I Wish I had a Doula When...
...No one would listen to me about my son.
When my oldest was born we were of course thrilled but kind of scared as we embarked on our parenting journey. As new parents we were unsure of ourselves but trying our best. We started to notice things in his development that should have been big red flags to the various medical professionals that we saw for well baby checks etc. But as we were new parents, our concerns were met with comments like "he'll grow out of it" or "you are overreacting" this continued on and on and on again for the first 3-4 years of his life. Anytime we raised a concern it was brushed off until finally a friend of the family spoke to us and told us where we needed to go to get the answers we needed. Eventually the various medical professionals finally agreed with us that there was something wrong and we soon found ourselves on a much different journey then we had imagined, as parents of a child with Autism.
Over at ProDoula, we were challenged awhile back to write a blog post about a moment in our own lives where we wished we could have had the support of a doula. Well this is definitely the moment in my life when I wish I had had a doula. It's taken me awhile to actually work through this post and decide what exactly to write because this was a very trying and desperate time in our lives. So why would I wish I had a doula? Doulas are for births and postpartum right?
Right! however the things we do as doulas are things that carry over into other areas of our lives and give people an idea of what we do besides hold hands, wipe foreheads and fetch water.
I wish I had a doula to be there for me when no one else could. I wish I had someone I could have called in tears after a frustrating doctor's appointment, or an assessment that pointed towards more things wrong. Someone who would just listen to me, to hear my fears and my hopes, and to hear me as a mom desperate to find answers.
I wish I had someone who could have pointed me towards resources in the community to help my son and to help our families.
I wish I had someone who didn't judge us. This is a huge one because we were met with a lot of things like "we can't figure out what's wrong, it must be something you are doing because he doesn't look like a typical child with Autism" (guess what Autism doesn't have a "type") We were forced into parenting classes because obviously it was our parenting that was the issue. The lady who came to our home to teach the classes, basically watched us with him and asked why was she there. I could have used someone who reaffirmed that I was doing things right or at least doing the very best that I could have done with what I had.
I could have used someone to come in like a postpartum doula and help out with my daughter while we spent many many hours in therapy sessions, doctors appointments, assessments, meetings with FSCD (the government funding program in our area for children with special needs). Heck I could have used someone who made sure there was milk and fruit in my fridge, or swept the floor or let me have a shower without fear of my child having a meltdown or being unsupervised.
I could have used someone who knew the ins and outs of the diagnosis process so that I knew what to expect. To have someone to help us figure out what questions to ask and how to ask them, and teach us how to advocate for our son.
I was lost, my husband was lost, our son was lost in his own world struggling to be the wonderful little boy he was. While we didn't have a doula since there aren't Autism Doulas, we did have friends and family who tried their best to support us and offer us help and suggestions. And while the same can be true for pregnancy/postpartum it would have been really nice to have someone who didn't have any bias but offered understanding and knowledge to simply support us in our decisions and on our journey. Someone who could have helped us to see not only the trees but the whole forest, and guide us. Which is exactly what a doula can do for birth and postpartum. You get unconditional support from someone who knows their stuff and can support your choices without getting judgey about it.