low.” I suddenly had no more doula skills at that moment, or in many of the moments that followed.

I struggled to call them back of course, and for most of the experience that followed, I did manage it. I was able to do what needed to be done: get the kids to a friend; get back to support Mr. K; stay by his side as he struggled through coping with the unknown, and pain, and waiting. There was so much waiting – first for a diagnosis: appendicitis, then for surgery, and eventually, through recovery.

Woven in between those moments of handling everything though, I lost it. I completely lost it. The fear and the uncertainty, relatively small in hindsight, became oh-so-large to me when I could not tell what was happening as the pain and intensity increased for him.

We had been told it would be hours before surgery and moved to a room to wait. In those moments as he lay there on his back with the pressure building and the feeling of being about to explode breaking through the morphine, he was convinced, and being pretty convincing, that his insides were going to burst any minute.

Granted, I know appendicitis is minor in comparison to so many other things. I feel certain now that we had the benefit of care we could fully trust and which was among the best in the world. Other loved ones have experienced and pulled through much worse. But until that day I had never truly looked at the possibility of the complete and utter end of my own reality with my partner. I had never considered myself possibly about to lose him, or ever been so unable to help anyone cope, most especially him.

Was his appendix truly about to burst as he feared? Did the doctors really know? Could things have changed that rapidly for him? He was in mental agony, the surgeon was busy, the nurses simply couldn’t respond fast enough, and I had no way to stop it or to “shut him off” as he was pleading.

Finally, he vomited and then came relief. We sheepishly understood that this was what had been causing the unbearable increase in pressure. Puke.

Man could I have used a doula right then. And for a brief period after he was finally able to sleep, I sat there and lost it. I sobbed and shook – at the fear and the uncertainty and just the sheer need to shake out the adrenaline.

So what happens for me as a doula now that I’ve gotten to experience losing my shit in a hospital setting over my partner’s appendicitis? Am I some sort of super doula, impervious to the unknown and never to lose it again? Better than ever at supporting both mamas and their loved ones? Nope. And maybe a little, yes.

Perhaps I have a few more drops of compassion to offer clients, gained through finding compassion for myself in that moment and in the days that followed. Through looking back and seeing how neither Mr. K. nor I could have done anything differently given what we knew, and that even if I would have myself behave differently now, I was doing only the best I could in the moment, as was he.

And with that new knowledge, and that new understanding, I hope I am just a wee bit better at being a doula – for myself and for others.

ChicagoDoula Goes to School. And Has a Baby. And Other Things

We’re writing this post to announce some changes at ChicagoDoula.  Amy and I have had a very full five years.  We’ve been gestating people and ideas and certifications.  We’ve been trying to blog here when we can – which is not often. Twitter has been a bit easier to use, so you may have seen some of Amy’s tweets there.

Five years ago when Amy joined me in using this identity, we had a lot of ideas about how we would develop the concept of ChicagoDoula.  And then we got busy.  Very busy.  Amy had a baby and I went to midwifery school.  Amy and her partner began raising the baby (along with their older children) and I spent three years assisting at a high volume home birth practice after earning my CPM credential.  Along the way there were other treats, like a house fire, pneumonia twice and appendicitis once, children starting school, and daughters going away to college, even a small part as an extra in a movie!  You can read more about the appendicitis and possibly some of these other things in future posts.  More recently, as the baby blur started receding, Amy began turning her attention to our joint venture again.  And then I began nursing school. (i feel like there should be a comedy drum riff here.  Ta Dum BUMP! )

So here we are, with Amy returning her to focus to ChicagoDoula as well as her new role at Chicago Volunteer Doulas (also the likely subject of a future post) while I am heading into another adventure that will take me farther away from the birth world for a while.  So we’ve agreed that it’s time to make some changes. Although I’ll always be a doula in my heart and will sometimes practice as a doula, and continue training doulas, Amy will be heading up ChicagoDoula from now on.  She’ll own the name and steer the business.  I will remain here as a friend, adviser, guest blogger and occasional back-seat-driver (meaning I still get to keep the honorable title of co-conspirator and, she says, ChicagoDoula emerita.  (Any actual doula work, doula training or monatrice work I might continue doing will be offered under my other long-time business banner of Women’s Way: Empowering Families in the Childbearing Year)

Why am I going off to nursing school?  I’ll probably blog about that at some point.  In the meantime, we have all sorts of ideas about how we want to see ChicagoDoula evolve over time, but I’ll leave it to Amy, as the New Management, to carry the conversation forward while I go back to studying.

~Rachel

Give it up on #GivingTuesday for Chicago Volunteer Doulas

And I don’t just mean applause! Will you please join me in making a donation today?

Rachel and I aren’t just running businesses and making a living as doulas who happen to live in Chicago, we also take our obligation of service to Chicago’s communities of pregnant, laboring and postpartum people and families very seriously. One of the ways we do this is through our support of the organization Chicago Volunteer Doulas (CVD).

I have been personally involved at CVD as one of the volunteer doulas since 2008 before the organization even had 501c3 status (as an official non-profit). I also serve on the board of directors, most recently as co-chair. I have become more and more involved in supporting CVD over the years because I see that there are multitudes of pregnant people who are left in the gaps between those served by community based doula programs and those who can afford the fees for private doulas.

These are the people who would otherwise not have doulas. This is where CVD comes in. CVD provides on call doulas to four different hospital midwifery programs in Chicago as well as offering traditional model private volunteer doulas to families with incomes under $50,000 per year. Until community based doula programs have expanded to meet the needs of unserved populations, and/or government funding and insurance reimbursement for private doulas is common place, volunteer organizations like Chicago Volunteer Doulas are essential part of changing birth culture. And so is our support.

I have volunteered at community based doula programs such as HealthConnect One, and also continue to work privately. I believe adamantly however, that *any* pregnant people or families who want a doula, need and deserve access to doulas.

One way that my co-blogger, Rachel, supports Chicago Volunteer Doulas in changing birth culture is through consistently offering a scholarship position in each of her DONA International doula trainings for a woman of color who is also a CVD volunteer. This is also, in my humble opinion, one of the ways Rachel is awesome, but I digress.

CVD is just a small part of changing birth culture, but for many Chicago parents, it has been an essential resource. Will you join us this Giving Tuesday and give what you can to Chicago Volunteer Doulas? Then please spread the word to others!

Thanks, friend!

New Resource for Pregnant Trans* Parents

H/t to Radical Doula for information about this new website designed to help trans* parents find trans* friendly providers: Trans Birth:

Trans Birth is a directory created to connect trans* and gender non-conforming people and their families to midwives, OBGYNs, and doulas who provide welcoming care to our communities.

Categories include Midwives, OBGYNs, Doulas, and Other Providers. It does not have a category for Childbirth Educators/Classes, but perhaps that could be included under Other Providers.

As of this writing there is no one listed from Chicago or Illinois. Let’s change that! If you’d like to be listed, here’s your chance.