A few weeks ago I sent an email to an old client I had been trying to get in touch with. She had a really amazing birth- one of those that make doulas feel like they really make a difference. The mom and her husband were both overjoyed and extraordinarily grateful, and I went home with a smile on my face.
Four days later my father-in-law died of cancer.
Him and I were particularly close, and his passing fell on me like a ton of bricks. He was living with our family for the last part of his life, so everywhere I turned was a reminder of his life and death. I was in no shape to counsel anyone, least of all someone in the most exciting time of their life.
When I talked to the dad a couple of days after the birth, he mentioned that mom was having some nipple pain with breastfeeding. Since I was not up to a visit, I asked a Lactation Consultant friend to do a postpartum home visit for me so this family did not get deserted in this sacred time. She did, and they were thankful for the support.
A few weeks later I finally called this family. I left a few messages, sent a few emails. Mom had her own familial illness in California to contend with, so after a number of tries with little response, I let it go, assuming that was what they wanted.
When I heard back from this mom recently, she told be she felt dissapointed by my level of care after the birth of their baby. That I had not been there in the way they imagined.
I was totally shocked, extremely upset, and realistically, a little ego shattered. That's the first time anyone ever gave me that feedback, and it especially stung since I genuinely like this couple and thought we had a great experience together.
After much time spent mulling this over, I realize that how I feel or what I think I did or did not do does not matter at all. Who is right is immaterial. A new mom felt abandoned, one that was in my care, and regardless of what happened, I have to respect that feeling. Not because it's right, just because she feels it. New moms need support, love, attention and protection. As labor doulas we need to make sure that after the birth, even if it is not in our scope of practice, that these moms are getting the care they need. As hard as it sometimes is, people hire us to put ourselves aside and be fully present in our clients' lives. She needed me, and although she didn't tell me verbally, had I been there physically I probably would've known.