A Doula Could Have Made All the Difference: A Grieving Mother's Story
My friend, Laura, lovingly shared this story with me. She has followed along as I’ve made the journey into providing postpartum doula support, has commented many times on how she wishes she would have known about postpartum doulas in 2009, and mentioned how vital postpartum doulas are to the well-being of new families.
Laura’s wish is to help just one person with her daughter’s story.
On December 22, 2008 my granddaughter was born. It was an exciting time for me, but not for my daughter. Dawn wanted very much to be a mother. Her pregnancy was planned and, in the beginning, she was very excited for this wonderful chapter in her life.
The people surrounding Dawn told her over and over again how much she would love her child and how her world was going to change and, that once she met her child, she would fall in love.
After my granddaughter, Sophia, was born, Dawn seemed to be doing alright. She had the staff of the hospital to help her after all.
After she came home, things changed for her. Dawn was sleep deprived, scared and full of anxiety. She was having a difficult time bonding with her baby girl. Everyone kept telling her how wonderful it was to be a mother, but she was not experiencing those feelings. In fact, she felt like she was a terrible mother and was extremely depressed.
Dawn shared her feelings with her doctor during her 2 week check-up. She had an emergency C-section and had no idea what her body had been through. Her doctor released her with the instructions to just stay on her prenatal vitamins.
She felt disregarded and felt like no one could understand her struggles.
Three weeks later, Dawn shared with me that she could not care for her baby. I encouraged her to come to me and i would get her help. That was the last time I spoke to my daughter.
The next morning, Dawn took her own life. She just could not see getting through this dark time.
A doula could have made all the difference.
I think about how wonderful it could have been for her to get the help and support she needed and to be educated as a new mother.
A doula could have helped our family understand.
And THAT could have SAVED HER LIFE.
Laura is not alone in her story. In a 2013 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) notes:
“Suicide accounts for about 20% of postpartum deaths and is the second most common cause of mortality in postpartum women.”
As postpartum doulas, we are professionally trained to provide a non-medical assessment, note any red flags and support a postpartum parent as they find the professional support they need. We are also prepared to stay the course, offering physical, emotional and instructional support as long as the family needs. Family Tree Doula Services administers a simple self-assessment tool :the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. The results of this self-assessment guide the postpartum doula to the next steps and possible referrals to professional care.
A trained postpartum doula could have recognized Dawn’s struggle and guided her to receive her mother’s offer of help, get the professional help she needed and stay with her until she was calm again.
Doulas don’t save lives, we simply support those struggling in their lives as new parents.
If someone you know is struggling, here are some links to start the process of getting the support they need:
Authored by Sheryl Cooksley, Certified Postpartum & Infant Care Doula A special thank you to Laura D for sharing her painful story in hopes of helping other families. Laura’s charities of choice: The Baton Rouge Crisis Intervention Center, The National Alliance for Mental health (NAMI) , and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline